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Chocolate is very particular, and presents some pretty specific constraints,” says Kate Shaffer, co-owner of Maine-based Black Dinah Chocolatiers and author of Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier. “Instead of inhibiting my creativity, those constraints unlocked a lot of doors for me.” Here, Shaffer shares some tips for cooking with chocolate.
Q Is there a must-have tool for chocolatiers?
A A hair dryer. I’m not kidding. We have one in every corner of our production facility. Successful chocolate making depends on being able to hold melted (and tempered) chocolate within a degree or two of a very specific temperature, while also controlling the crystallization of the cocoa butter. The occasional heat blast of a hair dryer makes a complicated process much, much easier, and completely accessible to a home cook.
Q What’s the secret to perfect chocolate icing?
A I have two icing favorites: chocolate Italian meringue buttercream and chocolate glaze. The secret to chocolaty buttercream is beginning with a very clean bowl with no oil residue (residual fat from a previous baking project will prevent your egg whites from whipping up beautifully), using super-fresh eggs, and adding as much chocolate as you can without sacrificing the airy quality of your end result. The secret to great chocolate glaze is to simply use the best dark chocolate you can find.
Q How do you use chocolate in savory dishes?
A I use bittersweet chocolate in my mole poblano and in chili. The key is to use chocolate to deepen the flavors already present in the dish. Don’t use so much that you can identify it in the resulting dish, but just enough to set off the sweetness of the chiles or the onions.