Making Drinking Chocolate?
Melting chocolate is not the same as tempering chocolate, although melting is a necessary step in the tempering process. Melting chocolate can be accomplished in a microwave or over a hot-water bath. There are a few fundamental guidelines to successfully melting chocolate:
- Make sure the chocolate is chopped into uniform pieces to ensure even melting. Never try to melt large bars or blocks of chocolate that have not been chopped.
- Avoid all contact with water! Chocolate will seize and become unworkable if it comes into contact with even a few droplets of water. Make sure your bowls, workstation, and spatulas are completely dry when you begin.
- Melt the chocolate slowly over low heat. Chocolate is very delicate and can become lumpy or grainy if overheated.
Stir the chocolate frequently with a rubber spatula, especially once the outer edges start to melt. I have found the best utensil to stir my chocolate with is a coated whisk from Le Crueset. It’s easy to hold and the chocolate always seems to be fully incorporated into the water or milk. An immersion blender can also work wonders, but it’s not as much fun. Think of cooking scenes from “Waitress” and “Like Water for Chocolate” to fully appreciate this sensory experience—the aroma, the heat, the smooth texture and the patience…
Selecting a Cup
Pour your chocolate into something that makes you smile. My mug has an inspirational poem, while my friend’s mug is plain, simple and elegant.
Types of chocolate
The first step in making chocolate is to dry, clean, and roast the beans and then the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. From this process comes different types of chocolate. When making your hot chocolate, I recommend trying all different kinds of chocolate until you find the combination that fits your taste.
The fermented and roasted inside of the cacao bean.
Unsweetened baking chocolate (also known as bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. This is chocolate in its purest form.
Dark chocolate has sugar added. This chocolate is made from chocolate liquor (ground up cocoa bean) with fat (cocoa butter) and sugar added. It has a high cocoa content and no milk added.
Bittersweet chocolate is traditionally the term reserved for chocolate with a minimum of 50% chocolate liquor. It also has lecithin added as well as a small amount of vanilla.
Semi-sweet chocolate is basically bittersweet chocolate with a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor content.
Milk chocolate is dark chocolate with milk or condensed milk added. Milk chocolate usually is usually at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk solids.
Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweetened chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar.
Make it your own
If you’re making a cup of chocolate for yourself it’s easy to measure the amount of milk or water—just fill your favorite cup about 2/3 full with water, skim milk, or whole milk and then pour it into a small pan. For the best results (until you’re a highly experienced hot chocolate maker) you should chop your selected chocolate up into uniform size pieces. This allows the chocolate to melt evenly. I also recommend warming the liquid a bit before adding the chocolate. How much chocolate to add? Start with about 1/6 of your cup full, adjust to your taste from there as you make future batches. Serve warm. A dab of whipped cream or a tablespoon of cream in the top of a warm cup can be the perfect top off.
Try experimenting with any of these ingredients.
• Cayenne Pepper
• Chili Powder
• Mint (the best way to get this flavor is to put fresh mint leaves in milk and bring to a boil. Then let the milk cool for about 15 minutes and remove the mint leaves. Reheat the milk and continue making the chocolate drink.)
• Single malt scotch
• Peppermint Schnapps
Experiment, explore, relax and have fun with your chocolate.