Chocolate is a versatile ingredient, whether your tastes run sweet or savoury. Here, Christina Marsigliese, food scientist (MSc.), trained pastry chef and author of Scientifically Sweet: Chocolate, shares her top hacks for baking or cooking with chocolate.
1. A savoury substitution
A quick flavour-enhancing hack is to add dark chocolate to savoury dishes. “Chocolate pairs best with rich savoury flavours, spices and chili, such as hearty beef stews, Mexican chili sauces and red bean chili. A little goes a long way so just an ounce (28 g) is all you usually need,” says Marsigliese. If you’re making a dish that calls for Worcestershire sauce but you’re out, substitute a square of high-percentage dark chocolate and 1 teaspoon of vinegar (white, malt or apple cider). “The flavours will mimic the sweet, tangy and savoury combination found in this popular sauce,” says Marsigliese.
2. Mind the puddles
To achieve molten ‘puddles’ of chocolate in cookies and squares, use a chopped bar or block chocolate instead of chips. Bar chocolate has better melting properties. “Lindt Excellence bars are the ideal shape for making chocolate chip cookies because the thin pieces will create delicious puddled layers within each cookie.” says Marsigliese. “A quick and easy hack is to roll each piece of dough into a ball and then press two or three large chunks of chocolate on top to create the perfect puddle. You can’t achieve this with standard chocolate chips because they won’t melt, and some will even burn on top.”
3. Manage your temper
Tempered chocolate is known for its glossy appearance and smooth texture as it melts in your mouth. “It’s great for dipping, coating or drizzling on cookies and confectionery,” says Marsigliese. The secret to successful tempering is to start with an already tempered chocolate bar (like Lindt), and carefully follow instructions (like these) for tempering. A big hack that people don’t often think of is actually quite simple: use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. If you stir with a metal spoon, the cold metal can cause the hot chocolate to seize up and clump.
4. Be generous with salt
“Chocolatey recipes, such as brownies and cakes, benefit from a substantial addition of salt. Salt intensifies the nutty and fruity flavours of chocolate, so don’t leave it out of the recipe,” advises Marsigliese. “Salt can be added up to ¼ tsp per 1 cup of flour in most cake recipes, and up to ½ tsp per 8-inch square pan of brownies or 2 dozen batch of cookies. For custards, ganache, frostings and sauces, a pinch is all you need.”
5. Salvage any mistakes
Sometimes melting goes less than smoothly – don’t let that ruin good chocolate. “If water gets into your melted chocolate and it seizes up, don’t throw it away! It can be salvaged. Simply stir in a little hot water, bit by bit, until the chocolate becomes smooth and glossy again. It won’t set back to its original hard state, but you can use it in a sauce, or brownie or cake batter,” says Marsigliese.