Chocolate is romantic, dramatic, purported to have healing properties, and is absolutely delicious. The wonderful flavor is representative of devotion and love. Chocolate can come in so many forms that even those who don’t consider themselves chocolate fanatics almost always find a chocolate treat to love. Below you will find a primer on all things chocolate, so you can learn all the tips and tricks for baking with chocolate. When I set out to write Zoë Bakes Cakes the very first cake I put in its pages was my Devil’s food recipe, which is deep, dark, and full of cocoa. You’ll find cakes, pies, tarts, and many other chocolate desserts in this post.
Baking with Chocolate
Chocolate is made from the cacao tree and comes in the form of cocoa powder, bar chocolate, and chocolate chips, chunks, or feves (discs).
Cocoa powder is made from drying and grinding cocoa solids. I most often use Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which means it has been alkali-treated, making it less acidic and darker. Different brands may vary in color slightly, which can affect the look of your pastries. There is also natural cocoa, which is more acidic and can change the composition of your baking. Recipes that call for cocoa powder without specifying, usually mean the Dutch-processed variety.
Solid chocolate is made from fermented, dried and ground cocoa beans. The resulting paste is melted into cocoa liquor and then separated into cacao butter and cocoa solids. The cocoa butter gives chocolate its smooth texture, and is an ingredient you want to look for when choosing solid chocolate.
The percentage you see on packaging refers to the combined amount of cocoa butter and solids in the bar. For example, a bar that says 70% on the package is made from 70% cocoa butter and cocoa solids and 30% other ingredients, such as sugar and milk solids.
I most often use bittersweet chocolate (70%), but you can also use semisweet (60%) in most cases. I usually advise bakers to avoid milk chocolate because it is too sweet and doesn’t behave the same as bittersweet and semisweet varieties.
Chocolate Chips, Chunks and Shavings
Chocolate chips are the classic little chocolate morsels that most of us think of in chocolate chip cookies. They are often sweeter and contain less cocoa than chocolate bars. You can, however, find them in different varieties and look for the same percentage as you do with bars.
Chocolate chunks and shavings can be made from a bar (you can also buy prepackaged chunks). To make chunks you can simply chop up a bar, and for shavings, you run a knife along the bar to create and collect the slivers.
FAQs About Baking with Chocolate
- Most foolproof way to temper chocolate? I learned how to temper chocolate in culinary school and did some chocolate work when I was working in restaurants, but it isn’t something I do often and is a skill that requires practice to get in the swing of it. I did a video on the technique I know best. Here is a link to other methods that I haven’t tried, but sound interesting.
- How to reuse and store leftover tempered chocolate? Store chocolate in a cool, dark place. Chocolate can always be melted and re-tempered, see above.
- What is your preferred chocolate brand for ganache? Tips to getting it right? I list my favorite chocolate brands below in this post. I have a whole section of my Cake Academy in Zoë Bakes Cakes about making and trouble shooting ganache. Use a good quality chocolate and heat the cream just to simmer, turn off the heat, add chopped chocolate, swirl the pan until the ganache is submerged, let it sit to melt for 3 minutes, then gently whisk smooth.
- How do you reuse the ganache after pouring it over cakes, so you don’t end up wasting it? Set the cake on a wire cooling rack, then place it over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pour the ganache over the cake and the excess will fall onto the parchment. Once the cake has been removed, scrape the ganache off of the parchment. If it has set up, remelt until it will go through a sieve, which will catch any cake. Store the strained ganache in the refrigerator (5 days) or freezer (2 months) until you need it again.
My Favorite Chocolate Products
Valrhona feves – there are several flavors of these chocolate discs, including some with fruit like passion fruit and raspberry!