Sweethearts in the kitchen
Compiled by Chris Lau
Just in time for Valentine's Day, two junior reporters took a chocolate-making class at the Towngas Cooking Centre in Causeway Bay on Monday. Chocolate expert Ho Chi-pin taught them how to turn chocolate chips into an exquisite Valentine's gift.
Check out what they learned?
Real versus decorative
To make our treats, we used two types of chocolate: real, and decorative, or compound. Decorative chocolate is often used as a coating on chocolate bars. The main difference is that decorative chocolate contains vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter.
'Real chocolate definitely tastes better because it melts at about 37 degrees [Celsius], our body temperature. When you put it in your mouth, it melts smoothly and immediately,' says Ho.
But decorative chocolate is better for cooking because it melts at 40 degrees. That makes it ideal for edible chocolate boxes and chocolate coins, the kind we see at Christmas and Lunar New Year.
'Real chocolate is more fragile and needs a special process to make hard decorations,' says Ho. 'So we normally use decorative chocolate instead.'
How to melt chocolate
Chocolate should never come into direct contact with a heated pan or boiling water.
The best way to melt chocolate is to put it in a glass bowl. Place that bowl in a larger bowl filled with boiling water, and let the heat do its magic. Stir the chocolate gently as it melts to spread the heat evenly. High temperatures will overcook the chocolate.
Making chocolate truffles
First, melt some dark chocolate in a glass bowl. Stir the chocolate until it becomes silky smooth. Add whipped cream and melted unsalted butter. Mix well.
Let the mixture cool down, then use a spoon to scoop up some of the mixture. Place a roasted hazelnut in the middle of the spoonful. Finally, roll the mixture into a ball, and dip it in almond chips. Do this to half the mixture, then coat the other half in cocoa powder. Now you've got two kinds of chocolate truffles.
Making a heart-shaped box
Melt dark and white decorative chocolate separately. Pour the dark chocolate on a sheet of baking paper and spread evenly. Let it cool to room temperature, then cut out two heart shapes and three rectangles for each box.
Balance the rectangles on top of one of the hearts in a triangle shape, and use melted dark chocolate to stick them all together. Decorate the other heart, which is the 'lid' of the box, with the melted white chocolate.
The percentage secret
We often see numbers on chocolate labels: 75 per cent, 85 per cent or 99 per cent. But what do these percentages mean?
'It is the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate,' Ho explains. 'The higher the percentage, the fewer artificial ingredients [butter, sugar and milk] in the chocolate. The quality is better, and the price will be higher because it's closer to pure chocolate.'
Chocolate with high cocoa content may taste bitter. But it's healthier as it contains less sugar.
Janet Tam Ka-wing and Kate Ng
Visit www.towngascooking.com/ for more details