Chocolate can be used as an ingredient in most recipes with no preparation at all. If a recipe calls for chocolate to be tempered, this is a skill to be mastered in itself.
Recipes by professional chocolatiers such as Paul A Young or intricate patisserie will often require using couverture chocolate and careful tempering before use. Though quite a technical skill, all you really need is a thermometer and a little confidence. It involves slowly heating and then slowly cooling the chocolate so that the fats crystallise uniformly and the chocolate ‘snaps’ rather than crumbles when broken. Once tempered, the chocolate can be piped, or turned into cylinders, shards and curls. Always use the best quality chocolate you can find as this will affect the taste of your final dish. Higher cocoa content will depict a greater depth of flavour.
There are no strict rules about baking with chocolate – partly because its uses are so varied, from chocolate sponges to chocolate ganache and even caramelised chocolate.
The applications for chocolate are seemingly endless. Paul Heathcote’s Chocolate pots are wonderfully simple if you are strapped for time or if you would like to move on to something more adventurous have a go at Lisa Allen’s challenging Dark chocolate cylinder. Paul A Young makes wonderful chocolate truffles such as Pimms cocktail and gingerbread-spice ganache. Daniel Clifford makes a tempting Chocolate soufflé while Paul Ainsworth keeps it cool with a Chocolate sorbet. There are also chocolate mousses, brownies and cakes to be enjoyed when cooking with chocolate and don’t forget chocolate sauce with vension.