Category : Hints, Tips and Tricks
Chocolate is the most popular flavoring ingredient used in baked products. Chocolate cakes, frostings, cookies, brownies, pies and candy are consumed more than all other flavors combined. Why? Chocolate satisfies the eye as well as the palette. Looking for something sweet and something special-chocolate items satisfy. Chocolate treats are rarely disappointing and therefore they are the first choice to fill a craving for the best.

Chocolate began its rise to fame with Columbus bringing cocoa beans back from the New World. No one knew what the brown beans were used for until Cortez brought cocoa beans from Mexico. The Aztecs made a drink from the cocoa beans and called it "cacahuatl," or "gift from the gods".

The use of the chocolate drink "chocolate" became popular in Europe and spread around the world. During American Revolutionary times chocolate factories sprang up in the United States. In the 1800's Daniel Peter in Switzerland developed a formula for adding milk to basic chocolate and produced the first solid chocolate. American manufactures have since brought chocolate to where it is today.

CACAO (COCOA) BEANS are the beans cocoa is made from. They are grown mainly in West Africa and South America.

COCOA NIBS are the "meat" of the cocoa beans. The whole cocoa bean is roasted and then the outer shell is removed. The nibs are then processed into chocolate products. The nibs contain about 50% cocoa butter.

CHOCOLATE LIQUOR is the base of all chocolate. The nibs are ground at a temperature which causes the cocoa butter to liquefy and creates the liquor or "liquid essence" of the cocoa nibs. There is no alcohol in chocolate liquor.

COCOA BUTTER is the vegetable fat extracted from processing chocolate liquor. Cocoa butter is what gives chocolate products their unique texture.

COCOA POWDER is what is left after the cocoa butter has been taken from the chocolate liquor. Cocoa powder is very low in fat content.

AMERICAN PROCESSED COCOA is a term used for cocoa liquor processed without additives.

DUTCH PROCESSED COCOA is a term used for cocoa liquor processed using an alkali agent. This cocoa is darker than American Process and has a different flavor.

BITTER CHOCOLATE is pure chocolate liquor and usually formed into bars. It is referred to as Unsweetened, Baking, or Cooking chocolate.

SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE is a combination of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. Semi-sweet chocolate contains at least 35% chocolate liquor. It comes in bars and chips.

SWEET CHOCOLATE is a combination of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. Sweet chocolate contains at least 15% chocolate liquor and has a high sugar content.

MILK CHOCOLATE is a combination of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and milk or cream. Milk chocolate contains at least 10% chocolate liquor.

WHITE CHOCOLATE is not chocolate at all.

CHOCOLATE FLAVORED is a term applied to those products that do not contain enough chocolate liquor to meet government standards.

Chocolate Tips

Cocoa may be substituted for chocolate in many of your favorite recipes.

UNSWEETENED BAKING CHOCOLATE: Use 3 level tablespoons of cocoa plus 1 tablespoon of liquid or solid shortening to equal 1 block (1 ounce) of unsweetened baking chocolate.

LIQUID UNSWEETENED BAKING CHOCOLATE: Use 3 level tablespoons cocoa plus 1 tablespoon oil or melted shortening to equal 1 package (1 ounce).

SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE: Use 6 level tablespoons cocoa plus 7 tablespoons sugar plus 1/4 cup shortening to equal one 6 ounce package (1 cup) of semi-sweet chips.

SWEET BAKING CHOCOLATE: Use 3 level tablespoons cocoa plus 4-1/2 tablespoons sugar plus 2 2/3 tablespoons shortening to equal one 4 ounce bar of sweet baking chocolate.

Chocolate Curls

Chocolate curls are fun to make and add eye appeal to chocolate cakes and pies.

Tools you will need

1. A baking sheet with a very clean bottom.
2. A sharp knife, vegetable peeler or straight-tipped metal spatula.
3. Aluminum foil.
4. Wooden toothpicks.
5. Waxed paper.

Place 2 or 3 squares of semi-sweet or sweet chocolate on a piece of aluminum foil sheet and heat in a warm oven until the chocolate is barely softened. Spread the chocolate into a thin layer and refrigerate for 8 to 10 minutes. If the chocolate breaks instead of curls, you need to chill less time. Let stand at room temperature for a few minutes.

Use a sharp knife or vegetable peeler to shave the chocolate from the foil. ( Hold the knife at a slight angle and scrape along the foil causing the chocolate to curl in front of the knife. Fast movement will cause tight curls and slow movement will cause loose curls. Lift the curls with a wooden toothpick and place on waxed paper. Chill until ready for use.


Melt 4 to 6 ounces of semi-sweet chips or 1 package of sweet chocolate in the microwave. Less heat is best so do not over heat the chocolate. Pour and spread the melted chocolate to a thin layer on the bottom of a baking sheet.

Chill for about 6 to 8 minutes then slip the straight end of a spatula under the chocolate and scrape until a curl forms.

If the chocolate is too soft-chill longer, if it is too cold let stand at room temperature until ready to be worked.

Lift the curls with a wooden toothpick and place on waxed paper. Chill until ready for use. Melt any scraps and use them again.


Melt 4 ounces of semi-sweet chips or 1 bar of sweet chocolate in your microwave or over very low heat stirring constantly.

Spread (paint) the melted chocolate on the underside of washed and dried grape ivy, lemon, rose or gardenia leaves. Form a smooth, thick coat on each leaf then place on a waxed paper lined tray and chill until the chocolate sets (about 12 to 15 minutes.) Peel the leaves from the chocolate and place the chocolate leaves on your dessert.

Use cabbage leaves to make serving size chocolate bowls. Follow the same technique as for small leaves except paint on a coat of chocolate-chill slightly-paint on more chocolate until the chocolate is thick enough to serve as your bowl.

Cut Outs

Melt 4 ounces of semi-sweet chips or 1 package of sweet chocolate.
Pour on a waxed paper lined tray and spread with a spatula to about a 1/8 inch thickness. Chill about 12 to 15 minutes and cut with a sharp cookie cutter or knife. Lift at once from the waxed paper and place on your dessert.

Chocolate scorches easily and must be melted with care over very low heat. A microwave is best for melting chocolate, but other heat sources are all right as long as you are very careful.

Using very low heat on the stove burner melt chocolate in a thick bottomed pan and stir constantly.

Melt chocolate in a hot water bath by placing a bowl holding the chocolate in a large sauce pan filled with about 2 inches of water. The chocolate should be stirred while melting.

Melt chocolate in your oven by placing it in a cake baking pan and using very low heat. Remove as soon as the chocolate is soft.
For candy dipping always use the hot water method of melting chocolate and remove from the heat before all the chocolate has melted. Stir gently until the remaining chocolate melts and dip the candy.

All your utensils for melting chocolate must be dry. If even a few drops of moisture gets into the melting chocolate it will become lumpy. Use 1 teaspoon of oil to 1 ounce of chocolate to bring it back to its correct consistency.

Unsweetened chocolate will change into a liquid when melting. Semi-sweet chocolate and sweet chocolate will hold its shape until it is stirred.

Home Made Ice Cream

Home-made ice cream takes only a few minutes to prepare and is the perfect topping for cakes, brownies and pies. Sure, you can buy almost any flavor you can dream up, but nothing tastes better than fresh ice cream with the special touches you add.

We have selected vanilla and chocolate ice cream recipes so that you may use these as a base and add other flavors and fruits to make many different kinds.

Preparation time is about 15 to 20 minutes.
Cooking time is about 10 minutes for cooking the cream.
Cooling time is about 30 minutes on ice before freezing.
Freezing time is about 30 to 45 minutes.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients for one quart of vanilla ice cream.

Two cups of milk
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 cup of granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1 cup of whipping cream

Place the milk and 1/2 the sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pot and let cool for 10 minutes.

Place the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 of the sugar in a bowl and beat with a mixer until thick and light in color.

Place the milk/sugar mixture back on the heat and bring to a boil. Pour 1/4 cup of this boiling mixture into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. (mixing constantly as the hot liquid is added)

Remove the sauce pan from the heat and pour the egg mixture into the milk mixture. (stirring constantly with a spoon)

Place the sauce pan back over very low heat and cook until it thickens. If you use a candy thermometer 185 degrees F. NOTE: Do not bring to a boil. If you do not use a candy thermometer-cook until the mixture coats the spoon and a line drawn across the top of the mixture will keep its form. Cooking time will be about 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove the cooked cream from the heat and pour into a bowl. Set this bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes to speed the cooling process. Add the whipping cream and the vanilla to the mixture. Stir it in well. NOTE: The cooked cream must be allowed to cool completely before freezing. (about 30 minutes over ice cubes)

Add the cream to your ice cream freezer and follow its directions for freezing.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you over cook the cream and it curdles add a tablespoon of cold milk and use your mixer or a blender to beat the cream until smooth.

Top this vanilla ice cream with a chocolate sauce or fresh fruit to make a wonderful dessert.

Store tightly covered in your freezer for up to two weeks.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Follow the methods used in making vanilla ice cream to make chocolate ice cream.

3-1/4 cups of milk
1 cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
6 tablespoons of cocoa powder in a large bowl

Cook the cream as described in the Vanilla ice cream methods. After the cream is cooked, but before it is cool add the cream a tablespoon at a time to the bowl containing the cocoa. Either use a whisk to stir it in, or a mixer to stir it in completely. Cool the cream over ice cubes the same way as described in making vanilla ice cream.

After cooling completely, pour the cream into your freezer and freeze according to its directions.

Serve chocolate ice cream with a chocolate sauce sprinkled with nuts or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This recipe makes great molded desserts and filling for cream puffs.

Molding Ice Cream

Place the mold in the freezer and allow to become very cold.

Add the ice cream to the mold as soon as in comes from the ice cream freezer. Freeze until the ice cream has hardened.

Place the molded ice cream in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving. Remove the mold from the ice cream by dipping it in hot water for about 5 seconds. Quickly turn upside down and tap gently until the ice cream releases. If the ice cream will not release-repeat the hot water dip and use a spatula to pry it out. Place the un-molded ice cream back into the freezer for a few minutes to refreeze the melted outside edge.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: Why does my fudge get hard and gritty after a day or two?
ANSWER: If you are using cocoa in the recipe you should add a tablespoon of corn syrup, honey or salad oil. This should help keep the fudge soft for a longer time.
When you over cook the fudge it will also become too hard. Use a candy thermometer whenever you make candy and watch it carefully.
Cover the fudge tightly after it cools so that it won't dry out.
Over beating will cause fudge to become too hard. Follow the recipe's instructions, but if the fudge thickens quickly stop beating and pour it up. The temperature of the room and nuts (if you add them) will sometimes cause fudge to thicken quickly.

QUESTION: What can I do to make my scratch chocolate cake more moist?
ANSWER: You may add an extra egg yolk, a tablespoon of salad oil or use melted semi-sweet chocolate instead of cocoa. If you don't want the extra fats-replace 1/3 of the water with apple sauce.
Drizzle a warm simple syrup sauce over warm chocolate cake layers before applying the frosting. Let the layers finish cooling and then ice as usual.

QUESTION: What can I do to make a box of brownie mix taste special?
ANSWER: Add a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of melted butter and a third of a cup of pecans or walnuts to the dry mix. Follow the mixing and baking directions on the package.

QUESTION: Why are my chocolate cupcakes always very dry? My chocolate cake is perfect.
ANSWER: Bake chocolate cupcakes at a ten degree higher temperature than cake. The cupcakes should be done in about twelve minutes. Over-baking is the common cause of dry cupcakes, so watch them carefully.

QUESTION: My chocolate cake is full of holes (tunnels) after it is baked. What am I doing wrong?
ANSWER: When the cake batter is too thick it will sometimes cause tunnels as air bubbles come to the surface during baking. If you are following the recipe carefully and the cake layers are tunneled you may need to add a little extra liquid to the mix. This problem happens when ingredients are used that were not of the same brand name as was used in the original recipe. Using all purpose flour instead of cake flour would be an example.

QUESTION: Why does my chocolate cake peak and split in the middle during baking?
ANSWER: Your oven is probably too hot. Try lowering the temperature about ten degrees. You may be placing the cake pans too close to the back or sides of the oven when it is best to place them in the center and on the center shelf.

QUESTION: Why is my chocolate butter cream frosting too pale and almost flavorless?
ANSWER: Over-mixing the frosting and not enough cocoa or chocolate will cause the frosting to be light in color. Add more cocoa for flavor. Melt semi-sweet chocolate and thin with whipping cream then add to the frosting for flavor. Add a little orange extract for a special taste.

QUESTION: My chocolate pie filling is too runny? What can I do to thicken it up and not change the taste.
ANSWER: Cook the filling until it coats a metal spoon. Under-cooking will cause the filling to be very soft. Remove some of the liquid from the recipe and the filling will cook thicker. Make sure you are using the same brand name ingredients the recipe calls for. If the recipe calls for evaporated milk-don't use whole milk.
If you substitute dry milk for fresh make sure the liquids are kept in balance by reconstituting the milk first and not adding just the milk powder to the recipe.

QUESTION: Why are my chocolate cookies dry? I substituted cocoa for baking chocolate in the recipe.
ANSWER: Add a little shortening or butter to your recipe when you use cocoa instead of baking chocolate. Watch your baking time because it's easy to over bake chocolate cookies.

QUESTION: How can I make my chocolate candy cookies taste better?
ANSWER: Add chocolate chips along with the coated chocolate candy. Add about half as much candy and the rest chocolate chips.
Try the semi-sweet coated chocolate candy in your baking. The semi-sweet flavor is much better in cookies.