Chocolate

Chocolate
Chocolate is made from tropical cacao beans, which are transformed by machines and an inveterate spelling error into a bitter, brown paste of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. When this unsweetened chocolate is combined with sugar, vanilla, and other ingredients, the result, of course, is heavenly. Chocolate's notoriously hard to work with. If you don't store it properly (preferably at 65° or so), the cocoa butter can separate slightly from the solids, causing the chocolate to "bloom." This leaves a telltale gray residue on the surface and impairs the taste and texture slightly. Chocolate will scorch if you melt it at too high a temperature, or "seize" and become thick and grainy if you add even a drop of cold liquid to it as it's melting. You can prevent it from seizing by adding hot liquids (like cream) to chopped chocolate in order to melt it, or by making sure that anything you're dipping into the melted chocolate (like a strawberry or whisk) is perfectly dry. If your chocolate has seized, you can still use it in any recipe that calls for chocolate to be blended with a liquid. Just add the liquid to the chocolate and melt it again. If you plan to melt chocolate, it's best to buy it in bars. Chips contain less cocoa butter so that they can better hold their shape in cookies, but this makes them harder to melt and less tasty. It's easiest to melt chocolate in a microwave oven. Just break the chocolate into small pieces, heat it for 30 seconds at 50% power, stir, then repeat a few times. Take it out of the microwave when the chocolate is almost completely melted, then continue stirring until the melting is complete. If you don't have a microwave, use a double boiler.
bittersweet chocolate
bittersweet chocolate
This is a sweetened chocolate that's heavy on the cocoa solids and light on the sugar, giving it a rich, intense chocolate flavor. Many pastry chefs prefer bittersweet to semi-sweet or sweet chocolate, but the three can be used interchangeably in most recipes. The best bittersweet chocolates contain at least 50% cocoa solids.
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carob
carob
Carob is sometimes used as a substitute by those unfortunates who are allergic to chocolate, since its flavor is vaguely similar. Others use it as a healthy alternative to chocolate, since it contains less fat and no caffeine. It's available as raw pods, chips, and either as toasted or untoasted powder (toasting helps bring out the flavor). Look for it in health food stores.
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carob chips
carob chips
You can use these in place of chocolate chips in cookies or trail mix.
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Chocolate
Chocolate
Chocolate is made from tropical cacao beans, which are transformed by machines and an inveterate spelling error into a bitter, brown paste of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. When this unsweetened chocolate is combined with sugar, vanilla, and other ingredients, the result, of course, is heavenly. Chocolate's notoriously hard to work with. If you don't store it properly (preferably at 65° or so), the cocoa butter can separate slightly from the solids, causing the chocolate to "bloom." This leaves a telltale gray residue on the surface and impairs the taste and texture slightly. Chocolate will scorch if you melt it at too high a temperature, or "seize" and become thick and grainy if you add even a drop of cold liquid to it as it's melting. You can prevent it from seizing by adding hot liquids (like cream) to chopped chocolate in order to melt it, or by making sure that anything you're dipping into the melted chocolate (like a strawberry or whisk) is perfectly dry. If your chocolate has seized, you can still use it in any recipe that calls for chocolate to be blended with a liquid. Just add the liquid to the chocolate and melt it again. If you plan to melt chocolate, it's best to buy it in bars. Chips contain less cocoa butter so that they can better hold their shape in cookies, but this makes them harder to melt and less tasty. It's easiest to melt chocolate in a microwave oven. Just break the chocolate into small pieces, heat it for 30 seconds at 50% power, stir, then repeat a few times. Take it out of the microwave when the chocolate is almost completely melted, then continue stirring until the melting is complete. If you don't have a microwave, use a double boiler.
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chocolate chips
chocolate chips
These are designed to go into chocolate chip cookies, muffins, and trail mixes. Chocolate chips often have less cocoa butter than chocolate bars, which helps them retain their shape better when they're baked in the oven. Avoid chips that contain vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter--they have a waxy flavor.
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chocolate curls
chocolate curls
This is a pretty and easily-made garnish for desserts. The curls are fragile, so it's best to move them around with a toothpick.
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chocolate-hazelnut spread
chocolate-hazelnut spread
This is a mixture of chocolate and hazelnut paste that Europeans use like peanut butter. Nutella is a popular brand.
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cocoa
cocoa
Cocoa is similar to unsweetened chocolate, only it's in powdered form and has less cocoa butter. Cooks like it because it allows them to make low-fat goodies, or to use fats other than cocoa butter. Cocoa's also used to dust candies and cakes. Dutched cocoa = Dutch process cocoa = European process cocoa is treated with an alkali, making it milder yet richer-tasting. It's the preferred cocoa for beverages and frozen desserts, and for dusting baked goods. Recipes for baked goods usually intend for you to use natural cocoa = American cocoa = regular cocoa = nonalkalized cocoa, which is more acidic than Dutched cocoa. You can often substitute one type of cocoa for the other, but if the recipe includes baking soda, it may be counting on the acid in natural cocoa in order to react. Don't confuse cocoa powder, which is bitter, with instant cocoa mixes, which are sweetened.
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cocoa butter
cocoa butter
Pastry chefs add this to chocolate to thin it, usually so that they can pour a thinner coating on a cake.
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compound chocolate coating
compound chocolate coating
This is an inexpensive chocolate that's melted and used for dipping and molding. Since it's made with vegetable oils instead of cocoa butter, it's much easier to work with than ordinary chocolate. It also melts at a higher temperature, so it doesn't get all over your hands when you eat it. The downside is that it doesn't have the rich taste and texture of regular chocolate. Though it's considered to be a beginner's chocolate, it's still a bit fussy. It can scorch if you cook it at too high a temperature, or seize if you add even a drop of cold liquid to it after it's melted.
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couverture chocolate
couverture chocolate
Couverture means covering in French, and professionals use this type of chocolate to coat candies and glaze cakes. It has a higher percentage of cocoa butter than ordinary chocolate, which makes for glossier coatings and a richer flavor. Available in bittersweet, semi-sweet, white, and milk chocolate. It's expensive, and you may need to go to a specialty store to find it.
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dark chocolate
dark chocolate
This refers to sweetened chocolate other than milk or white chocolate. It includes bittersweet, semi-sweet, and sweet chocolates, all of which can be used interchangeably in most recipes.
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gianduja
gianduja
This Italian specialty is made with chocolate and hazelnut paste. It's unbelievably good.
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hot cocoa mix
hot cocoa mix
You need only add boiling water to this powdered mix and stir to make hot chocolate.
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Mexican chocolate
Mexican chocolate
This grainy chocolate is flavored with sugar, almonds, and cinnamon, and used to make hot chocolate and mole sauce. You can buy boxes containing large tablets of this in the Mexican foods aisle of larger supermarkets. Ibarra is a well-respected brand.
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milk chocolate
milk chocolate
If you're looking for a plain chocolate candy bar, this is your best bet. It's like sweet chocolate, only it contains dried milk solids, which gives it a mellow flavor. It's not a good choice for baking, though, since it's sweeter and not as chocolatey as other chocolates. Despite this, many cooks prefer to use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips in their cookies. Be very careful if melting milk chocolate, it scorches very easily.
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semi-sweet chocolate
semi-sweet chocolate
Americans like this best for their cookies and brownies. It's available in bars, chunks, and chips. Mint-flavored semi-sweet chips are also available.
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sweet chocolate
sweet chocolate
This is similar to semi-sweet chocolate, only it has a bit more sugar. It can be used interchangeably with bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate in most recipes. Baker's Chocolate calls its sweet chocolate German chocolate.
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unsweetened chocolate
unsweetened chocolate
What kid hasn't sneaked a bar of this out of the kitchen, only to discover that unadulterated chocolate is bitter and unpalatable. Some cooks prefer to use it over sweetened chocolate because it gives them better control of the sweetness and flavor of the product.
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white chocolate
white chocolate
Like milk chocolate, this is made of cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla. The only difference is that white chocolate doesn't have any cocoa solids. Since the FDA won't let American producers label a product "chocolate" unless it has those cocoa solids, domestic white chocolate is known by a hodge-podge of different names. White chocolate scorches easily, so cook it gently. Bars and wafers usually taste better than chips. Avoid white chocolate that's made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter--it's cheaper but not nearly as good.
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white chocolate chips
white chocolate chips
These are used to make white chocolate chip cookies. They contain less cocoa butter than ordinary white chocolate, so it's harder to melt them.
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