Chocolate extract is an alcohol solution infused with cocoa beans, which makes it very similar to vanilla extract, but with the flavor of cocoa instead of vanilla. It’s an interesting extract to work with because it is unusual and not often called for in recipes, although it can really round out the flavor of a chocolate dessert and highlight the chocolate flavor already there.
Rodelle Organics Organic Chocolate Extract is a high quality chocolate extract and I have had the pleasure of working with it lately. It is produced just like their vanilla extract: by distilling cocoa beans in a water and alcohol solution until that solution captures all of the flavor notes of chocolate. It smells like a bar of dark chocolate when you sniff the bottle, and that is exactly the flavor that gets transferred to any baked good you add this to. Like vanilla extract, it won’t replace actual chocolate in a recipe (a chocolate cake still needs cocoa or chocolate), but it will deepen that flavor and you’ll notice a difference in the finished product. I find that it really makes an impact in custard recipes, such as puddings and ice creams, and is a great addition to any chocolate frosting. It is difficult to detect in some baked goods simply because of the amount of chocolate already present in a recipe, but in simpler desserts (such as chocolate chiffon cakes versus intensely fudgy brownies) it can add a whole new layer of complexity and flavor.
Chocolate is an almost irresistible flavor and there are many ways to boost it in a recipe. For instance, you could add melted chocolate to a cake batter, extra cocoa powder to a batch of cookies or a combination of the two to a batch of ice cream. But all these things can change the chemistry of a recipe, and there is one more way that you can boost chocolate flavor without altering a recipe: by adding chocolate extract.
Chocolate extract is made by infusing an alcohol solution with cocoa beans, much as vanilla extract is made. It has an intensely chocolate aroma and flavor (although, like vanilla extract, it also has a strong alcohol note), and it is entirely natural. The fact that chocolate extract is made from real cocoa beans means that it translates into a surprisingly full bodied chocolate flavor in whatever you add it to. The extract is used exactly like vanilla extract, and it is even better when paired with vanilla. Don’t be fooled by artificial chocolate flavors (which are, across the board, awful) because they will not give you the same results as a quality chocolate extract.
Of course, chocolate extract alone isn’t going to turn a vanilla cake into a chocolate one. You still need cocoa powder or chocolate to do that. What the chocolate extract does is enhance the chocolate and highlight it. You’ll notice it most in recipes like custards and mousses, but you’ll notice that chocolate cakes and brownies taste just a little bit better when you work a little chocolate extract into the recipe. You can find it at some specialty stores, online, and at well-stocked grocers.
Extracts, whether they’re vanilla, lemon, almond or any other flavor, are made by mixing a concentrated flavor with alcohol. The alcohol burns off during cooking or baking, leaving behind only the desired flavor in your dish. They’re very effective, but not always the most effective way to infuse flavor for a particular ingredient. For instance, citrus oils – isolated from the skin/zest of an orange, lemon, etc. – have a much more intense flavor than citrus extracts. Coffee is one of the flavors that is not known for translating well to extracts. Instant coffee tends to create a more distinct flavor than mild coffee extracts do. There is one exception (at least, only one that I’m familiar with) to this general rule: Trablit Coffee Extract.
Trablit Coffee Extract, which can be purchased online and and some specialty kitchen/baking retailers, is definitely one of the best and most flavorful coffee ingredients you can have in your kitchen. The French “extrait de cafe liquide” is not your typical extract; it’s simply coffee, no alcohol or anything else to dilute the flavor. The ingredients include dry coffee, water and sugar, and the mixture is cooked until it is very concentrated and syrupy. The result is an intense coffee flavor (you would never know that there was even a bit of sugar but for the fact the extract has a relatively smooth, not bitter, aftertaste) that easily infuses into just about anything, whether you’re making a chocolate sauce or coffee-flavored muffins. One small bottle will last for a long time because you don’t have to use much to get the results you want.