Cookbook Author Explains Mysteries of Chocolate Just in time for Valentine's Day, cookbook author Dorie Greenspan offers her advice on baking with chocolate, a notoriously finicky ingredient. She explains how chocolates are like wines, and shares ideas for using all that sweet stuff.
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Cookbook Author Explains Mysteries of Chocolate

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Cookbook Author Explains Mysteries of Chocolate

Cookbook Author Explains Mysteries of Chocolate

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Valentine's Day is a time to shower the people you love with the things they love. And for a lot us, that means chocolate.

And that's a great excuse to check back in with our favorite baking expert Dorie Greenspan, a woman with some strong opinions on chocolate.

Ms. DORIE GREENSPAN (Baker): Chocolate morsels are swell. I think white chocolate is a love it or loathe it flavor. I don't think brownies should be light. I think by definition, brownies have some heft to them.

NORRIS: Dorie Greenspan visited my home recently with a mother lode of chocolate, dark, light, tamed, tart, the familiar and the exotic. Chocolate, she says, is a bit like wine. There's lots of nuance. Sometimes sharp and acidic, sometimes nutty and fruity, which is why you can't always trust labels. She says bakers need to taste the chocolate they plan to use. The cocoa content can make the difference.

What's the difference between bittersweet and semi-sweet, because it sounds like could sort of be just sort of almost the same thing.

Ms. GREENSPAN: Actually in baking, if a recipe says semi-sweet, you can use bittersweet. If it's bittersweet, you can use semi-sweet. But one manufacturer's semi-sweet might not be as sweet as another manufacturer's bittersweet. Anything above 50 something percent is like semi-sweet, beyond that, in the 70s or so it's bittersweet. At 100 percent, it's unsweetened chocolate.

NORRIS: Do different types of chocolate have different textures when you bake? Is it just me, or does milk chocolate seem like it's gooier and it melts faster?

Ms. GREENSPAN: It is gooier because, in fact, melting milk chocolate and melting white chocolate is - both of them are so finicky. They scorch very easily. You wouldn't want to take a phone call while you are melting white chocolate or milk chocolate. But you're right. There's something about milk chocolate, it's almost stretchy.

NORRIS: Yes. When you break a chocolate chip cookie in half that has milk chocolate in it, you sort of see that Golden Gate Bridge.

Ms. GREENSPAN: Okay. But you know, also if you've made chocolate chip cookies with morsels, that chocolate has been manufactured so that it won't melt completely. These days I've taken to chopping my own chips and chunks. So that way I can get the chocolate that I really love in the cookie. And also, if you chop, you know, you get big pieces and little pieces. So it's like every bite has a different texture.

NORRIS: Texture and presentation are important to Dorie Greenspan. She showed up with a tray full of brownies, including one that well be called a blondie, a white chocolate square topped with meringue and infused with a hint of almonds and raspberries.

Ms. GREENSPAN: This is my dressiest brownie. And you are right. It is like a cake. I've wanted to use the white chocolate as really a base, because that's how I think white chocolate really, really works well.

NORRIS: Also a quintuple chocolate brownie, which, as the name suggests, has five kinds of chocolate.

Ms. GREENSPAN: Intense. Yes. I don't think you can have different kinds of chocolate and not be intense.

NORRIS: And brownies with a past.

Ms. GREENSPAN: I've seen a lot of recipes for Katharine Hepburn's brownies, and they've all been different. So I felt that kind of gave me permission to make them a little different, too. So I've put chopped bittersweet chocolate into the brownies and a little cinnamon, because I think the combination of cinnamon and chocolate is great. But this is primarily a cocoa brownie.

NORRIS: Now, who you knew Katharine Hepburn was a big baker? What's the story behind it?

Ms. GREENSPAN: This is the story I got. A father meets Katharine Hepburn in the supermarket, stops her and says my daughter is going to Berrymore and she wants to drop out, would you talk to her? And Katharine Hepburn says yes and invites father and daughter to come to her home for tea. And at tea, she serves these brownies. The daughter is writing this as a reminisance. And she said I learned two things that afternoon. I learned I shouldn't leave school and I should never use too much flour in my brownies.

(Soundbite of laughter)

So these have just the tiniest bit of flour in them.

NORRIS: Oh yeah, gooey.

Ms. GREENSPAN: Yeah, gooey is great.

NORRIS: A strong and enthusiastic vote for gooey, then.

Well, Dorie, it's been great talking to you again.

Ms. GREENSPAN: It's been so good to be here.

NORRIS: Dorie Greenspan's latest cookbook is "Baking: From My Home to Yours." Her brownie recipes, tips for baking chocolate and more ideas for sweets for your sweetheart are on our Web site,

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