All chocolate is not created equal. When shopping for your chocolate look at the label to find the percent of cocoa butter contained in the bar. The cocoa butter is where all the flavor and texture is. The higher the percent, the better the chocolate.
Unsweetened Chocolate: It is also called baking, plain or bitter chocolate. Since no sugar has been added to the chocolate it has a strong, bitter taste that is used in cooking and baking but is never eaten out of hand.
There are two styles of cocoa – natural and “dutched.” The difference is an additional processing step. Natural cocoa is mildly acidic. Dutched cocoa has been alkalized (so its supposed to be smoother, less bitter and more soluble).
Rule of Thumb: Dutch process is alkalized and cocoa such as Hershey’s cocoa is non-alkalized. If your recipe calls for Dutch process cocoa and you do not have any and you want to use Hershey cocoa, add a smidge of baking soda to even out the alkalinity and keep the cake from being coarse and dry. And vice versa – if you are baking a cake and it calls for regular cocoa and all you have is Dutch-processed cocoa, just leave out any baking soda in the recipe.
Bittersweet Chocolate: Still dark, but a little sweeter than unsweetened. It is unsweetened chocolate to which sugar, more cocoa butter, lecithin, and vanilla has been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate but the two are interchangeable in baking. Bittersweet has become the sophisticated choice of chefs. It contains a high percentage (up to 75%) of cocoa solids, and little (or no) added sugar.
Semisweet Chocolate: Slightly sweetened during processing, and most often used in frostings, sauces, fillings, and mousses. They are interchangeable in most recipes. The favorite of most home bakers. It contains a high percentage (up to 75%) of cocoa solids, and little (or no) added sugar.
German Chocolate: Dark, but sweeter than semisweet. German chocolate is the predecessor to bittersweet. It has no connection to Germany. It was developed by a man named German.
Milk Chocolate or Sweet Chocolate: Candy bar chocolate. Chocolate to which whole and/or skim milk powder has been added. Rarely used in cooking because the protein in the added milk solids interferes with the texture of the baked products. It contains approximately 20 percent cocoa solids.
White Chocolate: Many people might argue that white chocolate is not really chocolate. It is made from sweetened cocoa butter mixed with milk solids, sometimes with vanilla added. Since cocoa butter is derived from the cocoa bean, then we can only conclude that real white chocolate is indeed chocolate.
Conveture: A term generally used to describe high-quality chocolate used by professional bakers in confectionery and baked products. The word means “to cover” or “to coat.” It has more cocoa butter than regular chocolate. It is specially formulated for dipping and coating things like truffles. Chocolate of this quality is often compared to tasting fine wine because subtleties in taste are often apparent, especially when you taste a variety of semisweet and bittersweet couvertures with different percentages of sugar and chocolate liquor.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: Has a complex chocolate flavor while the Dutch-process is darker and mellower. It’s intense flavor makes it well suited for use in brownies, cookies, and some chocolate cakes. When natural cocoa (an acid) is used in recipes calling for baking soda (an alkali), it creates a leavening action that causes the batter to rise when placed in the oven.
How To Use Chocolate:
Storing Chocolate: Keep the chocolate in a cool, dry place. Chocolate is best kept at around 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a pantry or dark cabinet. It has a shelf life of approximately one year. The normal air conditioned room provides adequate protection. Freezing chocolate is not recommended; when you freeze it and then thaw it out, it will have a greater tendency to bloom. NOTE: Bloom is the white, filmy reside that can develop on chocolate. This usually happens when the chocolate is stored in a warm place, but can happen when you freeze it.
Measuring Chocolate: Solid chocolate is measured by weight which you can determine by using a scale or, in a pinch, estimating by dividing the bar in sections according the weight of the entire bar.
Chopping Chocolate: For best results, the chocolate should be room temperature. Most cooking chocolate comes in blocks or bars.
To chop the bar, use a serrated knife and score the block on all four sides about a 1/8 of an inch. Place the knife into the scoring and press down firm and steady along the scoring lines to deepen the cut. Turn the block and repeat in the scoring line on the next side. Finally, holding the knife handle and the dull end of the knife blade, press down and through the block cutting it in half. Repeat to cut into quarters, eighths, etc. keeping the pieces around the same size for use in cooking. Uniform sizes will help the chocolate melt evenly which avoids scorching.
Shaving Chocolate: For best results, the chocolate used should be cold, straight out of the refrigerator. If it’s room temperature, then the slices will not turn out paper thin; instead, they will be thick, broken chunks. To make chocolate shavings, you first need a good quality of chocolate in block form. Following are two easy methods to make chocolate shavings:
Vegetable or Potato Peeler – Hold the chocolate with a paper towel and pass the vegetable peeler over the narrowest side of the chocolate block. The chocolate will curl up like wood shavings.
Melon Ball Scoop – Position the bar of chocolate on a parchment paper covered pan and hold it down with a paper towel. Scrape the melon ball scoop across the surface of the chocolate. You will get curved shavings.
Storage of Shavings – Keep the shavings in a covered container in the refrigerator until needed. Leftover shavings keep in the refrigerator indefinitely.
Melting Chocolate: How To Melt and Temper Chocolate – Guidelines For Melting Chocolate.
More About Chocolate:
Learn about the History of Hot Chocolate – There is a difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. The terms are often used interchangeably, but technically they are as different as white chocolate and bittersweet chocolate.
Hot Chocolate Recipes – These delicious and easy-to-make hot chocolate drinks are a must to serve your family and friends.
Chocolate Recipes – Lots of candy, cookies, cakes, pudding and more chocolate recipes.
Chocolate Substitution Chart – Need a quick substitution for chocolate? Here are some chocolate substitutions, but remember not always do they work as well as the original recipe ingredient.
Dark Chocolate – Dark Chocolate is Healthy Chocolate – It’s The Best Medical News In Ages! Studies in prestigious scientific journals say dark chocolate is healthy chocolate
Learn about the history of Milk Chocolate – The development of milk chocolate by Daniel Peter changed the flavor of chocolate around the world. In 1887, Daniel Peter adopted the original formula for what was to become the first successful milk chocolate in the entire world.
Chocolate Clay Roses – These delightful chocolate roses can be used as edible decorations for a cake or to create a basket of blooms. This edible clay can be also used as a modeling clay for making other figurines and objects. The soft pliability makes it easy to work with. These chocolate roses are so easy to make that even children enjoy making them.
Dutch-Process Cocoa vs. Unsweetened Cocoa – Learn about the differences between different types of cocoa.