Chocolate is a subject that’s very dear to my heart – or should I say my waistline? When I was a child, I wasn’t too thrilled by chocolate; I was always the one who ordered the strawberry milkshake or had the butter pecan ice cream cone. That was before I had been exposed to really great dark chocolate: semi-sweet or bittersweet Valrhona, Callebaut and Scharffen Berger, just for starters. once I entered the culinary world and experienced real chocolate, I couldn’t turn back. Now I have to work at controlling my desire to indulge too often.
Fortunately, a little good chocolate goes a long way. Try this test: buy a bar of basic chocolate, such as a Hershey’s bar, and one of Scharffen Berger or Valrhona dark chocolate with a minimum of 60 per cent cocoa content. Taste a small square of the dark chocolate: it will melt in your mouth and taste slightly bitter, maybe even tart, with a long finish that will stay with you. The other chocolate bar will be sweet right away, but then go flat; before you know it, you will have eaten the whole bar and barely even noticed. There’s no long finish and no real satisfaction.
Another test I often do at my cooking classes, just to see the reactions, is to have everyone sample Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate and then Valrhona or Callebaut. First-timers are always astonished at the difference. It’s worth the effort and additional cost to buy better chocolate. If you’re going to all the trouble of making a chocolate dessert, use the best chocolate you can find and you’ll be rewarded with great results.
At LSFF, we’ve used top-quality chocolate right from the beginning. As Callebaut chocolate is now made in Calgary, it’s easy to find in most Canadian cities. It was our chocolate of choice until we tried Valrhona from France. Suddenly the bar was raised; I actually started hiding Valrhona chocolate around my house – in case of emergency only. Now I use Callebaut in most of my baking, but Valrhona stars in recipes where chocolate has the lead role. I also like Scharffen Berger chocolate from California.
Chocolate is temperature sensitive, so don’t store it in the fridge. It keeps best in a dark place at 68 to 72°F (20 to 22°C). In a pinch, you can use cocoa powder in place of chocolate by mixing 1 tbsp (15 mL) melted unsalted butter with 3 tbsp (45 mL) cocoa powder.