Semi Sweet Chocolate Fiasco

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Assistant Cook
May 11, 2010

Soooo....I found this chocolate covered almonds recipe. Sounded great except that I didn't have semi sweet chocolate. I looked up on the net that I could substitute 3 tbsp cocoa powder, 3 tbsp sugar, and 1 tbsp oil for the semi sweet chocolate, so I decided to do that.

The recipe asks you to melt the semi sweet chocolate in a double boiler and then pour it over the almonds to coat them. I put the cocoa powder, sugar (florida cane sugar), and oil (grapeseed oil) in the double boiler and stirred and stirred and stirred. It never really seemed to get smooth and melty looking. Then I figured that it needed to have more heat, so I took it off the double boiler and did the same on the straight burner. It still never melted. My boyfriend suggested I add some butter, which I didn't want to do, but I was desperate at this point, so I added a touch of butter...still nothing smooth looking. Finally we gave up and poured what looked like black coffee grounds over the almonds. It had a bit of a burnt taste which didn't surprise me and didn't really stick to the almonds much.

What did I do wrong and how can I do it better next time? I didn't really want to buy semi sweet chocolate because you can't control the additives that are in the chocolate (highly processed sugar, etc.).

Also, if anyone knows how to sweeten the cocoa with honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup instead of cane sugar, I'd love to learn about it.

Any help would be appreciated.
There is nothing wrong with processed sugar (besides the calories). It's just sugar with all of the molasses removed. They don't add preservatives to regular white sugar. They don't have to. Sugar, by it's nature, IS a preservative.

As to the chocolate, in the future, buy dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is semi-sweet chocolate. Get a couple of the bars of Hershey's Dark, melt them in your double boiler. Use a small spoon to dip each almond into the warm chocolate and then place (without dripping) onto a very lightly oiled or non-stick baking sheet, leaving them until the chocolate sets. I make room in my freezer ahead of time, and when the tray is full, it goes in for about 30 minutes.

This is the same process for nearly any hand dipped candies.

Have fun!

(And just as a side note, I've eaten "tropical chocolate" (issued to the Marines during WWII) that was more than 30 years old, and it was still good!)
Hi Selkie,

I very much appreciate getting a reply. Thank you for all your advice.

The trouble I have with processed sugar is not about preservatives:ermm:. Its about the fact that vitamins and minerals have been stripped from it. Molasses, honey, maple syrup and agave syrup all still have a lot of their vitamins intact. If I'm going to eat calories, I don't want them to be empty ones. I want my body to benefit from it.

I am particularly interested in agave syrup as it does not cause the body to dump insulin into the system like other sweeteners do. Insulin being pumped into the body can promote cancers and diabetes, which I'd like to avoid. :angel:

I've recently become interested in cooking and baking because I want to stop eating processed grains and sugars. Most of the stuff we buy in the stores now are overly processed and extremely bad for the body. I am searching for healthy alternatives, which will most likely come from me doing my own cooking.

If anyone out there knows how I can make semi-sweet chocolate using cocoa powder, please let me know.

Thank you again Selkie for giving it a try!
Hi Lavender,

As someone who is very interested in nutrition, I hear your perspective.

I bake a lot and I actually looked into the whole agave nectar not spiking your blood sugar. It's because it's mostly fructose. Fructose can only be stored in humans in the liver. Not in the muscles. Glucose, on the other hand, can be stored in the muscles. Long story short, your muscles can store a lot more sugar than your liver. If you think about it, you have a lot more muscle tissue than liver tissue.

The reason table sugar (dextrose) can spike your blood sugar (I say "can" because if you consume it with fiber, it won't necessarily) is because it's half fructose and half glucose. One molecule of dextrose is made up of one molecule glucose bonded with one molecule fructose. Anyway. Glucose can be absorbed by your muscles in the presence of insulin. So, when glucose is released into your blood stream, it triggers the release of insulin, which helps your muscles absorb the glucose. Have you ever heard people refer to "blood sugar" as "blood glucose?". That's because only glucose counts in terms of triggering an insulin reaction. Fructose does not.

In fact, because fructose can only be stored in the liver, consuming large amounts of it is likely to lead to fat gain. Glucose can often be stored in your muscles--of course, if you consumed excess glucose, it will be stored as fat. Fructose can only be stored in your liver, which because it is so small (relative to all your body's muscles), will fill up quickly if you consume lots of fructose. What happens to the excess fructose? It gets stored as fat.

So is fruit bad for you? Not really. One apple only has about 6-7 grams of fructose. This isn't that much. But if you use large amounts of high-fructose sweeteners (such as agave nectar), only a few tablespoons contain 20+ grams of fructose. That's enough to fill up your liver, plus some. Of course, a couple teaspoons in yogurt or over fruit can be good for you, but used in baked goods, they kind of lose their health benefits.

Sorry if the explanation was a little long or detailed--just wanted to explain.

Also, when it comes to chocolate, I would find a high quality semi-sweet block. I like Callebaut--they have it Whole Foods. Ghiradeli is pretty good too. Chocolate already has nutrients from cocoa, and there's no good substitute for it, so I wouldn't worry about the processed sugar in it. If you really really care, though, just buy unsweetened chocolate and add your own natural sugar--it might be a little grainy, but it will definitely work.

Hope this helps!

a ouple of interesting articles on fructose metabolism in the body:


As for your chocolate falure, it happened because though cocoa powder does contain fat, there is not enough of it to melt into that creamy consistancy you were looking for. Solid chocolate contains a high ratio of cocoa butter (fat) compared to the cocoa solids. This fat melts at about 85 degrees of so, but remains solid at room temperature. Tempered chocolate has been heated to a specific temperature and then cooled, which develops a crystal structure within the chocolate that gives it a shiny appearance when cooled, and that wonderful texture that snaps crisply and melts at around 98' F. To make a successful sauce for dipping, you have to have the cocoa butter in the chocolate.

Fudge gets it's texture from butter-fat and sugar, and maybe a bit of cornstarch. It isn't the same thing as the texture obtained from cocoa butter.

The scorched flavor came from scorching the chocolate solids, and probably the sugar. No amount of heat would have given you what you were looking for. The double boiler provided plenty of heat to make your sauce. You were just using the wrong ingredients.

The substitution of butter and sugar added to cocoa powder would work in a cake mix, or in brownies, something that didn't rely on butter fat for its texture. But it won't work to make a ganache, or silky smooth chocolate sauce for dipping. You might get away with adding cocoa powder to room temperature butter, and add powdered sugar and a bit of salt. Of course, then you would have a chocolate butter-cream frosting. It would taste great, but would be too soft for coating almonds. It's be great on a cake though.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
When making a semisweet chocolate substitute, better results can be achieved using natural cocoa powder rather than Dutch processed (alkalized) cocoa.

Great Tip.:mrgreen: I didn't even think of that. Natural cocoa powder has more oil in it as it hasn't been "washed" by an alkali substance.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

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