Chocolate Extract

One of the things that no one prepares you for when you write a book, is that people are going to be in touch, many that you haven’t seen in a long, long time.

When Room for Dessert came out in 1999, I heard from people that I knew all the way back in high school. While I don’t quite share everyone’s glee for wanting to relive all the “good ol’ days”, I did get a message from someone who’d gone to the same college as me, and whose family had been making wonderful-smelling extracts since 1890. And what particularly caught my attention was that he mentioned the magic word—chocolate.

His family’s company, Star Kay White, produces extracts, mostly to sell to the ice cream and confectionery industry. But back then, they were just launching their extracts for home bakers. I asked Ben Katzenstein, who wrote to me, what exactly chocolate extract was, and he explained that when cacao beans are ground up into chocolate, some of the ‘top notes’ of the beans are lost in the process and adding chocolate extract replaces them.

chocolate extract

Chocolate extract is made without heat to avoid ameliorating the true flavor: the beans are soaked in alcohol, then removed. What’s left is a deep-dark brown elixir of highly-concentrated pure chocolate flavor and aroma. If you take the cap off and give it a sniff, the scent of pure chocolate will blow you away.

Since chocolate extract is somewhat of an unusual ingredient, it’s hard to call for chocolate extract in a recipe, since a majority of people probably don’t keep it on hand, like I do. So it falls into the “optional” category. But at home, I find myself adding a teaspoon to almost any chocolate cake, cookie, brownie, or ice cream mixture that I’m stirring up. You can replace the vanilla extract with chocolate extract, but they work so well together, I often add both.

When I taught cooking classes, I’d often bring bottles with me to pass around for a sniff, and the look on people’s faces was first of disbelief, then surprise, and a big smile would rise in their face. It was always quite a surprise to find something so chocolaty in such a little bottle.

This morning when I was mixing up my second batch of Brownies for the week (I have no idea what happened to the first one…I swear), I pulled out my little bottle and spilled a bit into the batter, then stirred it up. When the batch of brownies went into my now-famous oven, I licked the chocolate-covered spatula clean as the day I bought it. I can’t say for sure whether I would’ve done that had I not added some chocolate extract to the batter. But it definitely didn’t hurt.


Related links and posts:

Star Kay White Chocolate Extract (Amazon)

The Best Ingredients Make the Best Cookies (Fine Cooking magazine)

Clotilde’s Very Chocolate Cookies (Recipe)

Boyajian Citrus Oils

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  • Marty Foster
    November 26, 2008 9:02am

    Hey David! Remember that time in high school when we pretended to be making out in the car rather than let the cop know we were getting stoned? Those were good times, weren’t they?
    Seriously, folks, you should know that this boy was the star of our 20th high school reunion. A far cry from his outsider status during his teens.
    It’s so fun to follow his culinary escapades.

  • November 26, 2008 9:14am

    Now I’m craving brownies and wondering where on earth to find chocolate extract, reasonably priced (bien sur!) in Germany. Any idea? Or else, where can you get it in Paris?

  • November 26, 2008 9:54am

    What’s an 8-track?

  • Daniel
    November 26, 2008 9:55am

    You could buy it at (hope posting URLs is fine. Its the only resource I found in germany for “Schokoladenextrakt”.
    Its a funny coincidence, because my better half and me went to a food fair and there were just two people of this company selling their sauces. I have never ever tasted anything like that. Such a rich flavour without added preservatives or artificial flavour.
    The funny thing was, that one day after we had been to a TV-Show Preproduction “Kocharena” (Cooking Arena) and a couple right behind us just started to chat about these sauces. Try them, I am sure you wont regret it. Maybe David knows them, they are an american product.

  • craig
    November 26, 2008 9:59am

    Surely, if Thomas Keller can come up with nicotine infused food for Bourdain’s tasting menu at The French Laundry as documented on A Cook’s Tour, you can come up with a unique use for bong-water in dessert preparations. How does an American celebrate Thanksgiving in the City of Lights? Somehow I imagine a Big Chill type of gathering with Edith Piaf music instead of Motown, with a mix of Liza and Rufus W. thrown in for specific demographics. If the French don’t celebrate our Thanksgiving, how the hell do they know to start playing Christmas music too early for good taste? What the heck do they do on “Black Friday” if there are no AUTHORIZED “soldes” going on? Civilized? Nodding off while watching soccer in a tryptophan-induced coma in some Louis Quinze chair is not quite the same.

  • November 26, 2008 10:56am

    I could pretend I was buying the chocolate extract to use in cookies and cakes et al, but the real-life application would be more like me sitting around in trackpants huffing it from the bottle like some sort of aromatherapy/ narcotic combo. Soon enough, I’d be staggering around the yard, incoherent, like the neighbour’s kids when I was young, who acted all wacky after bending over the lawnmower gastank. my cover would be blown when I ultimately failed to arrive at the family Christmas get-together with my customary boxes of cookies and baked treats, and when they busted into my apartment to check on me, there I was with a suspicious chocolately cloud hovered around me like a fog.

  • Michele
    November 26, 2008 11:19am

    I just ordered some and I am looking forward to using it.

    Do you think one could make their own extract by soaking cocoa nibs in vodka?

  • Steve
    November 26, 2008 12:07pm

    I was pretty sure the brownies wouldn’t hang around in your freezer “for a few months.” And what ads popped up with this post and its photo of that slab of brownies? “Flat stomach by Christmas” and “Two rules for stomach fat,” of course.

  • November 26, 2008 12:08pm

    Marty: Pretending?! You mean you girls sometimes fake it?

    Michele: Like vanilla extract, it’s probably hard to get the concentrated flavor.

    But if you can get your hands on some cocoa beans, give it a shot; I’d be interested to know how it works!

  • November 26, 2008 12:12pm

    Wow. Two minutes ago I did not even know that this kind of chocolate extract existed, now I feel like I won’t be able to live without :)

  • Susan
    November 26, 2008 1:02pm

    I have always avoided those cakes and frostings that appear to not have enough chocolate in them; even those presented with rave reviews. This will be the perfect remedy to allow me to make them without altering the recipe’s components..which I’m not very good at doing anyway! Thanks, David..and thank your friend for me, for prompting you with the magic word!

  • Jessica
    November 26, 2008 1:33pm

    If I were to try to make my own extract, I suppose I would look for roasted beans? As opposed to green cocoa beans? Or do you think nibs would work?

    Though, now that I’ve looked at your Amazon link, it seems silly to spend as much on beans as I would on the extract..

  • Yvonne
    November 26, 2008 2:57pm

    Who knew it would be word usage that would get me to de-lurk, but . . .

    You wrote that they don’t use heat in order “to avoid ameliorating the true flavor”. Do you mean ameliorating as in improving? How does heat change the flavor?

    I was waiting for someone to chime in on that one. But I liked the way it sounded for some reason, and took artistic license with it…je vous prie de m’excuser!… -dl

  • cliff
    November 26, 2008 3:03pm

    Do tell, everyone, more stories of David’s youth. I would love to hear what he was up to prior to having his hands full with whisks and rubber spatulas. Anyone keep a journal? ;-)

    Ha! If you only knew!

    Oh, hey, wait…. ; ) -dl

  • November 26, 2008 5:50pm

    My Gods, David! You always have the goods on the hot commodities, don’t you?
    How on Earth did I ever live without this divine nectar?

    My indispensable hero! That’s what you are.

    Happy Thanksgiving sweet thing!! I’ll bet yours will be tip-top!


    ~ Paula
    (of Ambrosia Quest)

  • November 26, 2008 10:25pm

    I’m going to try to find this in Canada! Wow!

  • Spencer
    November 27, 2008 7:01am

    Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

  • November 27, 2008 7:24am

    If I am reading through the tea leaves, maybe some bong water fell into the brownies?
    Gino Vanelli? Gosh he could change it to Vanilli and start a second career!
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • November 27, 2008 9:41am

    I never would’ve thought about chocolate extract… I’ll bet it would make my so-so brownies much better. Not that I make so-so brownies. Heck, I don’t even MAKE brownies!

  • November 27, 2008 10:39am

    Sounds like a must have for making chocolate anything. I searched online for some in Italy (estratto di cioccolato), but since you can’t even get vanilla extract here, I didn’t have a lot of hope. Now that I know the stuff exists, I’m going to have to try to get some. Of course, once I do, I may just sit there and sniff it all day.

  • November 27, 2008 1:01pm

    Happy Holiday!

  • November 27, 2008 1:17pm

    If I had a vile of chocolate extract I would literally just keep it in my jacket pocket all day long. I think that just knowing it was there would make me a significantly happier person! Ha.

  • Terrie
    November 27, 2008 3:11pm

    I bought a bottle of chocolate extract years ago, put it in my pantry and there it’s been for god knows how long. I just went and looked… before 05. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time for a new bottle of this just in case ingredient.
    Happy Thanksgiving David.

  • Teresa
    November 28, 2008 12:49am

    Like Terrie, I too bought a bottle awhile ago. I better start making some more chocolately items and put them in. I have added it to hot cocoa to bump up the chocolate flavor.

    I love the little dish in your photo! Is it a salt cellar or something? It’s so adorable.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Cris
    November 28, 2008 11:51am

    Probably meant mitigate instead of ameliorate.

    Sigh. The kind of english nerd comment that indicates I never had contact with any kind of bong water in high school. Or college.

  • November 28, 2008 3:39pm

    Isn’t it curious that Amazon charges $2.00 more than Dean and DeLuca and gives you 2 oz less?

  • November 28, 2008 6:10pm

    Buying it! I am not sure if I have seen this before, but I’m sure without your recommendation I would have assumed it tasted like Canfield’s Diet Chocolate Soda. Super excited to try it.

  • November 28, 2008 6:13pm

    Also, what’s that little glass thing the extract is in? Egg cup? Very cute.

  • November 28, 2008 8:43pm

    So. The question is this: Does one have to write books and know people to get this wondrous elixir sent to them in Europe, or where might I be able to find it myself in London?

  • Linda H
    November 28, 2008 8:51pm

    Plain old McCormick/Schilling makes a chocolate extract. It’s probably not quite as wonderful as the Star Kay White brand, but my old bottle of McCormick stuff still smells divine. (dabbed behind the ears and at the wrists?) The ingredient list contains “vanilla and coffee extractives” in addition to “cocoa extractives.”

  • November 29, 2008 5:01am

    David, David… you neglected the last duty of the expat. You were supposed to kill anyone who had memories of less than stellar times and then leave. That way everybody imagines you a Hemingwayesque creature.

  • Anna
    November 29, 2008 6:13pm

    David… is that a lovely, tarnished, Mauviel copper pot sitting on your stove? You’ve got my three favorite things ever on that stove picture!

    Coffee pot… check
    Brownies….. check
    Copper pot.. check

    And I see you really like “patina!” :)

  • November 29, 2008 6:55pm

    Reading your post David (salivating over the computer), I was thinking how I would absolutely love to put a bit of this extract behind each ear and just watch my husband (the chocolate lover) go for me. I can see how I’m not the only one with a similar thought. Linda H already beat me to the perfume idea however.

    You’ve made my special people Christmas stocking stuffer dreams. I now know what to get my chocoholic and foodie friends. Thank you!

  • November 30, 2008 11:07pm

    Huh, I have chocolate extract that I got in the organic section of my local Wegman’s supermarket. i had no idea it was so hard to get. I bought it because I thought it was interesting but haven’t used it…don’t know what I’m saving it for. i’ll add it to my chocolate cake next time and see if I taste a diff.

    BTW, my 20th high school reunion was this past weekend and I totally chickened out because I could not FACE all those “great” stories from the past!

  • December 1, 2008 3:13pm

    Thanks for the writeup on chocolate extract. It is interesting that we bake with vanilla extract so much but I never knew chocolate extract existed!

  • December 2, 2008 1:21pm

    So I did find some here (a long time ago) made by a local food artisan but I am wondering how they will compare. My guys has moved to better and greener pastures…although what can be better than chocolate extract?!! I love the image of people’s smiles getting bigger as the bottle passes around!

  • December 4, 2008 7:45am

    Anna: I do like patina! Almost as much as I like brownies : )

  • December 4, 2008 10:05am

    I didn’t know there was such a things as chocolate extract, but now that I do I will certainly be keeping an eye out for it :)

  • George
    December 5, 2008 6:55pm

    Hey, David, you should make a holiday gingerbread, or some type of holiday cookie recipe. It would probably be a big hit. =)

  • January 8, 2009 4:45pm

    Cocoa beans are hard to come by, but really worth the trouble.

  • July 16, 2009 3:06pm

    Color me ignorant, but let me see if I understand this correctly. We shouldn’t use extract in place of other chocolate but in addition to? Is that right?

    I found this because I thought such a thing didn’t exist. I was searching for why we don’t have chocolate extract and I’m so delighted to find that we do!

  • Steve In New York
    September 6, 2010 4:01pm

    To my complete astonishment, I found the Star Kay White chocolate extract on sale at Dean & Deluca in Soho in New York this week. Though I was (and am) not quite sure what I want to do with it, as I tend to make stuff with chocolate (chocolate dipped fruit, anyone?), rather than bake with chocolate, I picked up the bottle in your honor. I will think of something clever, I am sure.