Thanks to our partner in sweets, CakeSpy, for giving us this tutorial on one of our most favorite things besides EVOO– chocolate!
Chocolate and baking are natural partners.
Both baked goods and chocolate appeal to the sweet tooth–even more so when combined. I dare you to come up with a baked good which is not improved by chocolate.If you’re not experienced with using chocolate in baking, it can seem a bit intimidating: what type should you use? How do you weigh it? How to you melt it before incorporating it in batter? This post is meant to educate on these important subjects, by introducing you to the key types of solid chocolate used in baking. We’ll then apply this knowledge, with a tutorial on a vital skill for any baker: how to melt chocolate.
What type of chocolate should you use in baking? Well, that depends on the recipe. How will the chocolate be used? Will you be melting it and mixing it into a batter? Will you be adding chunks, such as to chocolate chip cookies? Or will you be using the chocolate for a finishing drizzle or a complete coating, such as in our cookie dough truffles?
Let’s first briefly review some of the key types of chocolate used in baking, as well as their purposes.
This type of chocolate comes in bars, but not the kind that you’d like to eat as a snack. The reason is that baking chocolate, which also goes by “unsweetened chocolate” or “bitter chocolate”, does not contain sugar. It’s solidified 100 percent chocolate liquor (the center of cocoa beans ground to a liquid), but without the frills–sweeteners, emulsifiers, flavorings–that make chocolate a sweet eating delight.
Typically, baking chocolate will be mixed into batter when baking, and the sweetness comes from elsewhere in the recipe, bringing out the flavor of the chocolate. It’s not suggested that you use baking chocolate as a substitute for chocolate morsels in cookies or as a candy coating.
Once that chocolate liquor has been fancied up a little bit with cocoa butter, sugar, emulsifiers, and maybe some flavoring, it becomes dark chocolate. It retains a high percentage of cacao. What most people think of “dark chocolate” is 65% to as high as 99%. The higher the number, the less sweet the chocolate.
Dark chocolate can also be used to classify other types of chocolate in baking, namely semisweet and bittersweet. None of these types contain milk solids.
Semisweet and bittersweet chocolate
Semisweet and bittersweet chocolate contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor, with bittersweet often carrying more cacao than semisweet. It’s this variation in the sugar-to-cocao ratio that differentiates the two. Because of its sweeter flavor, semi-sweet is more commonly used in baking, and it’s the go-to chocolate type for chocolate chip cookies.
Dark chocolate, as well as semi and bittersweet chocolate, can all be eaten out of hand, or used in recipes. Its deep flavor makes it a good choice for chocolate fillings, chocolate chunks in cookies, or even a rich ganache which can be used as a filling or topping (or both!). Refer to your recipe to know which type of dark chocolate is best; many recipes will give a suggestion.
As the name implies, dairy makes the difference when it comes to milk chocolate. It’s made by adding dry milk solids (think: powdered milk). At around 55 percent sugar and 20 percent cocoa butter, milk chocolate is mild and rather sweet.
Milk chocolate melts quickly and easily, which is great for s’mores, fillings, and icings. Unless called for in a recipe, do not substitute milk for another type of chocolate. Its higher sugar content makes it more sensitive to heat, though, so if you try to substitute milk for dark or semisweet chocolate in a recipe, there is a chance that it may burn.
AKA chocolate chips. Many types of chocolate, including dark, milk, and white chocolate (as well as a number of other flavors), can be purchased as morsels.
It’s not the intent for morsels to be melted entirely–they are designed to hold some shape when baked in cookies, and are sometimes treated to ensure this quality. Because of this, morsels might not be the best choice for melting chocolate, as the mixture may not melt smoothly. While melting chocolate chips is certainly possible, it’s not their primary use: they are far better employed for a folded-in flavoring or as a garnish or topping.
White chocolate contains sugar, milk, and cocoa butter, but no cocoa solids. Its ratios of cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar are actually quite close to milk chocolate, but without the cocoa solids it has a creamy color.
White chocolate’s sweetness makes it a lovely addition to baked goods, but you may consider slightly reducing the sugar in a recipe if you’re using white chocolate, as it is awfully sweet.
Now that you’re educated on chocolate of all sorts, read Baking With Chocolate 101, Part II to learn a vital kitchen skill: how to melt chocolate.