There are so many different types of chocolates lining the shopping aisles and it can be overwhelming trying to pick which to use for baking. While it’s all chocolate at the end of the day (you really can’t go wrong by adding chocolate to your bakes!), being able to pick the best type of chocolate for your baking application is an absolute superpower that can elevate your bakes from ‘mmm, this is nice‘ to firework-frenzied heights of deliciousness.
What makes a *perfect* chocolate chip cookie for you? Do you like pools of molten chocolate or nice thick chocolate chunks? Dark chocolate to balance out the sweetness, or milk chocolate for its creaminess? The rustic look of a chopped slab, or the uniformity of chocolate drops? Everyone is going to have different answers, and it all comes down to personal preference.
Which chocolate is which?
Chocolate can be split into two main families based on the quality of ingredients used, namely couverture and compound. Let’s dive into their basic differences and defining characteristics.
Couverture chocolate refers to the high-end stuff like Lindt, Afrikoa and other local bean-to-bar brands. It uses top-quality ingredients derived from cocoa beans, such as cocoa butter and cocoa solids/mass, which gives the chocolate a superior flavour with a beautiful sheen and sharp snap. Cocoa butter allows couverture chocolate to melt beautifully into a velvety liquid, making it ideal for molten chocolate chunks and for preparing dreamy ganaches, glazes and frostings.
If chocolate has a percentage on its packaging, it’s most likely couverture quality. The percentages indicate the quantity of cocoa solids it contains – a higher percentage means a darker, more bitter flavour. Milk chocolate falls in the 30% range, semisweet dark chocolate around 55% and bittersweet dark chocolate above 70%.
Good to know! Couverture quality chocolate drops are often referred to as ‘callets’.
Compound chocolate refers to most types of baking chocolate (e.g. chocolate chips, drops and discs) and ‘everyday eating’ slabs, like Beacon and Cadbury. This type of chocolate is made more affordable by replacing the pure cocoa bean ingredients with cheaper alternatives like vegetable oil and cocoa powder, and by including lots more sugar, stabilisers and emulsifiers. Consequently, this gives the chocolate a dull appearance and a soft, waxy sortofa texture (although it’s still delicious in its own right!)
Due to the lack of cocoa butter, compound chocolate doesn’t melt well (it often resembles more of a gooey paste) which gives it the unique ability to hold its shape when baked. It’s a great choice if you prefer thicker chocolate chunks and uniform chocolate drops in your bakes.
Choosing your chocolate
So what do you do with all this fancy, technical knowledge about chocolate? The best place to start is to consider what the most important aspect(s) of the chocolate will be in your bakes – its melting ability, sweetness, appearance…? What you choose will be dependent on what you’re baking. For example, while you may choose a slab of mild 70% Lindt chocolate for your choc chip cookies, perhaps you prefer thicker chunks of sweet Cadbury milk chocolate in your brownies.
THE MELTING FACTOR
The superior melting ability of couverture chocolate makes it an ideal choice for molten chocolate chunks, and for making glossy ganaches, glazes and frostings. Pick a slab of Lindt or other couverture chocolate for these applications.
However, if you prefer the uniformity of perfect chocolate chips or thick chunks of chocolate, your best bet is a chopped slab of Cadbury or baking chocolate drops.
THE SWEETNESS FACTOR
You can control the sweetness of your bakes by being intentional about picking white, milk and dark chocolate and the ingredients you pair them with. The raspberries in these Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies beautifully balance the sweetness of the white chocolate, while these Espresso Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies make a devilishly decadent pair. Semisweet (~55%) dark chocolate, like Cadbury Bourneville, is a great Goldilocks choice when in doubt.
THE APPEARANCE FACTOR
Aside from the above points, appearance is also a factor when choosing between a chopped slab and perfect chocolate chips. We prefer the rustic look of a roughly chopped slab, plus it allows you to control the shape and size of your chunks.
Who knew that one of life’s simple pleasures could be so complicated? While we dove into all sorts of technical nit-picking details, at the end of the day chocolate is chocolate, so no matter what type you choose to use in your bakes, it will ultimately be delicious. Experiment, have fun and learn what you like best!
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