A chocolate affair!

I always come across people who have a keen interest in making chocolate and chocolate recipes at home, but, are somehow always afraid to try their hand at it. Chocolate as a commodity has always been a mystery, as it is not an easy ingredient to handle when we want to make something out of it. It has always been considered to be an alien ingredient, but not anymore. You won’t need to admire these delectable creations from a distance at bakeries and chocolate shops anymore. They can now be made by you, in your home kitchen.

Here are a few tips and pointers that you should keep in mind while handling chocolate.

How chocolate should be melted and handled

•Chop large chocolate blocks into smaller pieces and put in a plastic bowl. Avoid using glass or stainless steel bowls as they cause uneven heating.

•If using a Microwave oven, place the bowl in it and start the melting process from 40 seconds at 50% intensity of the Microwave. Then, take the bowl out, stir and continue this process till the complete chocolate is melted. Please do not ever keep for longer time at higher temperatures as chocolate needs delicate treatment.

•If using a double boiler, take a medium height pan filled one-fourth with water and heat it. When the water is at a simmer, reduce heat to minimum, place a bowl that fits on the mouth of the pan and start putting the chocolate in it to be melted, little at a time. One important point to remember here is that you should not boil the water as it will affect the viscosity of the chocolate and steam from boiling water may play havoc. Keep stirring the chocolate pieces till completely melted.

•Remember, water is the biggest enemy of chocolate! Especially, when the chocolate is being melted for use in confectionary, candy making, tempering, etc., you should be very careful that not even a single drop of water gets into it. But if this happens by mistake, keep it aside to use in recipes where it is only an ingredient, and start afresh.

•Check for blooming and any odours in the chocolate bars. When chocolate is exposed to warm temperatures, the fat softens and chocolate is then untempered, causing light grey or white areas on the surface of the chocolate. Also, sometimes you might find small white dots on the chocolate, which is due to condensation.

•Avoid overheating of chocolate as it results in making the chocolate thick after melting.

•If there is a loss of colour in the chocolate bars, this may be due to changes in the light, temperature and humidity.

•The preferred working temperatures in the Indian scenario is around 20°C with humidity not more than 50% and preferably on marble work tops. Marble helps keep the chocolate cool.

•It is always good to work with clean kitchenware and work tops when handling chocolate and also advisable to keep some kitchenware separate (especially in Indian kitchens where interaction with masalas will give unwarranted flavours to your chocolate) that can be used when working with chocolate.

•And this one is for all chocolate lovers – always remember to look at the ingredients printed on the packet. Chocolate with natural cocoa butter rather than vegetable fats is always more healthy. Not to forget, chocolate is good source of energy at any given time.

How to store chocolate
Now that we have travelled through the processes of making of chocolate and handling it, there is one more aspect that is left which is really important when working with this sinful ingredient, and, that is the storage. The following pointers will help you tackle the issues of storing chocolate perfectly:

•In the Indian climate, ideally chocolates should be stored at temperatures ranging from 15°C to 20°C at humidity not more than 50%.

•The best way to store chocolate is to put the original packing in plastic wrap, cling film or zip lock bags, place them in airtight containers and put in the refrigerator. One important point to remember is that you should never keep the chocolate in a deep freezer, as this may spoil the chocolate because of condensation that may occur.

•It is also advisable to store chocolate away from strong odours as it may absorb the strong smells from other items, thus spoiling its own aroma.

•Then for application of refrigerated chocolate, the best way to use it is to keep the chocolate at room temperature for about ten-fifteen minutes (to avoid temperature and humidity shock that may cause condensation and thickening) and then open the packets.

By now, I am sure that your interest in this wonderful ingredient has risen further than what it was before and you are now confident of trying your hand and cooking skills to dish out some amazing chocolate recipes in your kitchen. Once you keep in mind these basic tips, making chocolate concoctions in your home will be a breeze. For more chocolaty recipes you can refer to my book aah! Chocolate. It is a collection of chocolate recipes ranging from beverages to cakes to mithais all involving chocolate. As of now here are a few recipes to get you started…

Choco Coconut Ladoos
Choco Cups
Chocolate Almond Bar
Happy cooking!
Sanjeev Kapoor

Sweet offerings for Diwali

As Diwali draws near, there is so much talk about making mithais at home this year! Well, kaju katli is a personal favourite but let us veer away from the ordinary and make Badam Katli.
Of all nut based mithais Badam Katli is becoming quite a rage. And at one time I used to wonder why? And then I decided to go a little bit in depth researching it. The best is made of a delicate mixture of coarsely ground almond powder and powdered sugar. Some more in-depth research gave me the info that the almonds should be of topmost quality as also the grinding of it be done in short bursts of the grinder so that the heat generated does not harm the flavours which will begin to emanate once the almonds undergo the grind. Badam Katli, per se, is dull in colour, the upper layer prettied up with silver warq, shaped like diamonds and more important, as thin as one eighth of an inch.
For me the best Badam Katli is the one my wife Alyona makes at home. I have always maintained there is nothing like ghar ka khana and that is the absolute truth. Not only that, one can get more quantity for a lesser price! So this Diwali, let’s roll out sweet carpets of silver covered badam katli and treat our loved ones to home made mithai. For more such recipes click on Kaju Katli, Blueberry Sandwich Katli, Badami Besan ke Laddoo
How to make Badam Katli:
Blanch 250 grams almonds in two cups of boiling water for five minutes. Drain and peel. Spread the almonds on an absorbent towel to dry. Once completely dried, dry roast the almonds in a non stick pan for about seven minutes or till fragrant and light brown. Cool and powder. This makes (yield 190 grams). Cook 190 grams (¾ cup) sugar with three fourth cup of water in another non stick pan, stirring continuously till the sugar dissolves. Add 1 tablespoon milk and when the scum rises to the top, remove it with a ladle and discard. Cook the syrup till it reaches multi-thread or hard ball consistency. Take the pan off the heat and add the almond powder and 1¼ teaspoons liquid glucose and mix well. Continue to mix till the mixture is smooth and pliable. Transfer the mixture onto a flat surface and spread to cool a bit. Knead with your hands. Grease a table top with ghee and roll out the mixture to about quarter inch thickness taking care that the same thickness is maintained throughout. Rub the surface with butter paper. Decorate with silver varq, cut into diamonds and serve.

Juggling between schedules!

November is over, and finally we feel the chills of the winter (even if it’s only after sunset!). But for us Mumbaiites even this much is more than enough, atleast we get to say that finally, for us also, “the winter has arrived!” Try out some of my winter favourites like Ginger tea,Chettinad fried chicken and Wholesome khichadi.
Besides this, I surely am looking forward to an engaging and exciting schedule which is waiting for me in the weeks to come. Just like this morning, I started pretty early with a 9.00 o’ clock shoot with Bloomberg TV for a programme titled Smart Money on the sets at our in-house studio. Here, I spoke about why people should invest in food and restaurant business.
Immediately after this I had to catch up the promo recording for Canada Radio for the promotion of the food products for which I am supposed to travel to Toronto in the coming days. Unfortunately, the shoot extended and I could not complete it and had to postpone it for the evening.
Next on the schedule was my one-to-one interview with the electronic and print media at Taj Land’s End, Bandra for my upcoming TV channel FOODFOOD. While I rushed for this event, I found out that coincidently today’s HT Café, Mumbai also has a news piece about the upcoming channel.
Starting tomorrow, for the next three days I can already smell the busy air around me. I will be caught up with the shooting of my new show on a new set for the new channel. I hope to do something majorly different this time than the usual Khana Khazana that I have been religiously doing on ZeeTV for the last 17 years.
And amidst all of this, there has been extensive shopping going on for all this. So, everybody else is also enjoying and having a gala time!
As I wind up, happenings at our office include the visit of an expert halwai from a leading brand. He was here last week to demonstrate the art of making mithais to our chefs. I’m sure the Rasgulla, Cham Cham, Rajbhog, Rasmalai and Malai Sandwich which he taught, satisfied the sweet buds of everyone in the office!
Till I write again…
Sanjeev Kapoor