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Chocolate comes in so many forms that even those who don’t consider themselves chocolate fanatics almost alw

ays find a chocolate treat to love. September is the month for all chocoholics to rejoice, with not one but 5 chocolate related days to satisfy your craving and to celebrate!

Chocolate is an incredible versatile ingredient; it is therefore no wonder that it features in so many recipes around the world

We’ve put together a helpful guide to help you use chocolate in the kitchen.

Instruction No 1: Know thy chocolate

Dark chocolate, baker’s chocolate, choc chips, what is the difference? Not all chocolates are created equal, and there are many variants for a multitude of different uses. Knowing the cacao content of each chocolate, their melting points, and composition will enhance your knowledge of how to use each one in the kitchen.

Here are a few basic uses and compositions of some of the commonly used chocolate types:

· Milk Chocolate: Very sweet and mostly used for edible enjoyment and chocolate chip cookies. Milk Chocolate contains only 10-20% cocoa and typically more than 12% milk solids.

· Dark Chocolate: Often classified as sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet, or unsweetened, encompasses a wide array of dark chocolate with little or no milk solids in chocolate mixture.

· Sweet and Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate: Both types of chocolate are used interchangeably in recipes that require dark chocolate. Similar cocoa compositions between 35%-45% cocoa.

· Bittersweet Chocolate: Often the preferred choice for baking (sugar will most likely be added to baked goods). Has less sugar than sweet types of chocolate and has a lot more intense chocolate flavour. Typically contains between 65%-85% cocoa.

· Unsweetened Chocolate: Mostly used in baking when chocolate flavours are desired but additional sugar content is not. Most cocoa powders are 100% cocoa.

· White Chocolate: Not considered chocolate in most countries. Cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla is used to give it a creamy texture and flavour. Contains little or no cocoa solids.

Instruction No 2: Only select good quality chocolate

Chocolate should primarily be a sensory experience and you know what tastes good to you, so select chocolate that you will enjoy. Above all trust your own taste buds. Chocolate preference is very personal.

A good chocolate will appeal to all your senses and if eating and cooking doesn’t excite your taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing, find one that will. When deciding on what chocolate to use, taste and smell are extremely important. Before you taste the chocolate, look at it closely. You want a chocolate that has a glossy surface and is free from blemishes. Next, break the chocolate into pieces. When breaking the chocolate, you want a one with a clean, hard ‘snap’ to it.

Rub your fingers over the surface to warm the chocolate and then smell the bar. Good chocolate will have a strong smell of cocoa to it. Finally taste the chocolate – and pay attention to the way it melts in your mouth: does it feel like you have whey in your mouth, or did you experience a smooth, velvety mouthfeel? Also notice what flavours you can find in the chocolate. Did the flavours burst out all at once or did it gradually build in intensity and lingered after the chocolate taste had left?

Instruction No 3: Adhere to the golden rules of ganache

Ganache is the magical combination of chocolate and cream. Ganache has been described as a chocolatier’s workhorse and fairy godmother. This chocolate ‘condiment’ can be used as a sauce or a glaze when heated, and when cooled it can become a spreadable filling or topping. You can even use the cooled ganache to make truffles or add milk to the mixture for the perfect cup of hot chocolate.

One of the best (chocolate) baking tips is to learn how to make an easy ganache

- Melt chocolate into an equal amount of heavy cream. Example: Take about 170 grams semi-sweet or dark chocolate and add 170 grams of hot (not boiling) cream to it.

- Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes, then whisk until the chocolate is completely incorporated.

When you make ganache, adhere to the following golden rules:

· Rule No 1 – Always pour the hot cream over chopped chocolate – never melt the chocolate first.

· Rule No 2 – Don’t refrigerate hot or even warm ganache or the fat will separate. Let it cool down to room temperature first.

Instruction No 4: Understanding the tolerance of chocolate

When working with chocolate, it is important that you must understand the tolerance of the chocolate you’re working with.

Dark chocolate can handle more heat before it is at risk of burning or separation. It is the best chocolate to use as it can be melted and solidified repeatedly. Stir frequently and watch your temperatures over direct heat or when microwaving! Due to its higher cocoa butter content this also leads to a great snap in melted and cooled applications.

Due to the high levels of milk solids and low cocoa solids, in milk or white chocolate, they are less tolerant of heat and need to be heated gently and watched carefully. These chocolates can be tempered (stabilized) to create a shiny thin coating that hardens & snaps beautifully on desserts.

Instruction No 5: Store your Chocolate Wisely

When storing chocolate there are a few important details to keep in mind. Store your chocolate in a dry, cool, and dark place at around 18-24 degrees Celsius. An ideal place for keeping chocolate is in an odourless (air-tight) tin or box, keeping it away from odours or moisture.

Chocolate does not like to be exposed, so after opening a chocolate bar, ensure that it is well wrapped or use a zip lock bag to keep the chocolate fresh. The refrigerator is not the best place to store chocolate because of the humidity and chocolate can take on the smell or taste of surrounding food, so be sure to keep the chocolate away from pungent foods.

Instruction No 6: Fully melt your chocolate

Melting chocolate is straightforward if you know how, but again requires you to be aware of its sensitivity to heat. Chocolate melts at a low temperature and needs to be melted completely and be hot. Don’t heat your chocolate too fast or over a too high heat, it this will cause the chocolate to ‘seize’ and the chocolate will split and become grainy

Follow these steps on how to perfectly melt chocolate:

1. Chocolate melts faster if it is broken or chopped into even sized (small) pieces,

2. Place in a dry heat-proof plastic bowl (as glass retains the heat) and set over a pan of simmering water (not boiling),

3. Make sure the water does not touch the bowl. Stir while the chocolate gradually melts. Don’t use a metal spoon as the coldness might ‘shock’ your chocolate, rather use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula

Instruction No 7: Always reinvent your biscuits

Get creative and change up your chocolate chip biscuits with white or milk chocolate chunks or chips. Chocolate chips are generally smaller, and you can pack more of them into the given space of one biscuit. Chocolate chunks tend to melt more and will produce a gooier chocolate aspect in your biscuit. Most biscuits look and taste better if you drizzle them with melted chocolate. In the end, however, it is a matter of preference. Whichever you like most is going to be the perfect biscuit to suit your taste.

Instruction No 8: Only use pure cocoa powder

When a recipe calls for cocoa powder, remember it means unsweetened cocoa powder (not hot cocoa mix!). Cocoa powder is pure cocoa and consists of the non-fat part of the cocoa bean, which has been ground into a powder.

It packs all the flavour of chocolate in a concentrated form & lends itself well to creating rich and indulgent chocolate cakes and desserts. Combined with the right ingredients and the nuances of chocolate flavour develop beautifully.

Instruction No 9: Pro tips for making truffles

· Rubber gloves can be your best friend when rolling the truffles in your hands. Work quickly as the heat from your hands will begin to melt the chocolate.

· Coat your hands in some cocoa powder, this will make rolling the truffles less messy.

· Once you have all the filling rolled, it’s a simple matter of rolling them again in cocoa powder and voila!

· Chopping chocolate into finer pieces adds surface area and lets the hot cream melt it on a lower heat setting and decreases the chance of burning.

· A biscuit scoop works great for forming the truffles into evenly sized balls

Instruction No 10: Ensure all your tools are completely dry

When working with chocolate, make sure all your surfaces and tools (bowls, measuring cups) are completely dry. A single drop of water can ruin an entire batch of melted chocolate as water acts as glue and causes chocolate to clump up. Always take time to wipe out the bowl and make sure to always keep things dry.

Go on, Go Cook!

Armed with the basic understanding of chocolate forms, flavours, and properties, we hope you can take on your next cooking project with confidence. There is always, more to learn, come join us at Steyn’s Culinary School for a fun cooking class where you will learn a couple of nifty tricks.

To find out more visit our website, or send us an email or WhatsApp us at or 072 645 5167 respectively. FOLLOW us for updates on Facebook and Instagram.Chocolate comes in so many forms that even those who don’t consider themselves chocolate fanatics almost always find a chocolate treat to love. September is the month for all chocoholics to rejoice, with not one but 5 chocolate related days to satisfy your craving and to celebrate!


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