Tips from the chef: Chocolate in the kitchen, much more than just a dessert

Mexican chef José Ramón Castillo, renowned for being a master chocolatier around the world, shares with us some tips on how to make the most of the qualities of chocolate and cocoa.

Tips from the chef: Chocolate in the kitchen, much more than just a dessert
In the kitchen, chocolate is so much more than just a dessert.Image by Kevin Petit from Pixabay

Besides being a healthy and delicious source of energy, chocolate goes well alone or in any kind of sweet or savory recipe. Experiment with it and eat it guilt-free in all its versions.

Chocolate is probably one of the most loved ingredients in the world and, although it has been the king of desserts for centuries, no one knows better than Mexicans that it is an ingredient that goes well with strong and salty dishes (mole, the national dish). Moreover, chocolate is comforting when drunk hot on cold days, and refreshing when drunk cold, spiced with flavors that are also very much ours, such as vanilla or chili.

Chef José Ramón Castillo, whose fame as a master chocolatier has transcended borders, shares some tips on how to make the most of the qualities of chocolate and cocoa.

Make sure of its quality. Good chocolate should not leave a layer of fat on the palate; if it does, it contains butterfat (milk fat) or, even worse, hydrogenated (trans fats).

The darker and more bitter chocolate is, the purer it is. Its percentage ranges from zero to one hundred, with zero being pure cocoa butter and 100 being pure cocoa.

The addition of milk, sugar, and/or other ingredients adds sweetness and texture to the chocolate but reduces its purity.

Chocolate goes very well with poultry and meat sauces, and even with lobster; it also goes very well with fruits, spices, and herbs (try it with rosemary, cardamom, or mint).

Anything you cook with cocoa butter (which helps lower cholesterol), from fried foods to bread, acquires a characteristic aroma that will give your dishes a great flavor. You can get it in specialized bakery stores or in food stores.

In order not to vary the result of the recipes, it is important to always use the type of chocolate indicated in them (semi-sweet, milk, white, etc.).

To use it in coatings, chocolates, Easter eggs, etc., chocolate must be tempered, that is to say, at a temperature lower than 37 °C ( 98 °F).

Ideally, chocolate should be kept in a cool, dry place, between 20 and 24 °C ( 68 and 75 °F).

If you keep chocolate in the refrigerator, when you take it out, it "sweats".

To speed up the melting process, put the chocolate in small pieces and stir constantly.

Do not let it get too hot, as chocolate can become grainy.

When tasting chocolate, it should taste like it is made from the beginning of the bite, and you should feel how the coating breaks and then move on to the softer part inside.

Sparkling wines, and even beer, make an excellent pairing, not to mention the excellent duo chocolate makes with a good coffee (better if it is espresso).

Chocolate is highly recommended as a snack, to make the most of its benefits. It is ideal before exercising, studying, or during long working days because it provides energy; for this reason, it is not recommended to give chocolate to children after 5pm in the afternoon.

Chocolatier. Image by David Greenwood-Haigh from Pixabay

Truffles recipe with the tastiest chocolate

Making truffles is much easier than you think; here is a basic recipe.


300 grams ( 1 lb.) of chocolate, we suggest dark or semi-bitter chocolate.
200 ml ( 1 fl oz.) of whipping cream
50 gr (.5 oz.) of butter
Different toppings of your choice

Preparation procedure

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Gradually add the whipping cream and mix until all the ingredients are integrated. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into a bowl to cool. Before it hardens, make small portions of the mixture and then shape it into rounds. Pass one by one through the desired final coating and place them on previously decorated molds. Let cool at room temperature. Enjoy.

Want to go one step further?

Add a banana or, how about some fruit liqueur or shredded coconut to the mixture? Try making them in different shapes, heart-shaped, crescent-shaped, filled. For the topping, don't stop at chocolate chips; dip them in white chocolate or cover them with cinnamon, cocoa powder, amaranth, walnut pieces, sesame seeds; in short, your imagination and desire to show off is the only limit you'll have.