This is the next in our series of educators featured in our Bake Twentyfive issue. Each weekday, we will spotlight a new instructor or educator in the fields of baking, pastry, and chocolate.

Charles Niedermyer II, chef instructor at Pennsylvania College of Technology, shares valuable ideas for cake decorators wanting to elevate their creations with gourmet chocolate. He is a big fan of Guittard chocolate and offers creative ideas for using chocolate ganache in everything from elegant cakes to fun cake pops.

 Niedermyer is an experienced chef with a demonstrated history of working in higher education and industry collaboration. He earned a bachelor of science degree focused in business management from Pennsylvania College of Technology.

“Selecting chocolate is critical to success,” he says. “In terms of purchasing chocolate, there are important factors to consider.”

First, you want a versatile chip or chunk that is lower in cocoa fat and higher in solid content. These types are designed not to melt and hold shape well, he advises. You also want to purchase a European-style chocolate blend, with a higher percentage of cocoa butter. This is often referred to as couverture chocolate.

“Sixty-one percent — that’s the new dark chocolate,” Niedermyer says of the hottest new chocolate trends. The percentage on the package only represents the amount of cocoa mass. It doesn’t tell you how much cocoa butter is inside. The one thing that is consistent when looking at the percentages is sweetness.

“38% is a spectacular milk chocolate,” Niedermyer says. “What’s emerging now is dark milk chocolate. Guittard has a 45% milk chocolate. Anything around 38% falls in the gourmet milk chocolate realm.”

As a good rule of thumb, he says, when selecting the types of chocolate, you really want to think about the desired application.

“Great ganache can be the center of a great wedding cake. It should be very shiny and reflective,” he says. “I try to never refrigerate ganache if I don’t have to. It can last three weeks at room temperature.”

One of the most common mistakes when making ganache is melting the chocolate, Niedermyer advises. You want to make an emulsion. Niedermyer uses an immersion blender to make ganache. You can also use a whisk or a robot coupe.

In other trends, cake pops continue to be popular, he points out, because they are easy to pass around. “It’s something small people can enjoy.” To make ganache cake pops, Niedermyer suggests a basic ratio of 40-45 percent ganache to cake. Chopping is a significant labor expense; he buys chocolate wafers. “When you chop chocolate for ganache, it needs to be fine.”