Baking with chocolate can be a labour of love. It is a notoriously difficult ingredient to work with, but the payoff – decadent and rich desserts and sweets – is well worth the effort. Here are some tips from top Calgary pastry chefs on how to successfully incorporate chocolate into your holiday baking.
No chocolate dessert is more classic than chocolate mousse. Served in a giant bowl or individual portions, it is sure to be a crowd pleaser. For the perfect chocolate mousse recipe, Chef Manuel Latruwe has got you covered.
There are a few key points to bear in mind when making the ultimate chocolate mousse. Chef Manuel prefers to only use egg yolks, omitting the whites, which are primarily water. Adding whipped cream then lends the airiness that egg whites typically would.
His mousse is also anglaise based, meaning that the egg yolks are cooked into a custard before melted chocolate is added. To ensure that you don’t scramble the eggs, cook them over low heat using a bain-marie, or water bath. Using this double boiler method is also the best way to melt the chocolate itself, as long as it doesn’t come in contact with any water or it has the potential to split on you. You can even use a microwave to melt your chocolate, putting it in for short intervals and stirring in between so it doesn’t get too hot.
Once the chocolate mixture is prepared, you can fold in the whipped cream. Chef Manuel emphasizes that this is a time sensitive process. “If you add cold cream to chocolate and fail to fold it in quickly enough, you can end up with tiny specks of hardened chocolate in your mousse,” he says. Try not to over-mix either, or you run the risk of separating the mixture. You want chocolate mousse after all, not chocolate butter.
You can also get creative with your chocolate mousse for the holidays. Try adding warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, or even chilies for an unexpected kick. Alternatively you can booze it up with some Irish cream, orange liqueur or even hazelnut liqueur. Or just take a spoon and dig in. We won’t judge.
Check out Chef Manuel’s recipe for chocolate Christmas Yule Log here.
Yann Haute Patisserie
Recipes are imperative when it comes to baking in general, but Chef Yann, of Yann Haute Patisserie, stresses that following written instructions is not foolproof if you don’t have an organic connection with the food you are working with.
“Chocolate can be intimidating. You have to make three molecules happy in order for them to crystallize properly,” Chef Yann says. The molecules melt at different temperatures, so in order to end up with a shiny finished product, with that characteristic “snap” like good chocolate does, you have to temper it. Luckily, most chocolate comes pre-tempered, so all you have to do is melt it low and slow (between 31-32º C) to maintain its glossy consistency.
Knowledge like this is far from innate; it comes from years of practice marked by plenty of trial and error. Chef Yann suggests choosing recipes with thorough instructions, while giving credit to your own instincts. For example, home ovens can vary substantially in temperature, so it may take more or less time to bake your sweets than the recipe actually says.
When putting together his chocolate cheesecake, a rich and satisfying dessert that is perfect for any festive celebration, Chef Yann describes how to know that it is done, just by looking at it. “It should still jiggle slightly in the middle but the top will lose its shine,” he says.
Choosing the right chocolate for your chocolate cheesecake is also important. 58-60% cocoa mass works best. If it is any higher, it will cause the cheesecake to firm up too much, losing its silky texture. Make sure to buy good chocolate that contains real cocoa butter, rather than cheap vegetable oil fillers.
All in all, Chef Yann is an advocate for experiential learning. Recipes don’t always turn out the first time, but practice makes perfect!
Check out Chef Yann’s recipe for chocolate cheesecake here.
Photo by Ingrid Kuenzel