The best baking chocolate

What Is the Best Baking Chocolate?

There are many brands of baking chocolates out there, but most grocery stores only carry one or two options. While most of us admittedly use whichever brand is most convenient or readily available, it begs the question: Does the brand of baking chocolate really make a difference in recipes?

To find out, a simple brownie recipe was tested several times with different baking chocolates. Making multiple batches of these brownies, each with a different brand of chocolate, was the perfect way to find out if the brand of baking chocolate really makes a difference in the finished product.

The seven brands of baking chocolates tested were found in different grocery and specialty stores: Baker’s, Ghirardelli, Lindt 99%, Nestlé (pre-melted), Scharffen Berger, Valrhona, and Callebaut. Each brownie was compared based on taste, texture, and appearance.

Turns out, the brand of baking chocolate does make a significant difference in the results. After conducting this test, the findings show that it’s worth searching (and splurging) for the best brand of baking chocolate. Check out the slideshow to see which brand is the best.

Allison Stone is a trained pastry chef, caterer, and writer. Follow her at @bakingstoneny, and check out her Facebook page.

The Absolute Best Chocolate for Baking, According to the Professionals

There’s a saying about Ovenly’s Secretly Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies around Food52 headquarters: “Back off, those are mine.”

The cookies—like every other thing that comes out of Ovenly’s bakery—are beloved by Food52 staffers (and community members, alike!) for their flawless texture, just-right richness, and salty-sweet balance. And for their gooey, chocolatey perfection. Just like Ovenly’s “supreme” double chocolate brownies. Or their Brooklyn blackout cake, a cocoa-based confection frosted with dark chocolate pudding that gets whipped into a buttercream.

So when our team decided to get to the bottom of which chocolate we should be using to bake, for our Absolute Best series, we knew to look no further than right across the East River, to Ovenly founders Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin.

ELLA QUITTNER: Your cookbook has a general rule of thumb for selecting chocolate, along the following lines: Buy the best chocolate you can afford with the fewest ingredients. Could you elaborate on this? What are the general label markers one should pay attention to?

AK & EP: First and foremost, we work with companies that have sustainability and social impact goals. So, look for products on the shelf marked “fair trade” or “direct trade” that have the fewest, natural ingredients. It’s also important to find chocolate that fits your recipe needs.

The type of chocolate should pair with your treats (e.g., sweeter chocolate chip cookies pair nicely with darker, bittersweet chocolates, while a more savory chocolate-rye shortbread pairs nicely with milkier varieties). The cacao percentages are always on the label; the lower the cacao content, the higher the dairy content. Every chocolate varies in flavor by denomination as well. So, a chocolate with the same cacao content from Ghana will taste differently than one from Madagascar. Use your favorites!

EQ: If you had to pick, what’s your absolute favorite dark chocolate for baking? Imagine you could only use one for the rest of your life across all recipes that call for solid chocolate. Why is it the best for baking, in your opinion?

AK & EP: Opinion is all about subjective taste. We love the Guittard Extra Dark Chips (63% cacao content) for their versatility. They’re great as is for cookies, melting into chocolate pudding cakes, or using in gooey brownies, but they also work well for dark chocolate ganache and sauces.

EQ: How about your absolute favorite milk chocolate for baking, if you had to choose just one?

AK & EP: Guittard wins the day again. We love the Soleil D’or (38% cacao content) for the same versatility reasons, but it is also delicious, rich, and velvety. If you want to try a fun and excellent atypical variety, try out Caramélia from Valrhona. It tastes like the best combination of caramel and chocolate all in one.

EQ: Do you have any favorite chocolate brands for baking that you swear by for someone looking to shell out the least, but get the best possible result?

AK & EP: When we can’t find our favorites, Ghirardelli is widely available. Plus, there’s something nostalgic about their semi-sweet chips. In terms of labels, the best options are always the ones with the least amount of ingredients.

EQ: In your cookbook, you provide a super helpful primer on dark Dutch-process cocoa versus Dutch-process, versus American-process. What’s your favorite cocoa powder to use in each category? (Which dark Dutch-process cocoa do you use in Ovenly’s Brooklyn blackout cake? Has this ever changed?)

AK & EP: There’s only one dark Dutch-process cocoa that we use in the Brooklyn blackout bake—it’s Guittard’s Cocoa Noir. Valrhona Dutch-process cocoa—for brownies, cakes, cookies, etc.—is our go-to for baking. It has a deep, bittersweet flavor, without being overwhelming. We rarely use American-process cocoa (though it’s great in hot chocolate and red velvet cake), but be sure to note what your recipe calls for, as American-process and Dutch-process differ in acidity and affect rise.

EQ: Is there anything else we should know about baking with chocolate, or baking with cocoa powder?

AK & EP: If you’re making a chocolate-based dough or batter, using only melted chocolate will result in a richer flavor, and using only cocoa will result in a more delicate one. The biggest thing readers should know is that they should have fun—try all sorts of chocolate; if the recipe calls for melted chocolate, try to mix it up with some cocoa; and test all the varieties (sampling is the best sport). Surprises often yield delicious results.

What’s your favorite chocolate for baking? Let us know in the comments!

On more than one occasion, I’ve been chastised for using obscure ingredients that only Brooklyn hipsters can buy, an accusation that never fails to crack me up—I live in rural Kentucky. Aside from the Dutch cocoa and instant yeast that I order online, virtually all of my grocery shopping happens at a tiny Kroger that anchors the local strip mall.

But you won’t find me shopping for chocolate in the baking aisle, which is stocked with some truly abysmal stuff. No, I’ll be a few aisles over, where chocolate bars are lined up next to other fancy snacks. If you can sift through the flavored options loaded with blueberries or mint, you’ll find a decent array of plain chocolate bars that happen to be excellent for baking.

Of course, the exact selection will vary depending on the buying practices of any given grocery manager, but it takes a national distribution network to get these chocolates to Kentucky, which means there’s a reasonable chance you’ll find them nearby as well. And if that’s not the case, all of these brands are just one click away, and a huge upgrade from baking with chocolate chips.

To learn more about baking with chocolate, visit our complete guide “

Theo

Theo is a Seattle-based, fair-trade, bean-to-bar chocolate company that sources most of its cocoa (and vanilla!) from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Theo, the 70% bar is kosher, gluten-free, and suitable for vegans.

Theo 70% is a sweet and fruity but versatile chocolate. Try it as part of a blend for chocolate chip cookies, or incorporate it into sauces and ganache to pair with lighter desserts, like strawberry cake or even an orange twist on this Meyer lemon ice cream.

Green & Black’s

Green & Black’s is another fair-trade chocolate that’s easy to find in most supermarkets and bodegas. Its organic line is sourced primarily from Trinitario beans grown in Belize and the Dominican Republic.

Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao, OLD 10 Count

$27.30from Amazon

Green & Black’s 70% is smooth, rich, and none too sweet, with just a hint of fruitiness to round things out. It’s a chameleon that works well in just about any recipe that calls for dark chocolate, whether it’s chocolate popcorn or chocolate cream pie.

Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange is a worker-owned, fair-trade chocolate company based in Massachusetts, though its bars are manufactured in Switzerland. According to its website, its dark chocolate is kosher and vegan.

Equal Exchange 71% is rich and cocoa-forward, with a mellow bitterness and earthy flavor that feels super classic—my perfect chocolate bar for s’mores. Its straightforward profile suits a range of recipes, from brownies to devil’s food cake, but its simple cocoa flavor makes Equal Exchange perfect for slicking across the back of a digestive biscuit or graham cracker, too. It also makes a balanced counterpoint to the sweetness of a homemade Pudding Pop.

Chocolove

Chocolove is a fair-trade chocolate company based in Boulder, Colorado. The name and cute packaging certainly suggest chocolate bars meant for snacking, and, to that end, these bars are indeed freakishly smooth and creamy. But to me, their true value is in the kitchen, where their consistency is an asset to just about any baking project.

Chocolove Chocolate Bar, 65% Rich Dark, 3.2 Ounce (Pack of 12)

$32.42from Amazon

Chocolove Dark Chocolate, Strong 70%, 3.2 Ounce (Pack of 12)

$42.54from Amazon

Chocolove 65%, on the lighter end of the spectrum, is sweet but complex—the sort of thing you’d toss into a batch of double-chocolate cookies or melt into a ganache to drizzle over a chocolate cherry layer cake. If you’ve got my cookbook, try it as the topping for my homemade Hostess-style cupcakes.

Chocolove 70% has a tawny, dare I say tobacco-like quality that gives it an alluring depth. It’s great for dairy-centric applications, like pots de crème, ganache, and chocolate buttercream, where fruitier chocolates can make the finished product seem weirdly tangy or sharp.

Chocolove 77% is bold and bright, but a little astringent; while not my favorite for snacking, it’s a great chocolate for sweeter desserts that could use its acidity for balance. It works especially well in baked goods, whether melted into cake or brownie batter or chopped into chunks for cookies and quick breads, where it’ll maintain its creaminess as well as any commercial “morsel.”

Endangered Species

Endangered Species is a fair-trade chocolate company that sources its chocolate from West Africa; the bars I use are certified vegan, kosher, and gluten-free. Its range of chocolate includes many flavored bars, each with its own animal mascot, but my favorite is the chimp—Endangered Species 72%. It’s my go-to supermarket chocolate, with an archetypal chocolate flavor: rich and strong, bitter but not aggressively so, with a toasty finish. It’s awesome in malted chocolate chip cookies, but, to be honest, I use it in just about everything.

Unsweetened chocolates tend to be unbalanced or one-dimensional, so Endangered Species 88% is about the darkest chocolate I ever reach for. The panther is an all-too-fitting mascot for this chocolate, which is powerful, elegant, and smooth, with an almost floral aftertaste. It’s my favorite for high-sugar recipes like nougat and fudge, or as a last-minute addition, like chocolate shavings over tiramisu. Thanks to its sweet aroma, this chocolate is a nice match for cocoa butter cookies as well.

Alter Eco

Though technically not as dark as Endangered Species 88%, Alter Eco’s 85% packs a far stronger punch. What it lacks in nuance it makes up for in bitterness, with an intensity that could cut through even the most sugary block of fudge. Used sparingly, it can bring balance to your favorite candies, or simply offset the sweetness of a skillet cookie.

The real point is to get to know the types of chocolate your grocery store has to offer, and find out for yourself what works best for your baking routine (and your budget). So play the field, experiment with some different chocolates, and remember that their flavor will evolve in the recipe. You may not gravitate to the same types of chocolates that I do, but taking the time to buy a good-quality bar instead of chips will make even the simplest desserts a lot better.

All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.

Chocolates

Wholesale Baking Chocolates

Great Selection of Wholesale Baking Chocolate at OliveNation

Most bakers can agree that buying bulk chocolate chips or chunks essential. Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate cake make up a large part of our baking, so we are sure to have chocolate stowed in our pantry at all times.
There are several kinds of baking chocolate because different recipes require different types. However, not all wholesale baking chocolate is of the same caliber. At OliveNation, we stock quality wholesale chocolate for baking. You can find almost all of the types you need, including:
* Chocolate Chips and Chocolate Chunks: These bulk chocolates chips are great for cookies as they hold their shape. There’s nothing like a brownie or cookie with a luscious chunk of chocolate inside.
* Chocolate Sticks: Bake to-die-for chocolate croissants with Callebaut’s Dark Chocolate Sticks.
* Chocolate Blocks: Blocks of chocolate are perfect for people who use a lot of chocolate for baking. Bakeries and pastry chefs often use blocks of chocolate because they go through tons of it. If baking is your hobby, and you’re always whipping up treats for friends and family, buying blocks of chocolate may save you a little money. Find Callebaut, Peter’s Chocolate and Guittard Chocolate Blocks at OliveNation.
* Chocolate Baking Extracts: Chocolate Extract boosts the chocolate flavor in a recipe. One of our customers uses our Chocolate Extract to add chocolate flavor to pound cake without changing its color too much as cocoa powder would. Find Organic Chocolate Extract, White Chocolate Flavor, Chocolate Malt Flavor, and Chocolate Extract in OliveNation’s online store.
* Cocoa Powder: You can find Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder in our store as well as high-fat cocoa powder for richer baking.
* Colored Chocolate: We carry several colors of Clasen wafers. These tempered chocolates are fantastic for chocolate lollipops, party favors, cake pops, and more. Colored chocolate is so fun for making themed treats. * Dark Chocolate: OliveNation is proud to carry premium brands of dark chocolate for baking such as Valrhona, Guittard, and Callebaut. Our own brand of dark chocolate is excellent, too. You’ll find different percentages of cacao and various forms of dark chocolate such as blocks, chips, Valrhona Feves, and wafers.
* Milk Chocolate: We offer premium brands of milk chocolate including Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips, Callebaut Milk Chocolate Blocks, OliveNation Milk Chocolate Chunks, and more.
* White Chocolate: Premium white chocolate tastes amazing unlike the waxy white chocolate found in some grocery stores. Real white chocolate is made with the good stuff: cocoa butter. OliveNation has a range of white chocolate to choose from including Callebaut White Chocolate Blocks, Guittard White Chocolate Chips, OliveNation Single Origin White Chocolate Baking Wafers, and more.
* Melting Chocolate: OliveNation stocks a range of melting chocolate. Chocolate wafers are so convenient because you don’t have to chop chocolate. We have dipping chocolate that’s perfect for dipping fruit such as strawberries. Also, find tempered chocolate wafers for candy making.
* Chocolate Toppings: Find chocolate sprinkles including the fantastic Callebaut Vermicelli and Callebaut Milk Chocolate Crispearls. OliveNation also sells Ghirardelli Chocolate Sauces. They’re so good drizzled on ice cream and desserts.
When you need quality chocolate for baking at good prices, shop for it at OliveNation.

General FAQs about Chocolates

Does OliveNation sell chocolates in bulk?

OlivaNation offers high-quality baking chocolates. We take wholesale orders and have a special wholesale program for those looking to buy chocolates in bulk quantity.

What types of baking chocolates do you have?

OliveNation features a wide variety of dark, milk, and white chocolates for baking, including chocolate chips, chunks, blocks, and sticks. We also have cocoa powder, colored chocolates, toppings, and baking extracts at great prices.

What baking chocolate brands do you carry?

OliveNation carries the best chocolate brands such as Ghirardelli, Callebaut, Guittard, and Blommer, to name a few. We also have our own range of baking chocolates made of the finest ingredients.

Dark Chocolate

In the past decade, Americans have gotten serious about dark chocolate. Rich, complex, and even bitter, its flavor transcends the mild, sugar-laden milk chocolate that many of us grew up with. As a result, ever-climbing cacao percentages are now posted prominently on packaging, and chocophiles have come to describe bars with the same level of detail that they’d use for a fine Cabernet. “Bean to bar” is hot, as artisanal chocolatiers take control of every aspect of chocolate making, from sourcing to production. Single-origin bars are trendy, too, showcasing distinct regional characteristics such as the intensely floral flavor of beans from the mountains of Peru or the dried mint overtones of bars made from the beans from Trinidad.

But almost all these pricey chocolates are meant to be eaten plain, savored by the sliver, rather than used for cooking. It seems wasteful to cook with them, as many of their more delicate notes won’t survive a hot oven. (You know that unmistakable fragrance that pervades the kitchen when you’re baking chocolate cake or brownies? Those are flavor and aroma volatiles driven out of the baked goods by the heat.)

To find a great everyday dark chocolate, we focused on national supermarket brands; after all, we want to be able to pick some up whenever the need for a brownie strikes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t set a standard of identity for dark chocolate except that “bittersweet” and “semisweet” chocolate must contain at least 35 percent cacao—and it doesn’t differentiate between the two terms. (The cacao percentage is the portion of the chocolate made from the cacao bean and includes both cocoa solids and cocoa butter; the rest is mostly sugar.) In the past we’ve focused on products with about 60 percent cacao, but this time, to truly evaluate all the supermarket options, if it met the FDA’s 35 percent cacao minimum, we considered it for our lineup. We found nine nationally available chocolates, priced from $0.47 to $1.43 per ounce, and included our winner from a previous tasting, which is available in most Whole Foods Markets and via mail order.

We conducted three blind taste tests, evaluating the chocolates’ flavor, sweetness, texture, and overall appeal. We sampled them plain and also in brownies to see how well the chocolate flavor endured heat. Finally we melted them in pots de crème—a creamy application where textural differences are laid bare. After the results were tallied, we had to ask: Was there such a thing as a great-tasting, easy-to-find dark chocolate that works well in recipes? Happily, yes. But buyer beware: It’s stacked on supermarket shelves right next to products that can ruin a dessert.

The Dark Side

Dark chocolate is made of three primary ingredients: cocoa butter, cocoa solids, and sugar. Across the board in the chocolates we tasted, we determined that fat levels were relatively consistent, with cocoa butter making up about one-third of the total composition of each chocolate; the remaining two-thirds is a tug-of-war between sugar and cocoa solids—more sugar means fewer cocoa solids and vice versa. Sugar amounts ranged from 36 to 57 percent; in the plain and brownie tastings, products with more than 50 percent sugar sank to the bottom of the ratings, coming off as “sickeningly sweet,” with a “faint” chocolate presence. In the same tastings, we weren’t surprised to find that low-sugar, high-cocoa-solids products rocketed to the top, scoring points for intense chocolate flavor.

But it wasn’t until we made pots de crème that we realized that the wrong ratio of sugar to cocoa solids could actually ruin a recipe: Our 10 custards—each made exactly the same except for the chocolate that we used—ran the gamut from loose and drippy to dense and decadently creamy. Previous tastings taught us that more cocoa solids make firmer pots de crème, and in this lineup the solids ranged from 13 to 30 percent. Indeed, when we organized our pots de crème from runniest to firmest, we noted that those made with products with less than 20 percent cocoa solids failed to set up, dripping off our spoons. Chocolates with 22 to 25 percent cocoa solids hit the sweet spot, turning out consistently dense and creamy. At the extreme, the two products with the most cocoa solids, sometimes caused the custard to break and turn clumpy, a result of cocoa particles bonding with themselves instead of with the limited amount of free water in the mix. But thanks to the natural variability of water in eggs and even minor differences in heat and stirring rates, clumping didn’t always happen.

Bar Brawl

In the end, two 60-percent-cacao chocolates that we’ve singled out in the past topped our charts, but they weren’t identical: Tasters raved about one, calling it “complex” and “luxurious.” Its downside is that it can be a little hard to source and is sometimes finicky in creamy applications. The second always produced texturally flawless desserts that were “luscious” and “subtly fruity”; plus it’s available in supermarkets nationwide. In addition, it is supremely easy to work with when it’s melted (such as when we are glazing a cake or tart) because it has the highest fat level of all 10 products. (More fat means better flow when the chocolate is melted, since fat creates a liquid base that transports the other ingredients.) The type of fat is important, too. Our supermarket favorite contains milk fat (along with cocoa butter); the other doesn’t. In fact, six of our 10 products add milk fat, an ingredient that has been used increasingly in recent years for its softening effect. Milk fat has a lower and wider melting range (85 to 94 degrees) than cocoa butter (90 to 93 degrees), so chocolates containing milk fat melt faster and stay liquid longer, giving a wider window of liquidity that can come in handy if you’re making, say, truffles or trying to smooth the top of a chocolate tart.

We ultimately chose our winning dark chocolate for its effortless performance across all applications and easy availability.

We tasted 10 nationally available supermarket brands of dark chocolate that met the FDA minimum of at least 35 percent cacao, sampling them in three blind ­tastings—plain, in brownies, and in our Cook’s Illustrated Chocolate Pots de Crème recipe—and rating them on flavor, texture, sweetness, and overall appeal. Fat and sugar levels were taken from nutrition labels and are expressed in a serving size of 42 grams. We learned approximate cacao percentages from manufacturers and calculated approximate cocoa solids with the help of chocolate experts from the Penn State University Cocoa, Chocolate, and Confectionery Research Group and the MIT Lab for Chocolate Science; levels are plus or minus 2 percent. Scores were averaged and the products appear in order of preference.

Last week, I introduced you to my monthly baking challenge. It’s a project I’d been brainstorming for awhile, but never got around to actually executing. Now that it’s live, I wish we had all been doing this together sooner!

February’s baking challenge recipe revolves around chocolate. MOLTEN lava chocolate if we’re being particular! And as Valentine’s Day approaches, I figure this week is the perfect time to discuss the delicious beast that is chocolate. Grab a cup of coffee and stick around because this is a good one.

Welcome to another baking basics!

When I was in St. Lucia last year, we took a half-day tour and learned about all about its agriculture. Most specifically, cacao. Obviously my favorite part of the day. Let’s see how much I can remember!

Chocolate is derived from cacao– and it doesn’t become chocolate until the pod is harvested, the beans are removed from the pod, then fermented, dried, roasted, ground into a paste (aka chocolate liquor– no alcohol!), then mixed with other ingredients like sugar and milk (milk chocolate!). Woo-eee! That’s a lot.

After that roasting, however, the shells are removed from the dried cacao beans which leaves the cocoa nib. The nib is what you need for chocolate! Well not YOU but the chocolate makers. These nibs are what are ground into chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor can be sold as such, also known as “baking chocolate” (more on baking chocolate below!) or processed further to separate the fat (cocoa butter) and eventually become cocoa powder.

Bars, Chips, Powder?

The baking aisle is loaded with chocolate choices. Who knew such a tasty aisle could leave us in so much bewilderment? Let’s start with cocoa powder. Actually, let’s rule it out completely. Cocoa powder, while from cacao as you know, is a completely different ingredient that deserves its very own post. (←click right there for it!)

When a recipe calls for chocolate (not “cocoa” and not “chocolate chips”) the recipe is referring to baking chocolate. It’s not referring to chocolate chips. Thanks to stabilizers and preservatives, chocolate chips are designed not to melt under heat. If you stick them in the microwave or double boiler, you’ll certainly have a melted chocolate product. Delicious, of course, but not what you want as the base of your brownies, cakes, in puddings, ganache, frosting, lava cakes, or coating around your candies. Save the chips for your cookies; they taste best that way!

Baking chocolate, on the other hand, is what you should be reaching for. In its pure form, baking chocolate is unsweetened chocolate aka chocolate liquor. It is 100% chocolate without any added sugar or flavors. It’s bitter and therefore used in recipes with added sugar. While “baking chocolate” is unsweetened chocolate, you can use other chocolate varieties in baking. It’s a little confusing, I know. Chocolate used for baking can also be bittersweet, semi-sweet, milk, and white chocolate varieties– but the term “baking chocolate” typically means unsweetened. Got it?

Major chocolate brands in the baking aisle sell chocolate in bar form, typically 4 ounce bars– and they’re right next to or above the chocolate chips in the baking aisle. There are several brands to choose from like Baker’s, Ghirardelli, Lindt (Lindt bars are actually sometimes in the candy aisle), Nestle, Scharffen Berger, etc. The latter is a pricier choice but you get what you pay for: absolutely DIVINE chocolate. If you shop at Trader Joe’s, their “Pound Plus” bar is the right choice. Great quality and hefty amount for a steal of a price!

This chocolate melts down uniformly because it contains few additional ingredients besides the cacao. If I’m using chocolate as a coating for candies, sometimes I add 1/2 teaspoon of oil when I’m melting it down. This makes dunking and dipping easier because it slightly thins out the chocolate.

Did you know? All baking chocolate– whether that is unsweetened, bittersweet, semi-sweet, etc– is tempered in factories before you buy it. Tempering is a matter of heating and cooling melted chocolate to certain temperatures so that the finished chocolate will have a glossy surface, a smooth texture, and snap when you break it. Properly tempered chocolate will not melt on contact with your fingers. But once you melt it down to use as coating for candies and such, the tempering process must be repeated in order to maintain the same desirable texture. I discuss tempering chocolate at length in Sally’s Candy Addiction if you have a copy. Though never required for my recipes (melting without tempering is OK!), we only need to worry about tempering chocolate when using it for candy. Turn to page 42 to learn more!

Wait, What are Chocolate Wafers?

Grocery stores also carry chocolate wafers. They’re perfect for melting as a coating because they don’t contain stabilizers. Wafers are fantastic for unbaked goodies like ganache, puddings, frostings, and coating around candies. Unlike baking chocolate, I don’t recommend wafers for actual baked recipes. You want to reach for chocolate that is made for baking.

Percentages on Chocolate

Ever wonder what the percentage on a chocolate bar means? This number actually tells you quite a lot about the flavor you’re about to unwrap– it refers to the percentage of ingredients by weight coming from cacao. A higher percentage means more intense chocolate flavor and less sweet.

Types of Chocolate

White chocolate: let’s start here because it’s not technically chocolate! White chocolate has cocoa butter in it, but does not contain any chocolate liquor. Remember learning about those two above? Since there’s no chocolate liquor, many argue that white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate. Whatever, it’s still amazing.

Bittersweet/dark chocolate: these two terms are usually used interchangeably. “Semi-sweet” contains 35 – 45% cacao and is usually sweeter than bittersweet or dark varieties. However, there are no legal restrictions to distinguish between all 3 and, depending on the brand, “bittersweet” or “dark” may have the same percentage as “semi-sweet.” Regardless, it will be darker and more intense than milk chocolate and sweeter than unsweetened.

Semi-sweet: see above. It can be used interchangeably with bittersweet/dark chocolate. It’s what I use most often in baking because it’s the most readily available. It’s the base of our lava cakes!

Milk chocolate: only 10% cacao. Super sweet and oh-so-good!

Q: What’s your favorite?

I’ll have to write a separate post on melting and tempering chocolate sometime!

More lessons for ya:

  • Room Temperature Ingredients Make a Difference
  • My Top 10 Baking Tips
  • 14 Kitchen Tools Every Baker Needs
  • Favorite Candy Making Tools
  • Dutch-process & Natural Cocoa Powder
  • Salted Butter vs Unsalted Butter in Baking

If you haven’t already, try the lava cakes for the baking challenge this month. Share your photos throughout this month using #sallysbakingchallenge on Instagram or email me, tweet me, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page. It’s been fun so far!

White, Dark, Milk, Cocoa… Here’s Your Guide To Every Type of Chocolate

One of the (oh so many) wonderful things about chocolate is that it comes in a lot of different forms. Whatever your baking project, there is a way to chocolate it up. You just have to know your choices and when to use each . And that’s exactly what I’m here to tell you.

Baking chocolate

Baking chocolate (also known as unsweetened chocolate or bitter chocolate) comes in a bar, but it is no candy bar: There’s no sugar in this and it is super bitter.

Basically, it’s the essence of chocolate: solidified 100-percent chocolate liquor (the center of cocoa beans ground to a liquid) without added sweeteners, flavors and emulsifiers.

Baking chocolate comes in many varieties, including semi-sweet and milk. But unless your recipe says otherwise, use unsweetened in brownies , cakes, frosting and the like, adding sugar separately. This gives you the most control over the sweetness.

Conversely, don’t use baking chocolate in recipes that don’t mix it with sugar, like candy coating. And don’t chop it up for chocolate-chip cookies. Just. Don’t.

Dark Chocolate (Includes Both Semisweet and Bittersweet)

Dark chocolate is chocolate liquor that’s been fancied up with extra cocoa butter, sugar, emulsifiers and flavorings. It retains a high percentage of cacao — anywhere from 65 to 99 percent. The higher the percentage, the less sweet.

There are several kinds of dark chocolate, all with different ratios of sugar to cocoa. None contain milk solids, which is excellent news for vegans.

Semisweet chocolate and bittersweet chocolate are types of dark chocolate that contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor. Bittersweet usually contains more cacao than semisweet, which is sweeter.

Dark chocolate can be eaten straight up or used in recipes for ganaches , icings, glazes and cookies. Semisweet should be your default for chocolate-chip cookies.

Some dark chocolate can be quite expensive. Reserve the really good stuff for recipes that let it shine, or for days when your mood needs a big lift. Or both.

Milk Chocolate

Just like the name suggests, milk chocolate does contain dairy. It’s commonly made by adding dry milk solids (like powdered milk) to the chocolate. At around 55 percent sugar and 20 percent cocoa butter, this creamy variety of chocolate is mild and quite sweet.

Milk chocolate melts easily, which is great when you’re making something like s’mores. You certainly can use it in doughs and batters, but it’s easiest to handle in no-bake recipes such as sauces, fillings or icings, or as a topping for already-baked treats.

One word of warning: Milk chocolate’s high sugar content makes it sensitive to heat, so it may burn if you try to use it in recipes that call for semisweet chocolate. Be careful out there.

White Chocolate

White chocolate is made of sugar, milk and cocoa butter, but without the cocoa solids. Its ratios are actually quite close to milk chocolate’s, but the absence of cocoa solids gives it a creamy, ivory hue.

White chocolate’s sweetness makes it a great addition to baked goods, which typically call for less sugar to compensate. But don’t sub it in for dark or baking chocolate, as it may burn.

It’s also wonderful as a candy coating or in icings and ganache.

Chocolate Morsels

These are the little “chocolate kiss”-shaped morsels that you stir into cookies — sold in dark, milk and white.

Morsels won’t melt entirely; they’re meant to hold their chip-like shape. So fold them into batter or dough or use as a topping.

Chocolate-Flavored Coating

Coating chips use vegetable fats to supplement (or replace) the cocoa butter. Technically, they’re not really chocolate at all. They do have a slight chocolate flavor — though sometimes they can also taste waxy.

Chocolate coating melts well, so it’s useful for making truffles, cake pops or other treats. It’s also rather malleable, so it works well in shaped molds.

Cocoa Powder (Includes Dutch Process Cocoa)

Cocoa powder is made from ground cocoa solids that don’t contain any cocoa butter. There are two key types: regular and Dutch process.

The regular variety is sold as sweetened (for hot cocoa and such) and unsweetened (the kind more frequently used in baking). This cocoa reacts with alkali ingredients such as baking soda, helping give baked goods a lift.

Dutch process cocoa (also sold as “dutched” or “alkalized”) has been treated with an alkaline solution to neutralize acidity. This process darkens the color and makes the flavor more mild.

How to Choose the Right Chocolate for Cooking and Baking

Know Your Chocolate

There’s a Willy Wonka’s worth of chocolate out there vying for your baking, cooking, and eating dollars. And, with so much to choose from, it’s good to know the difference between the varieties, and how to pick the kind of chocolate that’s just right for your recipe.

Image zoom Choosing the right chocolate for your recipe makes all the difference | Photo by Meredith

Quick Overview of Chocolate

Chocolate comes from the seeds, or nibs, of the cacao tree. They’re roasted and ground to produce a liquid or paste called chocolate liquor, which can then be separated into cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Tweaking ratios of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and other ingredients produces the different types of chocolate on the market. To keep everything legit, the FDA maintains industry standards for labeling chocolate.

The Right Chocolate for Your Recipe

Use this simple chart to see which kind of chocolate works best for melting and molding,cooking, baking, eating, or drinking.

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Chocolate Confidential

Baking chocolate. Also called bitter or unsweetened chocolate. This solid chocolate liquor contains 50-58% cocoa butter and no added sugar. Best for cooking and baking.

Bittersweet chocolate. Darkest of all eating chocolates. Has the strongest chocolate flavor and contains at least 35% chocolate liquor. Some premium brands contain 70% or more cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Best for cooking, baking, and eating.

Semisweet. Often used in place of bittersweet, but has more added sugar. Contains at least 35% chocolate liquor. Best for cooking, baking, and eating.

Sweet chocolate. Has more added sugar than semisweet, and contains at least 15% chocolate liquor. Best for cooking, baking, and eating.

Milk chocolate. Contains at least 10% chocolate liquor and at least 12% milk solids to give it a sweet and creamy taste. Best for eating.

White chocolate. Not really a “true” chocolate because it does not contain chocolate solids. Contains at least 20% cocoa butter. Foodie Fact: When the cocoa butter is replaced with other, less expensive fats, it can no longer be labeled as white chocolate; it’s sold as almond bark or confectioners’ coating. Best for cooking, baking, and eating.

Cocoa powder. Can be sweet or bitter. Made by drying and grinding chocolate liquor and removing most of the cocoa butter, but must still retain 10-22% cocoa butter. “Dutched” or Dutch-process cocoa is treated with an alkalizing agent to make it darker, less bitter, and more soluble in liquids. Best for baking and drinking.

Couverture. Favored by candy-making pros. Contains at least 32% cocoa butter, which makes it very glossy and allows it to flow more easily when it’s melted and tempered. Comes in bars or coins called pistoles. Best for melting and baking.

Cocoa Nibs. Made by roasting and breaking up cocoa beans. Adds crunch to cookies and dessert garnishes. Best for baking.

Now go forth and face the most daunting array of chocolate armed with the knowledge you need to get exactly what you want.

Baking Chocolate Taste Test

C hocolate desserts are tremendously popular, and the quality of chocolate used is extremely important, whether it’s cookies, brownies, a cake, or hot fudge sauce you’re making. To compare the merits of commonly available semisweet baking chocolates, we selected seven brands and baked a batch of brownies with each, using the same Ultimate Brownie recipe. This way we could fully assess which brands performed best. What were we looking for? Baking chocolate that produces a brownie with rich flavor and incredibly moist texture—no bad aftertaste, no chalky dryness. In other words, addictively good results.

Best Baking Chocolate

Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar ($2.70)
Pros: This made for a moist, fudgy brownie. “It has a good chew, and a nice shattering crust that I associate with brownies,” stated one editor.

Cons: Had an unappetizing and deceiving dry look.

First Runner-Up

Callebaut Semi-Sweet Chocolate Block ($8.99 per pound)
Pros: Tasters liked this chocolate because it made a cakier, lighter brownie. One editor said, “It has the richest chocolate flavor of them all!”

Cons: Most expensive of the bunch.

Second Runner-Up

Baker’s Semi-Sweet All Purpose Baking Chocolate ($2.99)
Pros: “The smell is to die for,” stated one editor. All agreed this brownie was so rich that it almost looked and tasted like ganache.

Cons: Some found this brownie too sweet.

The Other Contenders

Hershey’s makes a favorite chocolate for snacking, but when it comes to baking chocolate, this brand produced a pale and bland-tasting brownie. Scharffen Berger’s baking chocolate was surprisingly disappointing as well. It made a beautifully dark, fudgy-looking brownie with a smooth top, but the texture was chalky and the taste muddy. The Dagoba-made brownie had a crumbly texture, and even tasted “powdery,” said one tester. Nói Síríus stood out for its original and simple packaging, though the taste of this brownie came up short: It looked gooey and fudgy—to a fault—yet was missing an oomph of chocolate. All four brands’ brownies would have been better with a scoop of ice cream.

Additional Taste Test Details

All seven types of semisweet baking chocolate evaluated are available nationwide in supermarkets or online. Listed from highest to lowest score achieved, they are: Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar, Callebaut Semi-Sweet Chocolate Block, Baker’s Semi-Sweet All Purpose Baking Chocolate, Hershey’s Baking Chocolate, Scharffen Berger’s Semisweet Dark Chocolate Baking Bar, Dagoba Organic Semisweet chocolate for baking, Nói Síríus 45 percent Semi-Sweet Pure Icelandic Chocolate.

Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of the same Ultimate Brownie recipe made with seven types of semisweet baking chocolate bars. Results were ranked using the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being best).

Photo: 4nitsirk

Prices and availability subject to change.
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