14 Mistakes You Might Be Making With Chocolate
Don't assume that chocolate-dipped strawberries are hard to mess up just because they require minimal ingredients. As with anything else, you must plan for them and use caution if you want strawberries that look polished and taste delicious. There are plenty of ways to bring your dessert dreams to life with this treat, whether you use dark chocolate to give the sweet strawberries a bitter contrast or white chocolate to soothe your sugar cravings.
But, in the event that you overlook these common errors, you may find yourself with cracked chocolate strawberries and a less-than-desirable taste. Furthermore, if you don't properly prepare both the fruit and chocolate, the coating may not be as smooth as you'd like. Don't fret, though, because as long as you know the practices to avoid and those to take, you can look forward to biting into a luscious, chocolaty strawberry that's both decadent and appealing to the eyes.
You might think that making this treat is as simple as picking up a case of berries and some chocolate chips. There is more to it when you want to make quality chocolate-covered strawberries, though. It's crucial to be picky concerning the flavor and appearance of the fruit. In terms of looks, don't pick strawberries that lack color because when you dip them in the chocolate, all you see is the white top, which doesn't look as appetizing as a vibrant red color. Aside from the appearance, the flavor is even more critical.
Of course, you can't taste-test the fruit before you buy them, but a good rule of thumb is that you should choose smaller strawberries over larger ones. The reason behind this is that the fruit size directly impacts the flavor of the dessert since the larger ones are less juicy. They also taste more bland, which makes for a subpar dessert. Furthermore, if possible, avoid using strawberries with little leaves on top because it cramps your hand when you have to hold the little leaves. Instead, you can purchase long-stemmed strawberries, which makes it easier to dip them.
This dessert allows you to use white, milk, or dark chocolate, and it doesn't necessarily need to be anything fancy. However, that doesn't mean the chocolate you choose melts easily or is the best type for dipping strawberries. If you don't know what kind of chocolate you're dealing with, the consistency of it might not turn out how you assume it will. If you think about it, some products, like chocolate chips, can hold their form even under high heat, which is why the chips in cookies don't melt into a puddle and seep out when it bakes.
This doesn't mean you can't use chocolate chips or chunks, but if it's incredibly thick in texture, don't try to dip the strawberries in it because it makes the dessert look lumpy. To prevent this, add some heavy cream to loosen the chocolate and make it more dippable. As a matter of fact, some people prefer their chocolate strawberries to be dipped in ganache — which is half cream and half melted chocolate — because it sets but doesn't turn into a hard shell. At the end of the day, it is easiest to use baking chocolate or melting wafers since they melt to the perfect consistency.
Whatever you do, don't pour chocolate directly into a pot and melt it on the stovetop. Chocolate is very fragile and easily burns. When you overheat it, it tastes bad and has little burnt chunks, which is horrible for the strawberries and hard to come back from. Also, this might go without saying, but don't put it in a bowl and try to melt it in the oven. It scorches the top and has the same harmful effect as the stovetop. Use a microwave or a double-boiler for the chocolate to turn out right.
Although there are other methods for perfectly melting chocolate without burning it, like taking the time to temper it, these two are by far the easiest and quickest. For the microwave, avoid heating the chocolate for an extended time. Cook it in short intervals, stir it, and check its consistency every time in between. As for the double-boiler, heat the chocolate over medium heat and don't leave it unattended. Constantly stir it until all the lumps disappear, and it's ready to go.
You might be so excited to get the project going that you neglect to properly prepare the fruit. Unfortunately, when you do this, the chocolate doesn't correctly stick to the strawberries, which gives them a bad appearance. Also, you might lose some in the chocolate bowl, which is quite messy to fish out. So, before you begin, rinse, dry, and wait for the strawberries to come to room temperature first. If you don't dry them after you rinse them, the excess water on the fruit makes the chocolate seize, which ruins its texture. The wet berries also don't allow the chocolate to adhere to them, so it just slides off, which is quite frustrating.
If you get ahead of yourself and use cold strawberries, the temperature makes the chocolate set too quickly, so it cracks. To avoid dropping strawberries, individually check every stem to ensure it isn't loose and doesn't break off due to the slight weight from the chocolate. If the stems are too small or you don't want to risk it, utilize dipping skewers to ensure the fruit stays in place.
If you don't create a dipping station beforehand, it makes the whole process more challenging and messier than it needs to be. First of all, you make a huge mistake when you use the wrong type of bowl or container to dip the fruit. If you use something too shallow, you have to turn and twist the strawberries to coat them entirely, and even then, the chocolate coating doesn't come out smooth. It also makes it hard to have an even dip all the way around, so the top part looks jagged. Use a deep, tall container your hand can fit in for best results.
Also, don't forget that you need a place to put the freshly dipped strawberries while they are still wet. Rather than putting them in a cake pan or other container with edges, use a sheet pan or another flat surface. Sadly, the strawberries might stick to certain materials, so if you don't put a layer of parchment paper down first, you might regret it. The parchment helps the chocolate to effortlessly lift once it thickens.
Although coconut oil is technically not mandatory for chocolate-dipped strawberries, it's a mistake not to include it because of how much it upgrades the dessert's display. When you use plain chocolate, it looks enticing, but it might have a matte-looking finish, depending on the type. Also, some chocolates don't have enough natural fat (in this case, cocoa butter) in them, which makes it hard for them to turn into a smooth liquid. Luckily, coconut oil fixes both of these issues. Add the oil to your chocolate before you melt it to help you mix it. The best part is that once you dip the strawberries in the chocolate, they have a shiny finish.
If you have an allergy to coconut oil or can't use it for other reasons, you can also use a small amount of vegetable or canola oil. Don't go overboard, though, otherwise, it might separate or prevent the chocolate from setting. Whether you use coconut oil or another type, aim for 1 tablespoon per 1 cup of chocolate.
Don't be skimpy with the chocolate if you want elegant-looking dipped strawberries. If you only use one coat, certain kinds of chocolate might not entirely cover the bright color of the strawberries, and the seeds might make it look bumpy. This is especially true with milk and white chocolate, but it's also possible for dark chocolate to look thin if you use it when it is super hot. So, plan on doing at least two coats, but no more than three (with more than that, it might form a super thick shell that is uncomfortable to bite into).
When you dip the strawberries, keep the coats in mind when you add toppings. Essentially, you can think of the first coat as a base coat, so don't double-dip the fruit while the initial layer is still wet; allow time for it to thicken. Then the second coat is where you can add the garnishes.
The dessert looks quite sad if you dunk the strawberries into the chocolate and directly transfer it to the parchment. Not all of the chocolate can grip the fruit, so it creates a pool on the bottom of the strawberry once you leave it alone. Not to mention, you leave trails of chocolate on the tray and maybe even your countertop. If you want your strawberries to look refined and uniform, it's a must to eliminate the excess chocolate.
There are a couple of ways you can do so, with the first being to simply hold the strawberry over the bowl for a second after you dip it. Gently shake the fruit until the drips stop. Alternatively, you can dip them, give them one shake, and then scrape the bottom of the strawberry on the edge of the bowl. Any extra liquid chocolate might drip onto the underside of the strawberry when you do this, but it doesn't pile up so much that the strawberry loses shape and looks like a blob.
If you have to make the sweat treat for a huge event and therefore need to make the dipped strawberries for a crowd, you might run into a problem. After some time off the heat, melted chocolate hardens in the bowl. Even if you want to push through and keep dunking the fruit, it's not a good idea because the chocolate is too dense to cover the strawberry beautifully; it looks uneven and lumpy. Not to mention, you use significantly more chocolate like this, and you might run out before you finish.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to combat this. First, if you have a heat-safe bowl, you can keep it on a heating pad to keep the chocolate warm the entire time you need it. Another option is to reheat the chocolate halfway through the process to maintain consistency. If you use a double-boiler to heat it initially, don't toss it until you finish dipping, so you can return to it and use it again.
If you want to draw lines or other designs on the fruit with chocolate, don't make the error of using a cheap piping bag. Frequently, folks use a Ziploc sandwich bag as a makeshift tool for piping. While this works with frosting, melted chocolate can be too warm and make the bag flimsy and difficult to work with. Another option is that it might weaken the plastic and cause it to pop where you cut the hole, which makes a huge mess. You can purchase sturdy piping bags that hold up better because they are thicker plastic, but in actuality, those aren't the best options either.
Believe it or not, you don't need a piping bag if you have parchment paper. You can make a cornet, which professional pastry chefs use; it helps them draw intricate designs because it is small and easy to hold. In basic terms, you must cut the parchment into a triangle and form it into a funnel. Then, fill the funnel, fold the top so the chocolate doesn't leak, and cut the bottom to create a tiny opening. Lastly, cornets are convenient because you can pop them in the microwave for up to 10 seconds to help loosen the chocolate if it begins to set in the bag.
It's a mistake not to have your garnishes ready beforehand, whether you plan to use chocolate curls, sprinkles, chopped nuts, or other decorations. Depending on your environment, the chocolate might harden relatively fast, so you must work quickly. For example, if it is summer and you have the AC running, the cool air speeds up the solidification process for the chocolate.
So, it isn't a good idea to dip a dozen strawberries and then go back and try to add the toppings. By then, many of the strawberries have firm chocolate and the toppings may not adhere but rather fall off to the side, which becomes frustrating. To avoid this, separate the strawberries into smaller batches. You can dip a few of them, take the time to sprinkle the toppings, and then repeat the process until they are all done.
Once you dip and decorate the strawberries, it might be hard to leave them alone. However, they become ruined if you try to lift them from the tray prematurely. Even if they look like they have set, they might not have. This causes blemishes, or worse, half of the chocolate stays on the tray, with a portion of the strawberry being exposed. To fix this, you have to scrape off the remaining chocolate and start all over, and even then, the new coats don't appear as smooth as the first round. So, it's best to wait until you're sure the strawberries are ready.
In general, wait around 20 to 30 minutes before you check them. However, chocolate with ganache or coconut oil might take longer to set, so use your best judgment. To examine them, hold the stem or skewer and gently lift a corner of the strawberry to see how easily it releases. If you use parchment, ready-to-go strawberries don't have any resistance when you lift them and they will effortlessly detach.
How you store the chocolate-covered strawberries influences how their freshness and presentation hold up. For example, if you place them in the freezer after you dip them, it isn't a good move. You might want to throw them in there for a few minutes to quicken the process and make the chocolate harden faster, but any longer than that, and they sweat when you bring them back to room temperature. This means they have visible moisture, which gives them a weird look.
If you store them in the fridge without caution, the same problem might occur. To inhibit water from taking over, place paper towels in your storage container first and then loosely cover the sweet treats. If you don't want to transfer them from the tray that you make them on, at least put some plastic wrap over them (not tightly) to protect them. Nevertheless, it is ideal to store them at room temperature if you can.
Although you can make some kinds of desserts ahead of time, chocolate-dipped strawberries aren't the best candidate for that. If you dip the fruit more than a couple of days before you plan to eat them, their quality significantly declines. First of all, the chocolate coating begins to separate from the strawberry. When it just starts, there is a small gap between the fruit and the chocolate, which makes it look less presentable. However, over time it gets worse, and the chocolate begins to slide down the fruit when you lift it, making it difficult to transfer or eat.
Ultimately, it's ideal to make the sweet treats the same day you serve them so you can keep them away from the fridge. That way, there is no chance of them tasting or looking funky, and you don't need to worry about a mushy texture.