By Keri Foy

Tiramisu and (back) Red Velvet individual cakes from Ghyslain Chocolates. Photos by Melissa Donald

Want to splurge on some great chocolate but not sure what to do? Working with chocolate is an art form. It takes skill, a little book knowledge, and a lot of practice. Lucky for you, we’ve assembled a panel of experts to give you unbelievable insight into the power of cocoa.

Bourbon balls from Muth’s candy.

Varying flavors of heart chocolates from Ghyslain.
Left clockwise: Bananas Foster cake, Macaroon cake, Sacner cake (chocolate raspberry) all from Ghyslain.

Q: Best chocolate to give to your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day?

Barbara Turner: Buy local! In Louisville, I like Cellar Door Chocolates.

Belita McDonald: A beautifully wrapped chocolate lying on a pillow.

Sabrina Hannah: My husband prefers milk chocolate, so I usually get him something mint- or chocolate-filled. For my three boys, we usually get mixed chocolates. They enjoy discovering the different fillings.

Sarah Vories: Their favorite! If you don’t know what they like, give them bourbon balls and turtles. Those are pretty manly candies. Guys like nuts.

Susan Maurais: Ghyslain coffee chocolate.

Muth’s chocolate candy box. 

Pot de Creme made by Barbara Turner.
Try a chocolate buffet at a party using items like these truffles from Ghyslain.

Q: How to make a good chocolate drink?

Barbara: Heat a cup full of milk with a handful of chocolate chips and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Stir and enjoy.

Belita: A classic chocolate martini: 1½ ounces chocolate liquor, 1½ ounces crème de cacao, ½ ounce vanilla vodka, and 2½ ounces half-and-half. Shake well with ice, and strain into a martini glass rimmed with chocolate syrup or sweetened cocoa.

Sabrina: If you are using cocoa powder for drinks, add a small amount of liquid initially and form a paste before adding the remaining liquid. This will help prevent dry powder in your final beverage. For a more intense chocolate flavor, try cocoa dissolved in hot water with your choice of sweetener. Or for a rich and creamy drink, dissolve a finely chopped bar of chocolate in milk. My favorite way to drink chocolate is a chocolate stout or porter.

Sarah: Use a good cocoa powder to make hot chocolate.

Susan: Use Valrhona gourmet chocolate. Make certain the chocolate is melted evenly and not burnt. Add it to your beverage slowly.

(L-R) Sabrina Hannah, principal engineer – food science at GE Appliances; Sarah Vories, manager at Muth’s Candy (“I’ve been here since I was an infant … after school … my whole life. This is my future and my kids’ future. It’s more than chocolate.”; Barbara Turner, pastry chef at Butchertown Grocery restaurant and previous chef instructor at Sullivan University; Belita McDonald, owner of Derby City Chocolates; Susan Maurais (not pictured), owner of Ghyslain Chocolatier.

Q: What chocolate is best to use when cooking? Any other tips for cooking with chocolate?

Barbara: For candies, get a high-quality couverture chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa butter.

Belita: For chili or mole sauce, I use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa. Try it — you’ll thank me. To melt chocolate, use a heavy glass bowl and microwave at half power.

Sabrina: I use unsweetened, solid chocolate and cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed). Cocoa powder has good flavor intensity, but pay attention to the type for which the recipe calls. Dutch-processed and natural cocoa aren’t interchangeable because they have different acidities.

Sarah: The best weather to work with chocolate is low humidity, sunny, and 70 degrees.

Susan: Use Valrhona. Melt in a microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring each time.

Top left: Sabrina Hannah makes a variety of chocolate treats.