Decorating Desserts with Chocolate

For chocolate lovers, it’s only natural to top, garnish and decorate with more chocolate. When you’re looking for easy ways to duplicate some of the fancy embellishments and details on your favorite desserts, consider the following decorating tips for chocolate.

How To Make Chocolate Curls

To make chocolate curls, choose a vegetable peeler with a long narrow blade. You will need a chunk or bar of chocolate to make curls. First, slightly warm the chocolate and blade. Before making the curls, it is important that the peeler is completely dry. Draw the peeler along the smooth surface of the chocolate, and watch the magic unfold. Another way to make chocolate curls is to use a cheese slicer.

Chocolate curls make a dazzling complement to cream pies, chocolate cakes (especially flourless chocolate cakes), tarts, and cheesecake.

How to Make a Chocolate Fan

To make an eye-catching dessert, chocolate fans are often used in fancy restaurants. First, melt squares of baking chocolate according to the directions. Spread the chocolate with a spatula into a very thin layer across a baking sheet. Refrigerate the chocolate for 10 minutes or until it is firm yet not frozen. With a metal spatula or cheese slicer in hand, run the tool along the baking sheet with light pressure. To create a fan shape, use your hand to mold the strip of chocolate into folds, waves and fan shapes.

Top a torte, cupcake, cakes (especially flourless chocolate cake and wedding cake) with a chocolate fan.

How To Grate Chocolate

Before grating a block of chocolate, make sure that it is firm and cool. Rub the block across a hand grater – making sure to clean often to avoid clogging the surface of the blade. Some people have also grated chocolate by placing small pieces in a blender or food processor.

Grated chocolate makes a decent garnish for desserts and adds visual pizzazz to pudding pies, cheesecake, ice cream cake, mousse, tiramisu, and soufflé.

How to Use Melted Chocolate

After chopping chocolate into small, evenly sized pieces, transfer to the top of a double boiler. Heat the chocolate while constantly stirring. Remove from heat and continue to stir the chocolate until it is smooth. No double boiler? You can melt chocolate in a bowl placed over a pan filled with simmering water. After melting chocolate using the double broiler method (or in the microwave), there are a handful of ways to decorate your desserts, such as:

  • Drizzle melted chocolate over cream pies, cakes, ice cream cones, sundaes, cupcakes, cream puffs, fried dough, and cookies.
  • Dip strawberries and other pieces of fruit into melted chocolate.
  • Coat marshmallows, Rice Krispie treats, and truffles with melted chocolate.

Know Your Chocolate

When baking or preparing a chocolate dessert, there are reasons that certain recipes specify the kind of chocolate you should use. It’s important to know that not all types of chocolate will produce the exact effect you seek. With varying flavors, melting points and end results, it certainly pays to know your chocolate.

Without cocoa beans, there would be no chocolate. The beans are dried, roasted and ground up to produce a dark, thick paste – also called chocolate ‘liquor’, cocoa solids or cocoa mass. It is this thick paste that is the basis of all chocolate and cocoa products. When you’re purchasing chocolate for your next dessert adventure, read the list of ingredients and check the percentage of cocoa solids and sugar. For example, if a recipe calls for bitter or dark chocolate, choose an option with a high percentage of cocoa solids (such as 70%).

Ready to bake or create?

Consider the following types of chocolate that may appear in your next recipe:

Plain Chocolate – Lots of recipes will call for “plain chocolate” because it is stronger. This kind of chocolate is also referred to as dark (made by adding fat and sugar to cocoa), semi-sweet (dark chocolate with half as much sugar as cocoa), or bittersweet (less sugar and more liquor than semisweet). A minimum of 35% cocoa solids for plain chocolate is needed to enjoy the best results. To create desserts (such as soufflés, mousse or truffles) with a richer chocolate flavor, choose plain chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids.

Milk Chocolate – Milk chocolate has added milk solids, which produces a sweeter taste that is smoother and creamier when compared to other kinds of chocolate. While milk chocolate is best for making candy bars, it sometimes finds its way into various desserts, pastries and other confections. Milk chocolate is sensitive to heat, so it doesn’t make a good choice for baking.

Unsweetened Chocolate – The purest form of chocolate is unsweetened, which is the cooled and hardened form of chocolate liquor. Since no sugar is added, it tastes extremely bitter.

Cocoa Powder – When a nice amount of cocoa butter is removed from chocolate liquor, cocoa powder is the result. With a fine texture, the taste is rich yet bitter. This means that you don’t have to use a lot of it when creating a dessert. Sometimes, the powder is used as a garnish for ice cream or a sprinkled topping for cakes.

Drinking Chocolate – When looking for a tasty coating for truffles, consider drinking chocolate, which is cocoa powder with added sugars and milk extracts. The flavor is quite sweet and makes a delicious beverage.

White Chocolate – The white chocolate chips often found in Macadamia nut cookies is technically not a chocolate at all. There are no cocoa solids in this type of sweetness, but instead, is comprised of cocoa butter. A high amount of cocoa butter is blended with milk solids, vanilla, and sugar to obtain its taste.