Chocolate ??

lizbeth-gardenerFebruary 27, 2014

I am starting to do more baking with chocolate and would like recommendations for different brands. In some recipes the author will recommend that you use a really good quality, but doesn't give any suggestions for brands. Can someone give me some guidelines as to the quality of different brands. Top end, middle and ones to by-pass? Would like info. on the different kinds: milk chocolate, semi and bittersweet, dark and also white (even if you don't consider it chocolate).

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I like Ghiradelli as a good all-purpose, inexpensive chocolate for baking. Easy to melt and incorporate into a recipe or chop into chunks for really great chocolate chunk cookies it is my "go to".

Callebaut is wonderful, but a little pricey.

Baker's is a great inexpensive chocolate and is readily available at any grocery store.

Those are my favs,,,, I have used Scharffen Berger but didn't love it and it was expensive IMO.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 4:02AM
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If you are near a Trader Joe's, then try their Pound Plus bars. They come in different formulations. The one I have now is 72% dark chocolate, red package, and I find it good for many applications but I use it seldomly. It gets fabulous reviews on line, maybe chowhound and certainly others. This 17.6 oz. bar will set you back $5.00. Worth a shot for this potentially expensive commodity. And btw, it is imported from Belgium.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 7:44AM
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"Best" is so subjective and I think it depends on what you are making, what's available in your area, how much are you willing to pay, and would anyone eating it know or care.

The link below has a nice list of "gourmet" chocolate products along with company history to help know what's available.

You might also take a peek a The Cook's Thesaurus -

I follow these rules:

-I read the ingredients list and if it includes a fat other than cocoa butter, I put it back.

-If it contains soy lecithin, I put it back. I prefer pure chocolate.

-Depending on the recipe, as a general rule, I try not to use chocolate chips for melting. You won't notice the difference if it's something like Chex Muddy Buddies, but it could make a difference in a cake. WHY... chocolate chips usually have a lower cocoa butter content so they can retain their shape during baking. But when you need to melt them for baking (brownies/truffles/cakes, etc.) it will be different than a bar or bulk block of real chocolate. There may also be some stabilizers in chocolate chips that aren't in bars and bulk blocks of chocolate.

-You can take a bar of less expensive chocolate and add a little coffee for part of the liquid ingredients in the recipe, which can help to bring out the rich, dark notes of the chocolate. A frugal tip....;-)


Here is a link that might be useful: World Wide Chocolate

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 9:12AM
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Hands down, Ghirardelli. I also like Valrhona. Last, but not least, Olive and Sinclair. A Nashville favorite! Y'all can order them too if you want online, linked below.
What they wrote on Cooking Channel. Their show is Unique Sweets (Cooking Channel) and the episode where they were featured was "Sweet Crafters".

We meet some of America's most imaginative food crafters who are churning out sweet treats. Nashville's Olive & Sinclair makes artisanal chocolates and brittles with a Southern twist...

Some really tasty mousse made from Olive and Sinclair

Here is a link that might be useful: Olive and Sinclair-Handcrafted chocoloate

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 12:11PM
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I think it depends on your reasons. If using chocolate because you have heard it is good for you, then you need to snob-up and really pay attention to labeling. All healthy benefits are void if overly processed. Heat and chemically treated and stripped of anything good, then added corn sugars and artificial flavorings. Raw cacoa beans are very bitter. I happen to like them and can be interesting to cook with. I like the bitterness when paired with natural fruit sugars. A nice balance.
But needing a baking chocolate last fall before the holidays i had some trouble with labeling. If the first or second ingredient is sugar, you will obviously be paying much less. Sugar is cheap.
I was not really looking for healthy chocolate. I just did not want alkali processed like the label on the TraderJoe's package, (it was a chopped chunk style, not the block).
I ended up at a chef supply and settled on E.Guittard. At that point i did not care about price as my eyes were bleeding from trying to choose. I needed something to melt nice and be bittersweet to go well with a caramel and candied ginger that i had been wanting to make.

A shame chocolate recipes are so vague. I'm not convinced i purchased the best one but starting with a quality bittersweet can become many things by adding more sugars, cream, good vanilla, etc, to get the different final product you want. You control the ingredients and end up with a better confection.

This link helps a little bit.
(i agree with grainlady about looking at ingredients once you know what you are reading)

Here is a link that might be useful: how to buy chocolate

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 2:23PM
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That looks so good I would have some every day.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 5:00PM
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So what should the ingredient list say and a pure bag of chocolate?

snob up - LOL!!! I keep snobbing up and my grocery bill keeps going up.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 5:04PM
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A "snobbing up" mistake may be using 70% or 100% cacao if the recipe was developed using 55%-60%. The flavor could be all "wrong", so check the recipes for information for the type of chocolate they use.

I want-
-60%-70% cacao
-Does NOT contain cocoa
-NO soy lecithin
-Cocoa butter, but no other fats

Even plain old Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate has one ingredient listed - CHOCOLATE.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 6:15PM
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Thanks to all of you for the quick and informative responses. I have bookmarked all of the links and feel like I know much more than I did when I posted and will have a reference to go to when the need next arises.

Caliloo: Good to know of a good all purpose one (Ghiradelli). Do you remember what you disliked about the Scharffen Berger?

Westsider: Trader Joe's Pound Plus (and Belgium!) I will have to try that.

Grainlady: I will definitely read the list of ingredients now that I know what I need/want. Also, good to learn about the chocolate chips and the coffee tip.

Rob333: Another vote for Ghiradelli and Valrhona is one I haven't tried. The mousse does look delicious and their website listings sound very tempting!

Sleevendog: I'm not looking for dark chocolate to eat for health reasons, but just for cooking/baking with chocolate. That website looks really informative.

Makayla: I agree-maybe we could share!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 2:11AM
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Also remember with cocoa, dutch processed and regular processed cocoa are not interchangeable. I learned that the hard way when I used Hersey's Special Dark Cocoa instead of their regular cocoa in a recipe that called for regular cocoa. The cookies didn't taste as good or work as well as usual. I didn't know until later that the Special Dark stuff is half dutch processed and half regular. I have no idea what that could be used for except hot cocoa.

I also learned, when trying to follow a recipe that called for dutch processed cocoa, that it's hard to find.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 9:36AM
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I have taken lecithin pills in the past to improve my memory - I do not know why lecithin would be a problem in chocolate - I would prefer chocolate with lecithin, since it is a useful ingredient, and I think it has many benefits.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 10:05PM
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Quality chocolate shouldn't require an emulsifier and stabilizer (to keep the water and fat from separating). As with all soy products, including soy lecithin, I avoid them when at all possible - but that's me - and I would certainly avoid them in chocolate.

You can get naturally-occurring lecithin from eggs, which are actually higher in phospholipids (30%) than soybean oil (1.48 - 3.08%) and vegetable oils (0.5%). Personally, I'd skip any supplement of lecithin and opt for adding a few more eggs to my diet, but that's me (let food be your medicine and medicine be your food - kinda' thing).

Prior to the 1930s, eggs were the primary source of commercial lecithin, but now "lecithin is a generic name to a whole class of fat- and water-soluble compounds called phospholipids."

"Soybean lecithin comes from the sludge left after crude soy oil goes through a "degumming" process. It is a waste product containing residues of solvents and pesticides and has a consistency ranging from a gummy fluid to a plastic solid." (Source: "The Whole Soy Story" by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN)

Yesterday I caught an episode of America's Test Kitchen where "Doc" Willoughby visited a chocolate factory and watched the chocolate-making process. The episode is linked below for anyone interested in seeing the process (and luckily it's the first of the episode). They aged the chocolate, which is more time consuming. Addition of lecithin is probably the easy way out if you don't age it.


Here is a link that might be useful: America's Test Kitchen

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 6:25AM
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I also like Ghiradelli's, it's actually available here for a short drive, so that's a double bonus.

I also like the Trader Joe's Pound Plus dark chocolate, the milk chocolate not so much.

My small local grocery has Hershey's, Nestle and Baker's, so if I want some this minute, I'm kind of stuck.

I've purchased Callebault, which is good but I do not think it's worth the price, especially with shipping, for my purposes. I also like Valhrona and Droste, but have to make special efforts to purchase them, and I seldom think ahead that far.

I do like the Dutch Processed cocoa, I have some Rodelle in the pantry that I enjoy the flavor of very much, but I have found that some of my baking recipes require a bit of adjustment, the recipes that call for baking powder or a combination of baking powder and baking soda work for the most part, those calling for just soda don't. Some other acid in the recipe, such as lemon juice also helps.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 10:03PM
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Just the info I was looking for about chocolate!


    Bookmark   November 16, 2014 at 5:48PM
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Dutch process cocoa is more alkaline (tending to neutral) than regular cocoa (which is acidic) so it won't work as well in recipes calling for baking soda though it can be substituted in very small amounts, and of course can be used in sauces, icings, etc. without problems.

I love Hershey's Special Dark, it makes the best buttercream! Sometimes I will mix it with regular Hershey's cocoa just to give a little bit darker color and complexity to a baked good.

I did use Scharffen Berger once (bought at closeout) for peppermint bark, we liked it (and DS ate the rest of the squares I left where he could see/reach them!). What didn't you like about it (other than cost) caliloo?

I usually use Ghiradelli chips for cookies, but recently bought some Guittard since they are made in nut-free facility, we do have some allergies in the fife and drum corps. I haven't used them yet, they tasted OK in the cookies someone else made (I think she use semisweet, I prefer bittersweet) but the recipe (she said she uses the one on the package) tasted very floury to me.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2014 at 6:06PM
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>>A "snobbing up" mistake may be using 70% or 100% cacao if the recipe was developed using 55%-60%. The flavor could be all "wrong">>

Actually, it's not the flavor profile you need to worry about. It's the issue that using a high-number chocolate means there's more cacao solids in the chocolate, so it may react differently, especially in baking. Try making a Hershey's (or similar) recipe from 40 yrs ago with an 85% chocolate, and a cake could end up with a dry texture and insufficient rise.

The SF Bay Area has become a hotbed of fine artisanal chocolates. Many do use soy lecithin and we have no problems with this. Tcho, Chocolatier Blue, La Foret (whose chocolates are used at The French Laundry in the Napa Valley, one of the four Northern CA restaurants with 3 Michelin stars), Recchiuti (our personal favorite), all use lecithin in some of their chocolate bars.

If you want "pure" chocolate, one of the finest in the world is by Claudio Corallo. Alegio Chocolate sells his, and their own namesake line created by Enric Rovira, in a limited number of retail outlets worldwide.

Corallo is widely known within the industry as one of the most difficult and brilliant chocolatiers. He is an OCD purist who not only grows heirloom cacao beans, but has the tiny inner "sprout" inside the cacao bean removed BY HAND - he feels it makes the chocolate bitter, the same way a green sprout will make a garlic clove bitter. Most of his own beans he rejects, which are then immediately purchased by high-end producers for their own artisanal chocolates.

Corallo's chocolates have real "terroir", the same way fine wines do. For those who love bittersweet and high-cacao chocolates - which not all do, nothing wrong with that - Corallo's chocolates must be tasted to be believed. Alegio, in their Berkeley, CA location, does an hour-long chocolate tasting of Corallo chocolates (you can view part of his video at the link below, on their website, which illustrates Corallo's insistence upon quality and purity). They take you, step by step, from the lower cacao % to the higher %, with a taste half-way of a high-end bittersweet from a high-volume mfg (I'm guessing it was Lindt) so you can compare how both vanilla and salt alter the taste of chocolate even more than sugar does.

My DH and I have been eating artisanal/high-end chocolates for forty years, but there is nothing quite like Corallo. A truly unique product - once you do this tasting, you will never look at chocolate the same way again. It doesn't "ruin" you for other chocolates, but it makes you aware of how 99.9% of chocolate flavors are manipulated to produce specific flavor profiles.

However, this is not cooking chocolate. You cannot just pop Corallo chocolate into a recipe and expect everyone will love it. I wouldn't be certain most recipes would come out properly. Even the texture of his chocolate is different.

One of the difficulties in knowing what chocolate to use in today's vs yesterday's recipes is that there are no standards for bittersweet. It didn't exist at the time the chocolate classifications were established at the FDA, so almost anything can be called bittersweet. Bittersweet is an American invention; the Europeans make dark sweet chocolate. A few European chocolatiers have gotten on the "bittersweet" bandwagon but it is still much less popular than in the U.S. Although "generally" bittersweet has a third or less sugar by weight, realistically we have sometimes encountered bittersweet that is almost indistinguishable from European dark sweet, simply because there is no legal classification for it.

We have traveled quite a bit around the West since retiring, and almost without exception, we have found that the bittersweet chocolates we love in the Bay Area, really are not popular elsewhere.

A notable exception was Kakawa Chocolate House, 1050 East Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM - not their chocolates, which were awful, but their cacao drinks, which are Mayan/Incan in style: served hot, non-sugared, mostly non-dairy. It's as far from Hershey's and Nestle's as one can get. Remarkable stuff; makes you realize why for hundreds of years this type of chocolate drink was a substitute for coffee. Bitter, shockingly intense, it's like drinking espresso.

Here is a link that might be useful: BBC video on Claudio Corallo (10 min)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2014 at 10:43PM
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Alice Medrich was the premier chocolatier in the SF Bay Area before anyone had ever heard of artisanal chocolates (literally, they did not exist). Her truffles were served by Chez Panisse, which was just down the street from Medrich's superb Cocolat bakery.

The Cocolat cookbook came out in 1990, and the bakery eventually closed. Although she promised to republish the cookbook to reflect the new artisanal chocolates, Medrich has been busy and only reworked a few of her classic recipes for the variety of new chocolates, over the last ten years.

One of these is her famed truffles recipe. Note her comments about what type of couverture to use:

Here is a link that might be useful: Alice Medrich, mistress of truffles, refines recipe

    Bookmark   November 17, 2014 at 12:15PM
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beachlily z9a

I've been sorting through recipes for my Christmas cookie/candy trays. This year none of Lar's madeline turtles--made them 2 yr in a row and they are fussy and I needed a change. I looked at Ms. Medrick's recipe for truffles and nearly fell off my chair! I've been on the lookout for something that is as impressive as the madelines and had decided to do chocolate covered cherries. Wasn't sure they had enough going for them. Forgettaboutit! I'm doing truffles!!! Thanks jkom!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2014 at 1:37PM
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Okay, now I'm wondering.

The link from jkom51's post says 3 egg yolks, and the date is Nov. 2014, but the link below, with the page dated Feb 2014, says 2 egg yolks.

Perhaps it's reflective of the size of the eggs, since both recipes feature sea salt, and the range of the 60-64% chocolate rather than no more than 62% ??

Whatever, it's going to be SOOOOO GOOOOOD!


Here is a link that might be useful: Alice's House Truffles 4.0 (by Alice)

This post was edited by sooz on Mon, Nov 17, 14 at 18:58

    Bookmark   November 17, 2014 at 6:49PM
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