February is Celebrate Chocolate Month. One wonders if this is because of Valentine’s Day and its connection with giving chocolates to one’s sweetheart-or is it the other way around and the retailer’s holiday giving us another reason to buy chocolate.  It does seem that chocolate gets a lot of press in February whatever the reason.

As a baker and cake artist who loves chocolate, it amazes me to see the refined results in a crisp crack of an oh-so-smooth Belgian bittersweet chocolate bar, which I consider a benchmark of chocolate’s 2,000 year history. When you compare that chocolate bar to the rather coarse appearance of its source, the cacao seed pods, you might agree that going from the proverbial point A to point B-so to speak has really “come a long way, baby.”
The photos below may help to illustrate my observations and a bit of chocolate history.

The obroma cacao, maybe in                     Look closely:  Proverbial Point A              An ancient beverage for
a Latin American rainforest.                        to point B.                                                    much of its 2000 year history.

My Chocolate Story

During my childhood through teen years, my family would play host to a large family gathering once a year. The food and its preparation and presentation were emphasized dramatically! My memory is fuzzy regarding how I helped with the actual dinner—I am sure that I did. I do remember most my efforts that were focused on making assorted cookies and candies that I packaged and gave to each guest as they were leaving when the party was over.

Much thought and time went into this endeavor. I was given permission to order the gift boxes and wrapping paper from catalogues months in advance and try out recipes and combinations of flavors and ingredients that, in my teen judgment, was thought to be just right. Credit to my mom for this process as well, as I do not recall any limits put onto my creativity! (Just a little hint here to those of you who are parents and dedicated to the promotion of your children’s self-esteem. Wow, this could be another article altogether!)

I especially enjoyed making fondant and dipped the hand-shaped pieces in real chocolate-not coating. I used my dipping forks purchased from catalogues and designed marks for the tops of the fondant patterned after See’s candy that at the time were my only reference points.

A bain marie (double boiler) was used to melt the chocolate (do not remember the brand but felt confident that it was the best money could buy-probably at the supermarket) and then dip the shaped fondant one by one.

I was completely self-taught regarding the dipping process yet aiming for perfection; therefore, you can imagine my frustration and unhappiness when I noticed some dipping inconsistencies which at that time were a mystery to me. Why was it that some years yielded dipped chocolates that would be shiny and handsome while other times spots would appear after storage and the result would be more cloudy than shiny? This proved frustrating, though the recipients of the dipped sweets were none the wiser and appreciated my efforts completely.


How My Story Can Help You!

My videos featured this month, show you how to make a Flourless Chocolate Torte, which makes it completely gluten-free. Also included is a demonstration in  which I teach you how to make a chocolate glaze that will always result in a shiny smooth finish! What is the difference between dipping chocolates and the incredible chocolate glaze that covers the Flourless Chocolate Torte that is featured in the video bundle offered at a huge savings to you this month?


It is important to always continue learning and improving your skills. This process never stops. So years later, I did discover the reasons for the inconsistent results to my chocolate dipping issues. What I was observing is the phenomenon known as confectionary bloom. According to texts on the subject, confectionary bloom refers to “the gray cast, streaks, or spots that appear on poorly handled chocolate.” Well-ok- ouch-in my self-taught teen years I handled the chocolate-gasp-poorly! I am glad my family did not have any confectioners among it!

What is interesting to note is that there are two types of “bloom”-fat bloom and sugar bloom. You see this on chocolate that is improperly tempered or stored. According to one source, it is difficult to distinguish sugar bloom from fat bloom by site. The test for this is simple-gently rubbing a sample of the bloomed chocolate on your lip or wrist. If the chocolate feels smooth, the bloom is fat bloom. If, however, you notice a rough texture to the chocolate, it is sugar bloom. So the bloom that I observed on my chocolates could have been either type.

Additional Advice

Some advice here about packaging your gifts based on my many years of experience both as a giver and receiver: when putting assorted cookies and confections together you need to wrap each separately. When you package or enclose various types of cookies together without wrapping each type in its own enclosed paper, the flavors will travel throughout the package. For example, if you package peanut butter kisses with sugar cookies, the peanut butter aroma and flavor plus the cookies’ moisture, will travel to the sugar cookie which prevents the true characteristics of each type of cookie to remain unique. In fact, the sugar cookie may become soft instead of its characteristic crisp!

In the case of my teenage gift packages, I needed to protect the confections from the moisture that would have travelled from the assorted cookies onto the chocolates. So it is difficult to deduce whether it was improper tempering that caused the bloom or whether it was improper packaging. Probably is a combination of both issues. One is always learning!

Butter combined with chocolate actually prevents bloom. So the glaze that I teach you in my Flourless Chocolate Torte Video Series featured this  month in honor of Chocolate Celebration Month, will always be a success partly because of the butter added and partly because I teach you how to correctly prepare and use the glaze!

When I had my upscale dessert business, Dessert Design, I supplied caterers and high-end groceries with various chocolate desserts. Pasadena’s Bristol Farms carried my Flourless Chocolate Torte that is demonstrated in my video series featured at a unique savings to you in honor of February: How to Make a Flourless Chocolate Torte. Gluten-free baking was not in the mainstream in those years as it is now, but the torte is not only glamorous and delicious, but it is gluten free and appropriate any time of the year!


Bake America Stronger!

Chef Susan


Chef Susan's 52 Secrets of Perfect Baking & Cake Decorating


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