How to use them
Use good quality oils from reputable suppliers (see below).
Essential oils are the last ingredient I add to a recipe – this way I can add exactly the amount required to get the right taste. Some recipes only need a couple of drops, whilst others might need as many as fifteen, so it’s best to start by mixing in one or two drops, having a taste, adding a couple more drops if necessary, and so on. Remember: you can always add, but you can’t subtract!
Are they safe?
Most essential oil bottles have a warning on them to not take them internally. However, numerous chocolate makers and chefs regularly use good quality essential oils in their food prep. Ultimately, you have to take responsibility and decide for yourself, exercise sensible caution (for instance where children, the elderly and the pregnant are concerned), and also avoid really strong oils that you wouldn’t use on your skin, such as cinnamon, basil, thyme etc. If you are at all concerned, you can buy excellent food grade essential oils from companies such as Rosa Medica and NHR Organic Oils.*
Some suggested essential oil flavours:
PEPPERMINT: my favourite! There is nothing like that combination of rich, dark chocolate with the fresh crispness of peppermint.
The essential oil has a vastly superior taste to any peppermint essence I’ve tried. Having said that, it can be hard to find a peppermint oil that gives exactly the right flavour for use in chocolate recipes. I love the one from Rosa Medica – it’s superb flavour means it is the only one I ever use and I always keep a bottle to hand in my kitchen cupboard.
Peppermint works best with dark chocolate, although it can also work well in white chocolate recipes, particularly if you add some dark in there. For instance, in the White Chocolate recipe in my chocolate e-book, I recommend adding both cacao nibs and peppermint oil to the recipe.
I also love to combine the taste of peppermint with some crunchy texture: dehydrated buckwheat is fabulous for this, but if you don’t have access to it then try coconut sugar, or xylitol, or even chopped nuts (I like almonds).
ORANGE: orange and chocolate are of course a match made in heaven, so orange essential oil is another kitchen cupboard essential for me. Again, it can be a little tricky to find one that gives you exactly the right taste you’re looking for, but when you do….mmm!
Tangerine and mandarin are similar oils that are equally delicious in raw chocolate making.
LEMON: not perhaps the most obvious flavour to add to chocolate, but a surprisingly tasty option when used with dark chocolate. Also try lemon and raspberry together (use lemon essential oil with the raspberry powder or whole dried raspberries from the Sweet Sensations shop).
LIME: this works well with both dark and white chocolate. I recently made some lime-flavoured white chocolate truffles dipped in dark chocolate – they were pretty damn good!
BERGAMOT: this oil is from the same plant as earl grey tea. So if you like earl grey tea you are pretty sure to LOVE bergamot flavoured chocolate. I don’t even like tea but I adore bergamot chocolate!
LEMONGRASS: another unusual chocolate flavouring choice but utterly delicious. I tend to use it to flavour the centres of dipped chocolates. It’s strong, so don’t add too much!
CARDAMOM: a classic flavour partner for chocolate and it also helps to subdue the stimulating effects of raw chocolate. Ground cardamom has too mild a taste for most chocolate recipes (you have to add so much to get any taste at all that it starts to affect the consistency of the recipe). So cardamom oil is an excellent alternative.
GINGER: you can use ground ginger, freshly juiced ginger or ginger essential oil in chocolate making. All are delicious but the essential oil has the edge in terms of ease. One of my favourite flavour combinations in chocolate is ginger with cinnamon powder.
So there you have it, a summary of the use of essential oils in chocolate making! I hope you have fun experimenting. Do let me know what your favourite flavours are!
*Please note that Liz Bygrave and Sweet Sensations are unable to accept responsibility for the choices you make regarding using essential oils in food preparation, including following any of the suggestions outlined in this blog post. You are advised to consult qualified practitioners in the appropriate disciplines if you want advice on this subject.