Steal cocoa tips and tricks from pastry chef David Lebovitz, who we consider as a kind of modern-day Julia Child (translating French cooking and baking for another generation of American home cooks). You'll soon be whipping up better-than-bakery desserts!

By Nancy Wall Hopkins

In the world of chocolate desserts, the classic French recipes hold a kind of iconic status. Mousse that's somehow both cloudlike and almost too intense too bear. Impossibly fudgy flourless chocolate. All that decadence (and names like gâteau victoire) sometimes come with a side of intimidation. But mastering these treats is easier than it sounds.

We asked cookbook author, former pastry chef, and Paris transplant David Lebovitz to help us interpret chocolate with a French accent, then paired his tips with recipes from the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen so you can get a taste at home. 

1. Go bittersweet and add liqueur.

Since flourless chocolate cakes generally have relatively few ingredients, "the chocolate shines," Lebovitz says. "Use your favorite bittersweet chocolate or experiment with different percentages." Typically, the higher the percentage, the stronger the chocolate flavor. Try an option between 55 to 70 percent for the best results in these gluten free treats. To heighten the intensity of the chocolate even more, add a splash of coffee liqueur (or strong coffee) while the bittersweet chocolate melts.

Try this tip with: BH&G's Mini Flourless Chocolate Cakes

2. Boost the sheen with syrup.

Lebovitz loves how a classic and simple chocolate sauce pairs well with anything from cream puffs to chocolate cake to ice cream (or alone by the spoonful!). While unconventional in French cooking, he adds corn syrup to his chocolate sauces to give them a bright sheen and luxurious body. If you prefer, you can substitute agave syrup.

Bonus tip: "Sauces are forgiving, so you can experiment with higher cacao percentages. You'll be surprised how they impact flavor and texture," Lebovitz says. Try a high-quality chocolate bar with about 70 percent cacao here.

Try this tip with: BH&G's Chocolate Sauce

3. Chop the chocolate nice and small for a super-smooth melt.

Finely chop the chocolate into smaller than 1/2-inch pieces. Avoid using chocolate chips for desserts that you want to be smooth, such as creamy mousses, Lebovitz recommends. "Many are designed to keep their shape and not melt." 

To reduce graininess and make the melting process even easier, skip the double boiler. Instead, prepare the warm ingredients (often egg yolks, cream, etc.) and pour them over the chopped chocolate. The heat will do the melting for you!

Try this tip with: BH&G's Bittersweet Mousse



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