Choosing Chocolate Article -
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Choosing Chocolate

Pick the perfect type for baking, melting, or nibbling.

Types of Chocolate

Mmm, we all know that rich, melt-in-the-mouth quality of good chocolate. That taste sensation comes from chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa butter. Chocolate can vary in quality, of course. Lower-quality chocolate includes other fats, which raise the product's melting point, and offer a less distinct flavor.

Here's a quick guide to help you choose the perfect chocolate.

    Baking Chocolate--best for cooking and baking.

    Also called bitter or unsweetened chocolate, this type is hardened cocoa solids and cocoa butter with no added sugar. Since its taste is astringent, it's used primarily as a baking ingredient. Unsweetened chocolate contains 50 to 58 percent cocoa butter by weight. 

    Bittersweet Chocolate--best for baking, cooking, and eating.

    Bittersweet chocolate is the darkest of all eating chocolates. It must contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor. Bittersweet chocolate has a more pronounced chocolate taste because of its higher concentration of chocolate liquor and less sugar. Some premium bittersweet chocolate can have a cocoa butter and cocoa solid content of 70 percent or higher. It can be used in cooking and baking, as well as eaten for a treat.

    Semisweet and Sweet Chocolate--best for baking, cooking, and eating.

    Semisweet and sweet chocolate are similar to bittersweet but have a higher percentage of sugar and thus a sweeter taste. Their required chocolate liquor content is lower, averaging between 15 to 35 percent. Both kinds can also be used for cooking, as well as eaten as candy. Semisweet chocolate can usually be interchanged with bittersweet chocolate.

    Milk Chocolate--best for eating.

    Milk chocolate creates the sweet, creamy taste found in candy bars. Milk chocolate contains at least 12 percent dry milk solids and 10 percent chocolate liquor along with sugar and added cocoa butter.

    Although milk chocolate is generally not used in baking or cooking--as its delicate flavor is easily overwhelmed by other ingredients--it's still the chocolate of choice for most Americans, preferred over dark or semisweet varieties by two to one.

    White Chocolate--best for baking, cooking, and eating.

    This variety is not "true" chocolate, since it contains no chocolate solids. However, it contains cocoa butter, the vegetable fat that gives chocolate its snap and luscious mouthfeel. When the cocoa butter is replaced with other, less expensive fats, it's no longer white chocolate: it's referred to as Almond Bark or confectioners' coating.

    Couverture--best for baking and confections.

    A glossy form of chocolate used by professional pastry chefs and chocolatiers, this chocolate contains a minimum of 32 percent cocoa butter, which allows it to flow more easily when it's melted and tempered. You'll find this type of higher-grade chocolate in professional pastry and cake supply shops, as well as high-end groceries and online. Both dark and milk chocolate couvertures are available.

    Cocoa Powder--best for baking and beverages.

    When most of the cocoa butter is removed from chocolate liquor, a dense cake forms. This is then ground into powder containing 10 to 22 percent cocoa butter. "Dutched" or Dutch Process cocoa is cocoa powder treated with an alkalizing agent such as baking soda to make it darker, less bitter, and more soluble in liquids.

    Cocoa Nibs--best for baking.

    Cocoa nibs are roasted and broken up cocoa beans, which have a very delicate chocolate flavor. They add crunch to cookies and are a delicious addition to shortbreads and other butter cookies.

    More chocolate recipes to swoon over:

    Nov. 19, 2009 9:54 am
    Thanks for these great recipes
    Dec. 5, 2009 2:56 pm
    What about chocolate for coating nuts, truffles, and other things you dip? Should you use chocolate coating available in slabs at the grocery store. Can you also use milk chocolate chips?
    Dec. 15, 2009 1:14 pm
    If you decide to add coffee to your chocolate cake or chocolate frosting how much do you use
    Dec. 17, 2009 3:21 am
    what is parrafin
    Dec. 17, 2009 6:16 am
    Stephanie,it depends on if you want to taste the coffee or just enhance the chocolate. I don't think a chocolate dessert is done unless there's a little coffee to bring out the flavor. typicaly if your recipe calls for a cup of milk lets say, then you would dissolve 1-2 tsp instant coffee or you could use a strong cup of brewed coffee. if your recipe calls for an oil or butter but no other liquid. take about a tbls of water and then add the coffee to that. heat in microwave about a minute. stir untill dissolved and add to cake. good luck with your next baking adventure!
    Jan. 21, 2010 2:45 pm
    What a wonderful service to provide such outstanding and complete information for us. Kudos to All Recipes. I have just recently (the last five years) begun to be much more particular about what I choose to cook for my family. Thanks for helping me to understand about the best forms of chocolate to use for different circumstances. Thanks also for the awesome recipies!
    Feb. 24, 2010 9:11 pm
    Angelgirl, paraffin is a wax like you might find around a wheel of cheese. People used to mix food-grade paraffin in with chocolate in order to coat food but there are better ways (paraffin is indigestible). Use a couverture chocolate and you shouldn't need the paraffin.
    Jun. 9, 2010 10:02 am
    What chocolate is best for chocolate covered strawberries?
    Aug. 4, 2010 11:01 am
    I'm dying to make some chocolate ice cream today in my new ice cream maker. I only have unsweetened baking chocolate. The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate. I'm trying to figure out what the ratio of chocolate to sugar is to make it bittersweet. Help!! Thought my diet can wait a day or two for a response. :)
    Sep. 19, 2010 2:42 pm
    Feb. 11, 2011 11:52 pm
    To Eve: Mix the bitter chocolate with heavy cream and sugar, melt in a saucepan on low heat, adjust cream/sugar to taste.
    Mar. 29, 2011 10:24 pm
    These chocolate recipes sound good so I saved them to recipe box so I can try some of them and if we like them then I will copy to a card
    Apr. 20, 2011 7:12 am
    We are one of the leading wholesale chocolate suppliers in Australia and sell direct to the public and to a large number of wholesalers and retail stores. We have an exciting range of chocolate products and healthy snacks that not only look fantastic and taste great but are also recognised for their health benefits.

gluten free chocolate
    Dec. 23, 2011 3:06 pm
    I have made a chocolate sauce that is a little bitter for my taste. What can I add to it to make it taste less bitter?
    Dec. 27, 2011 9:58 pm
    How can I prevent melted chocolate from forming whitish spots on cookies or candy that has been dipped?
    christine g 
    Apr. 2, 2012 2:10 pm
    what about making easter goodies that call for chocolate, but i have a niece that has peanut allergies. what kind of chocolate is the best tasting to use ??
    Aug. 18, 2012 10:17 am
    I'm looking for a way to use Carob Powder since I'm allergic to chocolate. Can anyone help me with the measurements that I need to use please. Thank you :)
    Feb. 15, 2015 3:20 am
    Has anyone else noticed that this article is missing information on Dark Chocolate? Depending on the maker, Dark Chocolate can have a varying percentage of cacao (35%, 60%, 86%, 90%, etc.) and can either contain or omit milk fat. It should probably be noted in the bittersweet section that bittersweet chocolate can contain milk fat, while semisweet chocolate usually does not. As of now I cannot say if this goes for every brand of bittersweet and semisweet chocolate, but it is true of the Ghirardelli and Guittard brands. Most brands of bittersweet and semisweet also contain an emulsifier, usually soy lecithin. Artisan dark chocolate, on the other hand, can be made with just cacao beans, cane sugar, cacao butter, and whole vanilla beans. Also, when looking to buy white chocolate (which is actually dog-friendly) you should carefully read the ingredient list since many companies make "white chips" that look like white chocolate chips but contain no cacao/cocoa butter. I have found so far on
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