It is always a good time to make something with chocolate. When the mood seizes you, discovering you haven’t got a crucial ingredient can ruin the mood. Knowing its equivalent or substitution can save the day. Today, Mom helps cooks and chocoholics with tips on chocolate and includes the world’s easiest dipped strawberry recipe.
Chocolate is made from the bean of the tropical cacao tree. In its purest baking form chocolate comes powdered, is usually sold in tins and is called cocoa. There are two types of cocoa in this world; regular cocoa and Dutch cocoa. Dutch cocoa, or alkalized cocoa has reduced the natural acidity of the cocoa bean resulting in a darker, mellower, more chocolaty cocoa powder. For the most part, these can be used interchangeably, especially for flavoring foods like frosting. However, if you are baking, be aware the reduced alkalinity of Dutch cocoa may affect how cakes rise. Cocoa powder is not to be confused with those packaged hot cocoa drink mixes, which don’t work well in recipes.
Sugar and fat are usually added to cocoa powder for sweetening and consistency and cake! In our kitchens, fat can be in the form of cocoa butter, margarine, butter, vegetable shortening or vegetable oil. Sugars, either powdered or granulated add sweetness and also add to consistency. Powdered sugar will be smoother. Once we understand the basics of chocolate it makes substituting ingredients much easier. Here are some more definitions and equivalents.
Cocoa: Powdered, chocolate in its most basic form (beyond the bean).
Baking Chocolate: Generally sold in bars and measured in squares of 1 ounce each. Normally has some fat but no sugar content.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate: Sold in chips or bars. Normally has some fat plus a small amount of sugar.
1 square (1oz) of baking chocolate = 3 tablespoons cocoa + 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 cup (one 6 oz package) of semisweet chocolate = 6 tablespoons cocoa + 7 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1/4 cup shortening
1 cup (one 6 oz package) of semisweet chocolate = 6 oz or (6 squares) of semi-sweet chocolate
Classic Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
This will also work with cherries or any other fruit with a skin. Use about 18 large fresh strawberries, room temperature and patted dry plus 1 pound semi sweet (or any type) chocolate pieces, coarsely chopped.
1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Or heat the chocolate at 50% power in 30 second intervals in the microwave, carefully checking temperature until it is smooth.
2. Using the berry stem or a toothpick, dip the strawberries into the chocolate.
3. Cool the berries on wax paper, or put the toothpicks into styrofoam (or a potato).
More Chocolate Tips: Make sure the strawberries are completely dry. Even a drop of water in the melted chocolate can cause it to “seize” and make the chocolate grainy. This recipe will produce tempered chocolate, or chocolate that dries to a hard shine. If the chocolate becomes too thick to work with, add drops of vegetable oil, small amounts of vegetable shortening or cocoa butter (butter and margarine contain water) stirring until it becomes the right consistency. Happy cooking!
Laura Zinkan is a freelance writer and artist living in Los Angeles, California. She puts the Mom in MomsRetro with kitchen tips and humor on her website for busy cooks http://www.MomsRetro.com She also cultivates a gardening website at http://www.theGardenPages.com with plant profiles, growing tips and lore about succulents and California native plants. Copyright © 2009 by Laura Zinkan.