Chocolate is considered an essential ingredient by many chefs when it comes to desserts. Chocolate is also considered to be a complex ingredient that has a wide range of flavors -- what you get in a chocolate bar is not at all a true representation of what chocolate can offer.
The chocolate tree is a tropical evergreen native to South and Central America. It is also cultivated in Africa and Southeast Asia. The Aztecs were the first to appreciate the fruit of this tree, making a cocoa beverage so venerated that it was reserved exclusively for the emperor Montezuma and his ministers. Among chocolate's many virtues, the Aztecs considered it an aphrodisiac.
The chocolate tree produces large pods, which are cut from the trunk and opened. The inner beans and pulp are scooped out, air-dried, fermented, and cured to remove the bitter taste, impart aroma, enrich the flavor, and darken the color. The following are Chef DiSpirito's recipes:
Chocoholic Chocolate Cake
Flawless Sponge Cake Ingredients
1 cup sugar, split into 1/3 and 2/3 cup
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup + 5 1/2 tbsp cake flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup water - room temp.
1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1.Grease and flour the bottom only of a 10-inch round cake pan.
2.Preheat oven to 350F.
3.Sift together 1/3 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt, flour, and cocoa powder.
4.In a mixing bowl, combine vegetable oil and yolks until combined. Add water and extract and combine. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix for one minute, or until ingredients are thoroughly combined.
5.In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar gradually and continue to whip until firm, shiny peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in three additions, making sure that the mixture is homogenous.
6.Pour mixture into prepared pan and cook for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan. Run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert to remove pan.
7.Once cake has been removed, use a serrated knife to level the rounded, topside of the cake off. Then cut the cake into three equal layers. Fill with Chocolate Cream and frost cake with Glossy Chocolate Glaze.
Optional: for a chocolate sponge, substitute 1/2 cup cocoa powder for 1/2 cup cake flour.
Chocolate Cream Ingredients
2 cups heavy cream
5 tbsp granulated sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and let sit in refrigerator for 30 minutes, until cocoa has completely dissolved.
2.Remove from refrigerator and mix until stiff peaks form. Do not over-whip; cream will become grainy and may separate.
3.Using a spatula, divide cream equally over two cake layers. Stack the layers, then top with the third cake layer. Finish with Glossy Chocolate Glaze.
Glossy Chocolate Glaze Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
9 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1.Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the cream over. Let stand for 1-2 minutes, then stir together with a wooden spoon, working from the center, until mixture is completely homogenous.
2.Set your filled cake on a rack set over a baking pan. Pour the warm glaze over the top of the cake and let it pour over the sides. Let cake cool undisturbed until the glaze has set. Decorate cake further, if desired.
Chocolate Bubble Wrap Ingredients
8 oz bittersweet or milk chocolate, chopped fine
8 oz white chocolate, chopped fine
1-foot square piece of clean bubble wrap
1.Melt the chocolates separately over a double boiler. Stir while melting to make sure mixtures are completely cool. While still warm, pour over bubble wrap, and swirl together for marbled effect.
2.Let cool until set, then carefully pull the bubble wrap away. Chocolate can be cut into shapes or molded as desired.
Note: if using only one kind of chocolate, double the amount.
Melting chocolate: Chocolate is an emulsion; unless handled carefully, the fat will separate. For this reason, it must be melted very slowly, preferably in the top pan of a double boiler set over hot water.
Ideally, you only melt about half of the chocolate in the double boiler, then remove it from heat, and stir until the remaining chocolate is melted. Dark chocolate should never be heated above 120 degrees because it will turn grainy.
Beware of getting liquid into chocolate as it melts. A drop of water added by mistake or present in a damp pan can cause the chocolate to seize and harden.
Never use chocolate that is unevenly melted; check by stirring until uniformly smooth.
White chocolate is not a true chocolate because it does not contain any chocolate liquor. It is actually a blend of whole milk and sugar, cooked, condensed, and solidified. In the best brands, some cocoa butter is added to enhance the flavor. Other additives include: whey powder, lecithin, vanilla, and egg whites. The finest quality white chocolate contains the highest proportion of cocoa butter and thus lists that ingredient first on the label.
Take care when melting white chocolate as it tends to solidify easily. Too much heat will transform the proteins in the milk additives and causes lumps. Melt chopped white chocolate in a double boiler over warm water; don't allow the chocolate to heat above 100 degrees. Stir often.
They are light and airy, leavened primarily with eggs beaten to a foam, hence the generic name "foam cakes." The batter is created by whipping eggs with sugar until light in color. The air whipped into the egg-sugar mixture during this process contributes to the rising of the sponge cake.
When the cake is placed in the oven to bake, the second essential factor in the rising comes into play. In the heat of the oven, the moisture in the batter becomes steam, which rises and escapes through the foam. The heat also causes the air in these bubbles to expand and contributes to the rise.