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Chocolate 101 With a Pastry Chef, Plus a Recipe for a Molten Cake With a Twist

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and with that usually comes a rush of chocolate confections, desserts and treats. Here’s a bit of a deep dive of what chocolate actually is!

Chocolate is such a wonderful ingredient to add to pastry, dessert or even as a stand alone snack. We think of it only fitting into three categories. Dark, Milk or White. But much like wine or coffee, varieties of chocolate not only look different but have various different subtle notes and finishes.

First, What is Chocolate?

It’s harvested from the small pods on the Cacao Tree, these trees are found mostly around the Equator, different species can have different flavors. Those pods are fermented, roasted and then ground to a thick, very bitter paste known as cocoa mass or chocolate liquor (has no actual alcohol though). This paste contains what we refer to as cocoa and cocoa butter blended together. It goes through a long refining process where sugar, milk and emulsifiers are added. Blended smooth and temperature controlled, it hardens into the chocolate bars at our grocery stores. Check those labels, if you find more than 5 ingredients, it’s probably not real chocolate. Also most chocolate is not vegan!

Chocolate Classification

When classifying the dark or milk types, Pastry Chef’s refer to a percentage instead. The percentage is how much of that cocoa mass makes up the finished chocolate. Dark chocolates range from give or take 58%-80% while milk chocolate falls into 35-57%. This means the lower the number the less actual cocoa is in the chocolate and more sugar and milk is added. White chocolate on the other hand doesn’t contain any cocoa mass, rather is just extracted cocoa butter, sugar and milk.

Experience different varieties of chocolate in a Baking Class - in this class, you'll learn how to make Chocolate and Hazelnut Biscotti and a Cappuccino Semifreddo with the help of a Pastry Chef connected with you live for a private, totally personalized baking class.

The Flavors

Much like coffee beans, cacao pods vary in flavor depending upon the species or variety and where it is grown. Those subtle notes can have accents from fruity and tart to roasted and nutty. Exploring these notes can help when pairing our chocolates or using them in desserts.

Explore the subtle notes of different chocolates in a Chocolate Truffle Making class led by an expert Pastry Chef Instructor. You'll learn how to make 3 types of truffles, coffee, hazelnut and chocolate!

Pairing Chocolate with Other Flavors

Paring chocolate to other flavors is all about finding balance. Darker chocolates are much more bolder in flavor than the sweeter and lighter milk chocolate. This can mask certain flavors rather than balance with them. Pairing dark chocolate with other bold flavors like coffee or tart fruits including orange and raspberry, allows both flavors to bounce off themselves or ending with a specific note. Milk chocolates pair well with softer flavors like honey, caramel and nuts. White chocolate allows spices or tea to shine through, including matcha and cardamon.

Explore a chocolate and wine pairing experience at home with a Sommelier Instructor guiding you through every step and bite of the way! You'll taste 4-6 different wines with 6 different chocolates!

The Takeaway

As you are strolling through your next grocery store trip, grab a few different percentages of chocolate and have a tasting for yourself!


Recipe for a Molten Lava Cake with a Raspberry Filling

Yield: 4 individual 6 oz sized ramekins

Ingredients You'll Need:


  • 1 stick of unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon to grease the ramekin

  • 6 oz 60-70% dark chocolate

  • cocoa powder to dust the ramekins

  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour

  • pinch of salt

Raspberry Filling:

  • 8 oz fresh or frozen raspberries

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons water


  • Whipped cream or ice cream

Recipe Procedure:

  1. In a small pot on the stove place the raspberries , water and sugar on the stove. Cook until the berries are cooked down to a jam consistency. Set aside. This can also be made a day before and placed in the fridge.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

  3. Brush the ramekins or a muffin tin with the 1T melted butter. Dust with the cocoa butter and tap any excess

  4. Using a bain marie melt the 1 stick of butter and 6oz of chocolate together.

  5. In a separate bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the eggs with the granulated sugar until thick and pale. About 5-6 minutes.

  6. Fold in the melted chocolate and butter, followed by the flour and salt. Stir until combined.

  7. Scoop the filling into the ramekins using ⅔ of the batter. Place a spoonful or two on top and cover each ramekin with the remaining batter.

  8. Bake for about 14 minutes, the tops may crack and have just a slight jiggle. Let cool for 5 minutes. Invert and serve warm with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.



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