Chocolate Passion, the new guide to chocolate
by Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty
editors of Chocolatier magazine.

Chocolate in the Kitchen
A Wiley Online Culinary Seminar with Timothy Moriarty

Despite being a tantalizing ingredient, chocolate used in food can be a bit tricky. There are special rules to follow for melting, storing, tempering, and actually *using* chocolate properly, and the very thought of working with chocolate makes many would-be chefs cringe. However, it's not as difficult as it sounds -- it just takes some patience.

1. We recently had some Mexican hot cocoa, which was a mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon, and almonds, I believe. When made with hot milk, it was fantastic - significantly better than standard hot cocoa. Can you offer any suggestions on how to duplicate this mixture? And do other cultures around the world have other approaches to hot cocoa mixtures?
There are now some fairly exotic and robust cocoa drink mixes on the market today. Ibarra is one brand that comes to mind, available in some specialty Latin markets or at gourmet stores. As to making your own, we've never done it, but if you're in the mood to tinker and play, you could try this: melt some bittersweet chocolate, add some very (very!) finely ground almonds (you could also try almond paste, but we're not sure of its final consistency here), a pinch of cinnamon and perhaps a bit more more sugar, to taste. Pour it out onto parchment paper in a circle, let it harden, cut the circle into wedges, and try adding hot milk to a wedge, for a single serving.

2. How can you save chocolate that has crystallized after you got water in it while melting it? I've heard various methods, but none are fool-proof.
Nope, you're right, no methods are foolproof. The classic way is to add one teaspoon of vegetable oil per 8 oz of chocolate and whisk it in rather vigorously to re-emulsify it while the chocolate is still over low heat. This might restore the chocolate.

3. What's the best way to prevent your chocolate from seizing in the first place?
The best way to prevent chocolate from seizing is to be fanatically, phobically moisture-averse. Make sure that the wooden spoon you're about to use to stir the chocolate is completely DRY. Likewise, the glass bowl you are using to melt -- DRY. Do not cover the container of chocolate, as moisture will condense on the inside of the lid. If using a double boiler, keep the water to a simmer, not a rolling boil.

4. Most recipes that call for melting solid chocolate tell you to use a double-boiler, but, needless to say, that's quite a bit more work than just using a small saucepan with low heat and stirring. Is the double-boiler method really necessary?
You never want to melt chocolate over direct heat. Even the lowest direct heat invites scorching, which can ruin a batch pronto. Double boilers really are not that complicated; if you don't have a double boiler, make your own by placing a glass bowl over pan of barely simmering water. You can use direct low heat if you're melting chocolate with butter or cream, but otherwise, we don't recommend it. You can also melt chocolate using the microwave. Generally, medium power for one and a half to three minutes, stopping every thirty seconds or so to stir the chocolate. See our book or another chocolate book for more specifics, as methods vary slightly for bittersweet, milk and white chocolates.

5. Is there a way to "fix" chocolate that doesn't melt properly? For example, what if the chocolate seems too dry and not really melting to a soft consistency? Can this problem arise if the chocolate isn't fresh?
If a chocolate isn't melting properly in the way you describe, you're probably using an inexpensive chocolate -- that is, one that doesn't have real cocoa butter, but rather a substitute fat such as vegetable fats. A cheap-o chocolate like that, especially a milk or white chocolate, will not melt evenly. You can try to add just a drop or two of vegetable oil to aid the melting, but we don't guarantee the results. The same with chocolate chips, which are not designed to melt efficiently. Spend a little more for a better chocolate. It'll be easier to use and offer better flavor.

6. Why are some truffles sold without refrigeration, as I thought they generally have heavy cream as a ingredient? Is something else substituted for the heavy cream?
Ganache, which is the essence of the truffle (chocolate melted with cream) can stay at room temperature for a limited amount of time, up to five days without refrigeration. I worked with a chef who'd leave his ganache out for three weeks, because he didn't want to deal with the fuss of taking it out of refrigeration and bringing it to room temp before using. But that's pushing it. As long as ganache or finished truffles are stored in an airtight container, they can stay at room temp for up to three days, to be on the safe side.

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Copyright: Tish Boyle, Timothy Moriarty, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved

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