The following post was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla at Ravenouskitchen.com.
Chocolate is the most popular sweet treat in the world. As much as 100-lbs of chocolate are eaten collectively every second in America alone! For most of us, the chocolatey bites we love are in the form of chocolate chips that stud cookies, breads, cakes and ice cream.
Chocolate is so beloved, there are even national holidays to celebrate them, like National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day on August 4th. Lucky for us, it doesn’t have to be a holiday to enjoy chocolate!
What is Chocolate?
Chocolate is made from the fruit of a tropical tree native to the Amazon and Orinoco River basins in South America. As the popularity of chocolate spread, growers established plantations in West Africa and Southeast Asia as well. Cacao trees bear fruit of similar size and shape to a papaya. The pods are full of seeds or beans that go through a fermentation process and are then dried and ground into chocolate liquor. At this point, other ingredients are added to either make unsweetened, bittersweet, semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate.
- Dark chocolate has chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, lecithin, sugar and vanilla.
- Milk chocolate has all of the above, plus milk fats and milk solids.
- White chocolate contains everything milk chocolate does, except chocolate liquor.
How to Use Heinen’s New Chocolate Chips and Chunks
Chunky, regular and mini chips in dark, semi-sweet and milk chocolate, Heinen’s has a chip for every treat. Not just for chocolate chip cookies (though few could argue their perfection), a bag or two of Heinen’s chocolate chips in the pantry is a sure-fire shortcut to on-the-fly chocolate treats.
Oh chocolate – how do we love thee? Let us count the ways!
- Make Chocolate Bourbon Truffle Balls by mixing 8 oz. of dark chocolate chips with 3/4 cup of heavy cream, 2 drops of vanilla, a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of bourbon. Melt in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate melts. Cover and chill, then scoop rounds with a melon baller and roll in cocoa or chopped nuts. Keep refrigerated one week.
- Make a Chocolate Chip Cookie Tart by patting refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough into a pie plate. Bake at 350°F until set and fill with the chocolate bourbon ball filling (above), with or without the bourbon. Chill until set and top with whipped cream.
- Make Chocolate Bark by melting dark chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate melts. Pour onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and top with nuts, chopped dried fruit and a sprinkle of salt. Chill until set and break into pieces. Keep at room temperature for 1 week.
- Make No-Bake Peanut Pretzel Bars by combining 1 1/2 sticks of melted butter with 2 cups of crushed pretzels, 1 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar and 1 cup of peanut butter. Press into a 9×13-inch pan. Combine 1 1/2 cups of milk chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of peanut butter and melt in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate melts. Spread the chocolate over the peanut layer. Chill for one hour, until set, and cut into squares.
- Make Chocolate-Dipped Pretzels by melting milk or dark chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate melts. Dip small or large pretzels into the melted chocolate and lay on parchment-lined sheet pans. Chill until set and then store at room temperature for one week.
- Make Rocky Road Fudge Pops by mixing instant chocolate pudding according to the package directions. Add chocolate chips, marshmallows and nuts on the bottom of a small Dixie cup, top with a layer of pudding, more chips, nuts and marshmallows, followed by another layer of pudding. Stick a popsicle stick or plastic spoon in the center and freeze for about 4 hours, or until solid. Unmold and enjoy!
- Make Chocolate Chip Granola by adding mini chips to your favorite granola recipe, or just sprinkle into a bag of store-bought granola.
- Make a Chocolate Chip Milkshake by stirring mini chips into your shake.
- Make Chocolate Chip Pancakes by sprinkling chips over the top of just-ladled batter. Flip and cook on the other side.
- Make Chocolate Zucchini or Banana Bread by sprinkling chips into the batter before baking.
- Make Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies by adding chips to peanut butter cookie dough.
- Make quick Icebox Ice Cream Sandwiches by layering vanilla ice cream between graham crackers and dipping the edges into mini chips.
- Make Turtle Snack Mix by combining pecans, Chex cereal, pretzels and chocolate chips.
How to Store Chocolate
Poor storage conditions will cause chocolate to “bloom,” or develop a light-colored powdery surface on the chocolate, caused by sugar or fat crystals rising to the surface. When this happens, the chocolate is still edible, but the texture will suffer. To prevent bloom, make sure the chocolate doesn’t get too warm or too cold. I recommend wrapping chocolate tightly and storing in a cool, dry place at 60–75°F.
How to Temper Chocolate
There are times when you would like to dip a strawberry into chocolate and have it set up nice and firm. For those occasions, it’s good to know how to temper chocolate. Tempered chocolate is shiny and smooth and doesn’t need to be chilled to firm up. For those times when you want something to look really nice, or if you’d like to dip the chocolate bourbon truffle balls in chocolate that will set, you want to temper the chocolate.
The process involves controlling the melting, cooling and reheating of chocolate within specified temperature ranges to make the molecular structure of the cocoa butter stable- like it was before it was melted. So tempering is really just the heating and cooling of chocolate to stabilize it for making candies and confections. It may sound complicated but it’s really easy when following these simple steps.
- A Therma pen or digital thermometer will make this process very easy. If the chocolate heats above 130°F, it can scorch, seize (firm up) or become grainy, which is a bad thing. Another thing to avoid is any water dripping into the chocolate, as this will cause the chocolate to seize as well. So, before starting, make sure everything is dry and keep a close watch on the temperature.
- Place 1 1/3 cups of chocolate in a heat-proof bowl that fits over the top of a saucepan filled with water. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Heat the water to a simmer and place the bowl of chocolate over the water. Let it sit for a few minutes, then stir constantly until the chocolate reaches 115°F.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and sit it on a dish towel. Sprinkle about 2/3 cup of chocolate chips in 8 increments, stirring slowly and completely, melting each addition before adding the next. Cool the chocolate to 90°F. It is now ready to use for dipping strawberries, pretzels, dried fruit, or for making chocolate bark or chocolate decorations.
- You may have to reheat as the chocolate will thicken as it cools. To do this, simply place the bowl over the still-hot water in the saucepan and stir until it thins. Don’t let it cool below 84°F, or you will have to repeat the process. Keep the thermometer in the chocolate so you know the temperature and can act quickly.
It’s always the perfect time for easy chocolate chip treats, so buy a bag or two of Heinen’s chocolate chips for last-minute entertaining. After all, every day should feature at least a little bite of chocolate, and Heinen’s chocolate chips are one of the best ways to make that happen.