Tips for cooking chocolate treats for Valentine's Day

Consumer Reports News: February 05, 2013 02:08 PM

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Cooking with chocolate can be tricky, it can easily burn and get gritty. Make sure your homemade chocolate concoctions are a success on Valentine's Day by following these tips from our experts in the Consumer Reports test kitchen.

Melt it right: If you have the heat too high your chocolate will burn.

  • Cut chocolate into small pieces to help it melt evenly and quickly. Chop it fine if you're working with milk or white chocolate—they're prone to scorching. Dark chocolate can be cut into bigger pieces.
  • Don't use a regular pan to heat the chocolate. Instead, melt it in the top part of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
  • The fastest way to melt chocolate is in the microwave. Heat it on medium for a minute, then stir for a minute. If your chocolate still hasn't melted, put it in the microwave for another 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each until smooth.
  • If even a few drops of water touch the chocolate as you're trying to melt it, it will get stiff and grainy.

Make a perfect glaze: If you want to use chocolate to coat strawberries or glaze a cake you'll need a little more finesse since the goal is to get a smooth glossy finish. The secret is tempering, which is when you heat then cool the chocolate. You'll need an instant-read or infrared thermometer.

  • Heat the chocolate in a double boiler at 110° to 115° F. Any higher than 120° F and it could scorch, separate, or become grainy, or too thick.
  • Take your melted chocolate off the heat and stir until it cools to 88° to 90° F for dark chocolate, 86° to 88° F for milk chocolate, and 80° to 82° F for white chocolate. Once cooled, the chocolate is immediately ready for dipping so make this your very last step before serving your homemade chocolate treat on Valentine's Day.

Check proportions: Artisanal dark chocolate bars tend to have much more cocoa than other bars, so you have to adjust for recipes not specifically designed for them. If you don't, your cake could turn out dry or your ganache can curdle.

  • If you're using chocolate with more than 60 or 70 percent cocoa for a recipe that calls for a lower amount, use 25 to 35 percent less chocolate and add up to 1.5 teaspoons of sugar for each once of chocolate in the recipe you're following.

For your other dessert-making needs, check our stand mixer Ratings. All sorts of baking and cooking tasks can be made easy and speedy with a hands-free mixer. And if you'd rather not try your hand at whipping up a chocolate dessert for your Valentine, see our boxed-chocolate Ratings for the best bonbons you can have delivered.

These tips are adapted from ShopSmart magazine.

Maggie Shader

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