Category Archives: Great Chocolate Showdown

Anna Olson Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level: Easy to Advanced

Has Great Chocolate Showdown inspired you to try out some new skills in your kitchen? Not all chocolate recipes are created equal, so we asked Canada’s most beloved baker and Great Chocolate Showdown host Anna Olson to help us break down which of her recipes would be best suited to your skills.

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, here are Anna Olson’s best chocolate recipes for bakers of all levels.

Related: Expert Chocolate Techniques to Master Now

Easy Chocolate Recipes for Baking Beginners

If you’re not sure where to start your chocolate baking journey, look no further than this classic bake — cookies. “Chocolate chip cookies are a great basic because it gets you into the chocolate world,” recommended Anna.

Anna Olson's classic chocolate chip cookies cooling on a wooden trayGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

For a serious sweet tooth, fudgy brownies are another great option for new home bakers, and as a bonus, they use items you probably already have in your kitchen. “Brownies take minimal equipment. If you’ve got a pot, a pan, and a whisk, you can make brownies,” said Anna.

See More: Anna Olson’s Top Baking Tools

Anna Olson's fudge brownies studded with a pecanGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Fudge Brownies

Intermediate Chocolate Recipes if You Have a Few Baking Skills Under Your Belt

For home bakers who have the basic chocolate skills down and want to give themselves a challenge, Anna provided some delightful options.

“You can get into fun things like chocolate crinkle cookies, a good, rich chocolate cake, a flourless chocolate torte, or vegan chocolate cupcakes with fudge frosting,” Anna shared.

Anna Olson's 6-layer chocolate fudge cake with one slice on a plateGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

Advanced Chocolate Recipes for Baking Masters

If you’re ready to face the ultimate home baking challenge and show off your chocolate technique, Anna had a couple of ideas.

“I have a delicious chocolate mousse cake: chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and it’s got a dark chocolate mirror glaze, which is really hot right now,” she divulged.

Related: Cynthia Stroud’s Expert Decorating Tips

A slice of Anna Olson's rich chocolate mousse cakeGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

“[My] chocolate souffle is another very challenging recipe,” she also shared. “It takes confidence, and you have to feel positive that you know how to get it just right.”

Anna Olson's chocolate souffle in a ramekinGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Chocolate Souffles with Salted Caramel Sauce

Tune into Great Chocolate Showdown on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription

Cynthia Stroud's trio of cakes with drip technique, chocolate transfer sheet and hand painted chocolate designs

Cynthia Stroud’s Expert Tips to Master 3 Beautiful Chocolate Decorating Trends

It’s easier than you might think to create show-stopping desserts with these three chocolate decorating ideas seen in Great Chocolate Showdown. From a simple chocolate drip technique to hand painting and transfer sheet designs, open your desserts up to a world of delicious decorating possibilities that taste as good as they look.

See More: Here’s What You Need to Know About Cynthia Stroud

How To Paint With Chocolate (Cocoa Butter)

Painting with cocoa butter is different to painting with water-based food colour and edible alcohol. The former is like oil painting and the latter is more like water colour painting. Keep this in mind when creating your designs with cocoa butter.

To create cocoa butter colours, melt cocoa butter and mix in edible food colour powder or dust. If a colour is too deep, you can add white edible food colour dust. Be sure to keep your cocoa butter warm and liquid the whole time you are painting otherwise it will coagulate and make it difficult to achieve the spread you want. To do this, whilst painting, balance your painting palette or a plate you are using over a bowl of warm water.

Cynthia Stroud hand painting with cocoa butter

Tips for Painting With Chocolate:

It is important that your paint brush is dry and free of water otherwise it will cause the cocoa butter to coagulate into clumps.

To create shades in your cocoa butter painting, layer over an area with white cocoa butter.

• To create texture, brush over any painted areas with dry brushes.

• To achieve colours true to type, it is worth painting a layer of white first

• You cannot use water-based food colouring to colour cocoa butter as the moisture in the water-based food colouring will cause it to seize up.

See More: Expert Chocolate Techniques to Master Now

How to Decorate With Chocolate Transfer Sheets

When painting on transfer sheet, paint on the details first. You ought to paint in reverse to the way you’d paint on a piece of paper. On a piece of paper or canvas you’d normally paint the background first and add details after, but for transfer sheets, paint the details first then the background after. To get a good idea of whether your painting is coming along the way you intend, lift the sheet from time to time and crane your neck to look at the unpainted side. That will tell you how your painted cake will look.

Cynthia Stroud's trio of cakes with drip technique, chocolate transfer sheet and hand painted chocolate designs

Tips for Creating Chocolate Transfer Sheets:

• When spreading the melted tempered chocolate, ensure it is not too warm & runny (or it will melt your painting) and don’t overwork the chocolate whilst spreading it on the painted transfer sheet or it will dislodge the painted details.

• Ensure the transfer sheet is covered from edge to edge or this will result in gaps in the transfer collar

Related: How to Temper Chocolate Like a Pro for Perfect Candy Making

How to Create a Chocolate Drip Cake Technique

Use tempered chocolate and allow it to drip down the side of your cake, creating a lovely and simple finish. Tempered white chocolate can be coloured with oil-based food colouring before pouring/dripping for a colourful look or drips can be embellished with gold leaf, dragees (also known as a Jordan amond) or flowers whilst still wet before setting.

Cynthia Stroud demonstrating a chocolate drip technique on a cake

Tips for Creating a Chocolate Drip Cake:

• It is important to cover your cake with a smooth coating of buttercream or ganache and chill the cake till firm/solid to the touch before attempting a drip pour.

• The tempered chocolate should be runny enough to run down the edge of a mug. Always do this test before attempting to drip straight onto the cake!

• It is important to ensure the tempered chocolate is fairly liquid. You can thin it down with some cocoa butter or coconut oil.

Watch Great Chocolate Showdown Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Anna Olson with Her Mirror Glaze Cake

Anna Olson’s Perfect Mirror Glaze Technique (Plus Tips!)

I love a mirror glaze cake and to be honest, while I find that entremet style of cake, mousse and fruit filling delightful to eat, it’s the making, assembling and glazing of the dessert that I love the most. Here are some tips so that you can dive right into this fun, reflective world of mirror glazing.

What to Glaze

Anna Olson mirror glaze
Photo courtesy of Janis Nicolay

Pick a dessert that has a smooth outside finish and a pleasing shape. Most mirror-glazed desserts are mousse based and are assembled in individual or full-size molds and then frozen to set them.  Silicone molds come in countless shapes and they are flexible and peel away from the mousse easily. You can also assemble a mousse cake in a regular metal springform pan.  You can use a heat gun on a low setting to gently warm the metal a little so that it lifts away from the cake easily.

Related: Anna Olson’s Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level

Mixing Your Mirror Glaze Colours

Anna Olson mixing mirror glaze colours
Photo courtesy of Janis Nicolay

A mirror glaze is composed of white chocolate, condensed milk, sugar, water and gelatine. When mixing, blend your glaze on low speed to avoid air bubbles and strain the glaze before tinting it.   Because white chocolate has a natural yellow hue to it, you will want to neutralize that by adding white food colouring to the glaze.  Then you can divide the glaze into separate pitchers to be tinted as you wish. Once made, the glaze can take 20 minutes or so to cool to the ideal pouring temperature, between 80-86°F (27-30°C), so be patient.

See More: Chocolate Animals DIY

How to Pour a Mirror Glaze

You have a few choices here. You can pour each colour onto your cake separately, making sure to cover the cake completely.  Drawing an offset palette knife over the top of the cake will blend the colours a little and can give you that “galaxy” look.  Or, if you’re feeling daring, you can go for the “tie-dye” effect and layer the colours before you pour.  Select your base colour and slowly pour in all of the other colours, one at a time, into the base, pouring carefully in a thin stream.  These colours will remain distinct in the pitcher (do not stir!) so that when you pour the glaze over the cake, the colours will create ripples and ribbons of colours that look like they are moving, even once set.

Remember that no two mirror glaze cakes look exactly the same, so just go for it. Before you pour, elevate the cake on a dish or stand that is smaller than the width of the cake, so that the excess glaze can run off easily and place a baking tray and rack underneath to catch that glaze.  The extra glaze can be reheated and reused again, but the colours will blend.

Anna Olson pouring a mirror glaze
Photo courtesy of Janis Nicolay

You can pour onto the centre of the cake and let gravity do its bit, or if the cake is on a wheel, you can spin the cake as you pour in the centre, creating a spiral effect.  You can also pour back-&-forth.  Regardless of the pouring technique, try to pour evenly and steadily and without disruption.  Take a moment to look at all sides of the cake to make sure it is completely covered.

See More: Anna Olson’s Best Chocolate Recipes

The glaze sets quickly, so after you see that the glaze pattern stops moving and dripping, use a palette knife to scrape away excess glaze from the base of the cake (or if you miss that window of time, use scissors or a paring knife to trim it away).  Resist the temptation to touch or move the glaze after the first minute or so – every mark will show.  But now you can add extra garnish – splatters of edible sparkle dust or top with piping detail, fruit or other chocolate decor. Remove the cake to a plate and chill until ready to serve.

Be prepared for “ooh’s” and “aaah’s” as you amaze your family or friends and impress yourself.

Watch Great Chocolate Showdown Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

How-to-Melt-and-Temper-Chocolate-for-Perfect-Candy-Making

How to Melt and Temper Chocolate for Perfect Candy Making

Dreaming of divine chocolate decorations but terrified of losing your temper? For many baked items, such as fluffy frosting or creamy cake fillings, you can get away with simply melting chocolate to take it from a solid to liquid form like in these Chocolate Divinity Candies. When you get into the world of bonbons and confectionary, however, that’s another matter entirely. Tempering chocolate is a mandatory step if you want both the shiny gloss and the distinctive snap of a well-made candy or decoration like in Anna Olson’s Chocolate Dipped Marzipan — and that’s where you have to pay some attention to technique in order to achieve success.


L-R: Anna Olson’s Chocolate Divinity Candy and Chocolate Dipped Marzipan

Related: Chocolate Making Tools Every Home Chocolatier Needs

If the thought of working with molten chocolate (and even worse, the dangers of it seizing or splitting) has you clutching your (baking) pearls, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out the best, and easiest, ways to work with chocolate, even if you’re a novice chocolatier.

How to Properly Melt Chocolate

For melting chocolate, each method has its advocates: some cooks prefer the double boiler method (or just setting a glass bowl on top of barely simmering water), while others turn to the microwave for an easy fix. Both methods involve the same basic principle: chopping chocolate into chunks for faster, more even melting, and applying gentle heat until most of the distinct shapes have disappeared.

If the unthinkable happens and your chocolate separates into a greasy, gritty mess, due to over-vigorous stirring or too-high heat, you can try Anna Olson’s ingenious trick to add moisture to return the mixture to molten glossiness (note: this fix is only for melting — even a single drop of water is the enemy of well-tempered chocolate).

See More: Desserts That Prove Peanut Butter and Chocolate Are a Perfect Match

How to Properly Temper Chocolate

For this technique, you’ll need to pull out a few items, namely a candy thermometer, a sturdy glass bowl and a silicon spatula that can handle some heat without melting. Depending on the method you use, you may also need a few more pieces of equipment, such as a marble board and wax paper.

The initial stage of tempering looks much like the melting process — use a glass bowl set over barely simmering water (not a rolling boil; there shouldn’t be any bubbles) to melt the chocolate chunks, or place the bowl in the microwave and use short bursts, checking often.

Where tempering differs, however, is the next step, where the chocolate mixture is cooled and warmed within precise ranges of temperature in order to achieve a smooth, shiny surface when it hardens (the temperature you need to hit depends on the type of chocolate you plan to use).


Anna Olson’s Chocolate Covered Caramel Bars

See More: Easy Chocolate Garnishes With Steve Hodge

This varying of temperature can be accomplished in a couple of ways: by adding other ingredients such as more chocolate (seeding) or cocoa butter to the mixture, or by pouring two-thirds of the hot chocolate mixture onto a marble board and mixing it with putty knives to cool it manually (see Anna Olson’s step-by-step description for more on this method).

Inquiring scientific minds among us may be intrigued by more gear-driven approaches, including Alton Brown’s combination of the friction of a food processor’s blades plus liberal use of a hair dryer to create heat, or J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s sous-vide circulator method over at Serious Eats.

Decoding Seed Tempering

For the easiest method using the least equipment, however, seeding chocolate is probably the best approach for a chocolate novice (for a visual demonstration, check out the video below from Great Chocolate Showdown judge Steve Hodge, pastry chef and chocolatier at Temper Pastry in West Vancouver.) With a few simple steps, this process can be achieved without too much stress (on both the chocolate and the cook).


 

Using the glass bowl over simmering water method, melt chunks of chocolate to the desired temperature (remember that they vary depending on the chocolate and are very narrow ranges, so use that candy thermometer.) We’ll use dark chocolate for this example, which should be heated to 45 to 48 degrees — milk and white chocolate, with higher milk and sugar contents, may react differently. 

Take the chocolate off the heat (leave the burner on…you’ll need it again shortly) and add prepared small pieces of chocolate (the “seeds”), which will help cool the mixture down quickly as they melt into the warmed chocolate.

Stir with a spatula until the overall temperature comes down to about 27 degrees Celsius (again, there may be some variation depending on the type of chocolate you use).

Next, quickly warm the chocolate back up by putting it into the double boiler until it hits 32 degrees Celsius and a thick and glossy texture — perfect for piping into a pretty design on waxed paper that will set up beautifully. If you aren’t sure if you’ve tempered the chocolate correctly, you can test it out by piping a small bit onto the waxed paper (or a metal sheet pan set over an ice pack).

Working quickly, swirl and create chocolate garnishes to your heart’s content: the designs should set up to a delicate decoration with the signature snap when you bite into it (try and leave a few decorations for dessert!)

Watch Great Chocolate Showdown Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Contemporary chocolate mini mousse cakes with matcha green tea cream insert and mango jam, covered with chocolate velvet spray and chocolate gourmet glaze, decorated with whipped chocolate ganache, on a texture background.

5 Unconventional Chocolate Pairings That Steve Hodge Loves

From sweet and delicate white chocolate to rich, indulgent dark chocolate and everything in between, it’s no secret that chocolate is incredible on its own. But this sweet favourite also makes for the perfect flavour pairing in dishes of all kinds: savoury, sweet or spicy. Just when you think you’ve been around the block and tried all the possible complementary cocoa combinations, a new trend that’s as surprising as it is delicious comes out. Steve Hodge shares five new chocolate pairings that will shock you with how much they just work.

Steve Hodge on the set of Great Chocolate Showdown

Related: Chocolate Pairings: 10 Unexpected Flavours That Are a Perfect Match

Parmesan Cheese and Chocolate

Chocolate and cheese are both beloved flavours, so why not try them together? The saltiness and texture of the cheese and the bitterness of the chocolate are an amazing combo. Bonus: if the chocolate is in temper, it adds a satisfying crunch.

Matcha Tea Powder and Chocolate

The bitterness and earthiness of the matcha work well with semi-sweet chocolate. The flavours of the chocolate and tea complement each other — and that little added sweetness from the chocolate balances out the matcha well.

Contemporary chocolate mini mousse cakes with matcha green tea cream insert and mango jam, covered with chocolate velvet spray and chocolate gourmet glaze, decorated with whipped chocolate ganache, on a texture background.
Credit: Getty Images

Related: Expert Chocolate Techniques to Master Now

Crickets and Chocolate

This pairing is all about texture and earthiness. Crickets will pair best with semi-sweet chocolate — and if you don’t tell anyone what it is, they’ll say, “I know that flavour…”.

See More: Tasty Food Trends We’ll Be Devouring in 2021

Salt and Vinegar Chips and Chocolate

It’s no secret that salt and chocolate work very well together, but the added acidity and tang from the salt and vinegar chips gives the chocolate pop, plus the crunch adds the perfect texture.

The Pioneer Woman recipe for chocolate-covered ruffled potato chips

Get the recipe for Chocolate-Covered Potato Chips

Beef Jerky and Chocolate

You’ve heard of a chocolate mole sauce, but this pairing takes savoury chocolate to the next level. The sweet and salty flavours work surprisingly well together and the texture is similar to fruit leather, enrobed in chocolatey goodness.

Watch Great Chocolate Showdown Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

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