The Teachers on Call team loves to recommend cooking for special occasions (like Valentine’s Day), as it’s an educational and fun activity. Cooking is both an art and a science, as young chefs can demonstrate creativity and practice math, chemistry, and physics concepts too. With this in mind, we recommend you try a learning experiment in the kitchen with this lesson on how to make chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day.
How to Melt Chocolate
For chocolate-dipped strawberries, we’ll need to melt chocolate. There’s two ways to go about melting chocolate safely.
The first involves a double-boiler – either a two-pot combo or a metal bowl set over a saucepan filled with water. If you use this method, heat the water first and then turn the stove down to low before setting the bowl on top, to keep the bowl from picking up too much heat and making it more dangerous to handle. Be sure to use a bowl that is larger than the saucepan so that steam from the hot water doesn’t get into the chocolate.
The more child-friendly way to melt chocolate involves a microwave. Use 50% power and soften the chocolate by microwaving in 30 second increments and stirring between, to keep the heating even.
How to Make Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries are a Valentine’s Day classic. But if strawberries aren’t necessarily your thing, you can dip any fruit. We recommend using semi-sweet chocolate chips to contrast with the sweetness of the fruit, and if you want to make them extra fancy, melt white chocolate chips and drizzle over the dipped fruit with a fork.
Pre-prep by lining a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper. Make sure that any fruit you use is washed and fully dried before dipping!
Use about 6 oz of chocolate chips for every 500g of strawberries. Melt them as instructed above, and then hold the strawberry by the stem, dipping it into the bowl of melted chocolate and twirling it to give it a nice even coat. Lay them carefully on the lined cookie sheet, and let the chocolate harden, about 30 minutes.
The Fun Chemistry of Great Chocolate
Did you know that there’s significant chemistry involved in being a chocolatier? It’s all about the organic molecules that make up the fats and oils in chocolate. According to MIT, cocoa butter fats are made up predominantly of three major fatty acid molecules: palmitic acid, stearic acid, and oleic acid. Chocolate makers can adjust the amounts of each to produce a chocolate that stays solid at room temperature and melts only in the mouth.
Just like in our post about making candy, chocolate has its own crystalline structures inside. There are six known crystal forms – polymorphs, in chocolate science – which are produced depending on the blend of fats and the temperature at which the chocolate was tempered (cooled). And like candy, a little water can make everything go wrong, so be careful when adding liquids to melted chocolate, or it might seize!
Chocolate is an intricate, complicated food product and a super interesting topic to read about. Adults can pick up the book Food Chemistry to read more about it, and many other foods we love!
Chocolate with ‘Snap’
You might think that the best chocolate-dipped strawberry has a definite snap to it, and ‘snap’ in fine chocolate comes from the way it is produced and tempered – not an easy thing to control at home. But there’s some workarounds.
You can use chocolate shell – a rapidly-hardening chocolate that is high in saturated fats that forms a crispy-crunchy outer layer. You can buy chocolate shell dip or make your own, and chill your berries in the fridge slightly to set the chocolate more rapidly. PS, extra chocolate shell is great over ice cream.
After your dessert is ready, enjoy discovering contrasting tastes and textures together. It will not only make young gourmands with an adventurous palate, it’s also an experiment in learning. We’re used to thinking of sensory play opportunities for younger children by using hands, but exploring the mouth and taste is also an opportunity as a sensory activity for development. So what are you waiting for, it’s time to get cracking?
Wishing all our readers a sweet and delicious Valentine’s Day!
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