chocolate

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Chocolate, rich and creamy, is the quintessential indulgent food. It’s perfect in almost every form, one of the most versatile ingredients, and we’re addicted to its unique taste and smell. We crave it in the summer as a smooth ice cream and as a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a frosty winter night.

Beyond the archetypical Hershey bar, chocolate comes in many forms. While I do admit to having a weakness for the occasional popular candy bars, their waxy textures hold nothing to the silky richness of high-end, high-cocoa-content chocolate. Most chocolates indicate a percentage, which is the sum of its cacao fat (called cocoa butter in the United States) and its cacao solids. A higher percentage = higher cocoa content; in other words, high percentage chocolate has a lower percentage of sugar and the chocolate will have a less sweet, more bitter and deeper flavor. For example, the average milk chocolate is usually 30 – 40% and dark chocolate ranges from 50 – 70% and higher. 50 – 60% is about average, 60 – 70% is dark and slightly bitter, while 70% and higher is very bitter, as it is closest to chocolate in its most natural state (100% with no added sugar). In substituting chocolates, only ones with like percentages should be used, as the final result will definitely have a different taste and texture.

Percentages of chocolate also vary in their distinguishing properties. For example, if you break a piece of chocolate in half, darker chocolates will create a sharper snap, while milks and whites will be softer. White chocolate will also smell more like vanilla, while milk chocolate will have a delicate chocolate aroma, and dark chocolates will have a stronger, bitter scent. Finally, because they contain more cocoa butter, lower percentage chocolates will also melt faster.

Chocolate marries well with so many different flavors: nuts, fruits, pepper and spices, savory meats, caramel, red wine, liquors, and, the Test Kitchen’s other ingredient of the month, coffee; and it’s when we introduce other flavors that chocolate’s strength is enhanced and heightened. Coffee and chocolate make a wonderful pairing because they’re both strong flavors that play well off each other.

But chocolate is more than just a food; there is no other ingredient that has attained such an esteemed status in history, connoting symbolic significance in many different cultures. So it will come as no surprise that chocolate, both as a savory and a sweet seasoning, reigns as a popular ingredient in main dishes, sides, desserts, and drinks, and as an indulgent treat on its own. Perhaps it’s the satisfyingly silkiness or the sweetness that lures me, but I can never resist an offering of chocolate in any form. Included in this week’s Test Kitchen are recipes that showcase chocolate in a variety of sweet degrees.

Recipes:

Luscious Thai Curry Chocolate Truffles
Cardamom Hot Chocolate
Mocha Pudding with Espresso Crème

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Theobroma Chocolate Cocktail

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Restore harmony with nature, and celebrate rituals to slow down the modern pace of life with this nourishing potion of dark Criollo chocolate.

Luscious Thai Curry Truffles

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This is an unusual combination of sweet flavors with spicy, hot sensations. We are celebrating aphrodisiac flavors in the form of truffles.

Chocolate Cranberry Jam

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This recipe pairs tart cranberries with rich chocolate for a deliciously sinful jam.

Poached Pears with Chocolate Raspberry Sauce

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Here we pair chocolate with a poached pear, which has a sweet fruitiness and a hint of citrus from the lemon and wine poaching liquid.

A Month for Some Lovin’

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Here at Gilded Fork, we believe in celebrating sensuality every day of the year, but you can’t tell me you didn’t jump at the first sight of Valentine’s candy at the grocery store.

Chocolate: The Sweetest Indulgence. Or Not.

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Chocolate has been touted as an aphrodisiac for many a century, on many a continent. While there is likely some truth to the legend, perhaps much of it is a fanciful excuse for treating ourselves to this decadent taste of heaven, savory or sweet.

CHIC220: Chocolate Academy

Chef Tom visits the Barry-Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Chicago.

CMN Travels Toronto: Chocosol Chocolate

Chef Mark gets a taste of Chocosol’s “horizontal trade” chocolate in Toronto

RP208: The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory

I speak with Bob & Pam Cooper, owners of the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory

Chef Mark’s Quick Bites: Fancy Food Show Day 3

The final day of The Fancy Food Show brings, brownies, porchetta, chocolate, black garlic & wild boar!