For most of us here at T&C, chocolate is a staple all year. But around the holidays, it takes on even more significance in our lives. Chocolate truffle gifts, warm hot cocoa with whipped cream, chocolate oranges and searches for new chocolate recipes start taking over our December daydreams. No matter how big a chocolate nut you are, you’ll want to read on for our best chocolate tips, treat ideas and trivia.
Chocolate by the Numbers
Ever been confused by the percentage on a bar of chocolate? Or wonder whether you should use bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips for baking? Us too. But basically, the percentages on chocolate bars tell you how much of the contents come from the cocoa bean–including the solids or cocoa butter, which are the fatty part of the bean. Cocoa butter can be added in different amounts to make the chocolate creamier, so even if two different bars have the same percentage, they can vary in intensity, flavor, sweetness, and texture.
Dark chocolate typically consists of primarily cocoa and sugar, so a 70% cocoa bar will have 70% cocoa and 30% sugar. Bittersweet chocolate tends to have a cocoa content of around 70% while semisweet is around 60%, but they’re pretty much interchangeable in any recipe. Milk chocolate, as its name suggests, is made with milk in addition to cocoa, while white chocolate on the other hand contains cocoa butter and no cocoa solids.
How the pros melt chocolate
How many times have we stuck a bowl of chocolate chips in the microwave and ended up with a grainy, scorched mess? More than we care to admit. But that perfectly smooth, shiny, molten chocolate stuff of dreams is easier than you might think to create.
Use a double-boiler or a heat-proof metal bowl on top of a sauce pan. Heat a few inches of water in the bottom pan, and place your chopped chocolate in the top pan or bowl. Make sure that the top pan or bowl doesn’t touch the water, and that the water doesn’t boil. Then just stir it occasionally until the chocolate melts. (Note: if you’re getting too much steam, reduce the heat.) Once melted, dip or drizzle on cookies, fresh fruit, pretzels, graham crackers, spoons, fingers... whatever makes you happy.
Chocolate recipes just have that certain something
Maybe it’s that childish delight that bubbles up when we bite into a cookie we loved as a kid. Or the idea of swan-diving into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river and being completely immersed in the most magical treat that exists. There’s just some unexplainable something about chocolate that evokes pure possibility and joy. Whatever it is, it’s exactly that kind of excitement and inspiration we hope to bring to our holidays. So we’ve compiled a list of chocolatey treats that we know will add some magic to yours. Enjoy the smiles and the thank you hugs, which are pretty much guaranteed.