How Can I Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries?
Chocolate covered strawberries are a popular Valentine gift as well as a summertime tradition and an all-around tasty treat. They are commonly sold at chocolate stores, online fruit companies, and occasional grocery stores. Often they are served in fine restaurants. Since these berries command top dollar, it’s difficult to afford more than one or two.
You can make quality chocolate covered strawberries at home, at a fraction of the cost that will rival the berries purchased elsewhere. For the most part, you only need melted chocolate and strawberries. Of course a little bit of knowledge on selecting and melting chocolate can help.
As easy as it sounds, there are a few tips to keep in mind when dipping any food item-particularly fruit which contains a high percentage of water. This article will highlight the ingredients and tools recommended for maximizing the success in producing a chocolate dipped strawberry. Types of chocolate and methods for working with the fruit will be suggested.
As a culinary instructor, I get a lot of questions regarding “what went wrong” in food preparation. By far the most popular question is related to chocolate “not behaving”, specifically when dipping juicy strawberries. It is an easy fix and I am happy to help. I am also happy to sample!
What Ingredients and Tools are Needed to Make Chocolate Dipped Strawberries?
Obviously strawberries are at the center of this party. Native grown berries have a delicious taste and smell. They tend to be a bit sweeter, redder, and smaller than store bought. Whatever the source of your strawberries, you may choose to “wash” them, or you might use them straight from the garden or the store container. Chocolate does not like water and that is why some choose to forgo the washing step. Regardless of your choice, your berries will need to be completely dry before dipping. Additionally, having them at room temperature is preferred. If you wash your berries first, place them on a kitchen towel to dry well before you plan to dip them.
Prepackaged chocolate chips are a popular chocolate choice for many. If you are working with larger pieces of chocolate, you will want to use a knife and cutting board to chop the chocolate into smaller pieces. This will ensure even melting in the microwave. Depending on the chocolate chosen, you might have to use a “thinning agent” such as vegetable shortening to get your chocolate to the right consistency for dipping.
Once fruit is dipped, it will need to be placed on a non-stick surface such as parchment or wax paper. Plastic film can also be used.
What Types of Chocolate Should Be Used for Chocolate Dipped Berries?
The most common choices for chocolate dipping are prepackaged chocolate chips. These are most readily available and come in a variety of flavors. One advantage of choosing chips is, you don’t have to chop the chocolate before melting. However, since they are formulated to maintain their shape in cookie baking, you it is likely that you may have to “thin” the chocolate.
Another option is candy melts, candy wafers, or chocolate “bark”. These can be found in craft stores and limited grocery aisles as well. They are very affordable and easy to work with. They are formulated for candy crafting and come in a variety of flavors, and colors. They are “chocolate flavored” and not “real” chocolate. Most people find them tasty.
Prepackaged “dipping” chocolate. This is most often sold in the grocery store near the strawberries or in the baking aisle. It is a convenience food in that you can usually use it from the container. The price is generally 3-4 times what you would pay for otherwise, but it is handy.
Couverture refers to a high end chocolate that you would find in a quality chocolate shop. Since it needs to be tempered and is more costly, most people do not choose to work with it for strawberries dipped at home.
How Do I Melt and Thin Chocolate?
Depending on the type and brand of chocolate you use, it might be too thick to get an even coating of chocolate on your berry. In many cases, it becomes necessary to “thin” your chocolate. Until you become experienced with different types and brands, there will be a little trial and error involved in deciding how thin to make your chocolate.
Before thinning your chocolate, you will need to melt it. The two most popular ways of doing this at home is with a double boiler or the microwave. The double boiler method is particularly good for melting large quantities of chocolate, while the microwave might be more convenient for melting chocolate to dip fruit.
It is very easy to burn chocolate in the microwave, and of course there are many variances from oven to oven. For this reason, I recommend melting chocolate a little at a time-in 20 second bursts, and on a reduced power if possible. Chocolate melts from the inside out, so at first you will not see much happening. After each 20 second burst, stir with a spoon. Using a plastic spoon will allow you to leave the spoon in your bowl or glass jar, without causing sparks in your microwave.
Your bowl should not be hot to the touch. If it is, let it cool before you start dipping. Test the behavior of your chocolate by dipping one strawberry. Place it on your paper to harden. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, it will set within 5 minutes. You could also place it in the refrigerator if it is especially warm in your kitchen.
If you are satisfied with your first dip, you may proceed with the rest of your berries. If your chocolate is too thick or clumpy, you will need to add some fat to your melted chocolate.
Start with ½-1 tsp. of added fat until you reach your desired consistency. The following fats can be considered:
- Shortening (Crisco-type) or coconut oil: This is a good choice because most people have it on hand and it is solid at room temperature. Shortening has little taste while coconut oil might have a slight taste variation
- Vegetable oil: also readily available but is liquid at room temperature so chocolate coating will be somewhat softer.
- Butter: works to thin, but has a “buttery” flavor and may have salt. Also contains a small amount of water. It is solid at room temperature like shortening.
- Paramount crystals: formulated specifically to thin chocolate and make it creamy. Not usually found in your cupboard, but worth the investment if you plan to work with chocolate more than a few times per year. Easily found on the internet and some food crafting aisles in stores.
How Should I Present and Store Chocolate Covered Strawberries?
No one needs any encouragement to eat a chocolate covered strawberry, but it is fun and impressive to go one step further and embellish, or decorate your strawberry. The following are some popular ways to dress up your berry:
- Use a different type of chocolate (darker or lighter, or colored) and a fork to drizzle a few lines of melted chocolate over your finished berry
- Dip half a strawberry in white chocolate and the other half in dark
- Add a pinch of sprinkles, nonpareils, or cookie crumbs on your chocolate before it sets
- Place in a decorative cupcake liner
- Place on a lollipop stick and arrange in a glass or vase
Unfortunately chocolate covered strawberries do not have a long shelf life. Luckily they are so popular that they are consumed rather quickly. Depending on the time of year, geographical region, and the weather that day, you might store your berries in the refrigerator. This keeps them cool but also increases the chance of condensation, (little drops of water on your chocolate) and absorption of the smells/tastes of the salmon you might have on the next shelf. Place them in a covered container. If you have a cool, dry basement, that is another possibility.
Berries can be left out if you plan to serve them shortly and the weather allows. Place leftovers in the refrigerator. They cannot be frozen.
Chocolate covered strawberries are one of the most popular crowd pleasers. Incorporating a few tips allows anyone to successfully make them in their own home, at a reasonable price. With strawberries available nearly year-round, there is no need to wait for summer.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore