Baking With Chocolates (1)

One of the most valuable lessons I learnt in my adventure with baking is understanding the various types and constituents of chocolate.
You absolutely can’t be a good chocolate cake baker without understanding how chocolates are made and the types available. After I discovered the different types of chocolate and how best to use them, baking the best and most decadent of cakes became a breeze.

Here, I am going to give a concise post about what chocolate is made of and the best types to use for baking different types of chocolate cakes.
My knowledge of chocolates grew over time and as I experimented with the different components of cacao, I came full circle with its characteristics.
Chocolate is made from cocoa seeds; cocoa trees grow vastly in West Africa. Between Nigeria and Ghana I don’t know who grows them better!

The cocoa pods release seeds that are fermented to develop aroma and colour. They are then roasted (the way coffee beans are roasted) to intensify their rich chocolate flavour. The roasting helps it to release the inner seed which bears the chocolate essence. Find out more about how chocolate is made:

Basically, all you need to know is that chocolate types are identified by the amounts of solids, cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids each contain. Chocolate with higher percentages of cocoa butter have more intense and rich chocolate flavour. Lower-quality chocolates include other fats which raise its melting point and have a less distinct flavour.

To understand the best type of chocolate to use for your cake, you have to first decide on the texture, richness and flavour of your cake. This will enable you sort out the most appropriate type to use.

· The bitter or unsweetened chocolate is called the ‘baking chocolate’. This type is hardened cocoa solids and cocoa butter with no sugar. It is primarily used for baking.
· Bittersweet chocolate. In this type, lecithin is added to improve its smoothness, it is the darkest of all eating chocolates. Ideal for cooking and baking.
· Milk chocolate; this is the only type of chocolate that isn’t good for baking, best for eating as the delicate flavour is easily overtaken by the other ingredients, I hear it’s the favourite chocolate for most Americans! Those creamy tasty candy bars are made with milk chocolate and it contains at least 12% dry milk solids and 10% chocolate liquor with sugar and cocoa butter.
· Others include white chocolate which is not ‘true chocolate’ because it contains no chocolate solids, just cocoa butter. However, it’s great for making cheese cakes.
· Cocoa powder; this is what most people use in baking commercial chocolate cake in Naija. You get cocoa powder when you remove all the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor, the dense mass is then ground into powder form. It’s really good for frosting.

Finally, my all-time fave and the best high-end gourmet chocolate is called ‘Couverture’ it’s a glossy form of chocolate used by pro pastry chefs and chocolatiers (chocolate connoisseurs). It must contain at least a minimum of 32% cocoa butter which allows it to flow more easily when tempered. This is the type of grade mostly used in professional pastry and cake supply shops (like Cakeflair!) as well as high-end groceries and online. Both dark and milk chocolate couvertures are readily available but pretty expensive. Chocolate mousse cake is my favourite after ‘Death-By-Chocolate’ cake, (pardon the name! one of the last things I’d like to do before I walk off this planet is savour this decadent choc cake!)

The best place to get couverture chocolate cheapest is Frankfurt, believe me! It’s amazing that cocoa trees grow at the backside of Africa, yet chocolate is cheaper in a cocoa importing country than in an exporting one!

I’ll wrap up this post on chocolates next week with some very useful websites you’ll find great recipes to try out.
It’s important you get grounded in the knowledge of your ingredients; this helps you interact with your their ‘behaviour’ and ultimately improve your baking skills…
…to be contd.

Tip of the week: to whiten royal icing (used in piping), add a few drops of white vinegar.