Deciding which chocolate to use for your recipe can be a daunting task as there are so many variations of chocolates available.
Our in-house chocolate consultant, La Belle Chocolat, offers some tips on making this easier! (For the simple explantion, please jump ahead to the last full paragraph! )
“Some bakers and chefs seem to be able to make anything with any type of chocolate but there are a few basic rules to create a better chance for success with your recipes.
What chocolate to use is first dependent on the recipe. For chocolate chip cookies or brownies etc, where the chocolate is an inclusion (chocolate is used in pieces) you would usually use chocolate chips or chunks. These pieces are meant to maintain their shape after baking (bake-stable) and therefore do not contain a lot of cocoa butter, the natural fat in the cocoa bean, so they will be thicker and not really meant for melting.
There is also a product called: confectionery coating. This is a non-tempering, easy-melt product which does not contain any cocoa butter. Without the cocoa butter, which is the touchy ingredient in chocolate, you really don’t have a true chocolate. However, it will melt easily and is great for dipping and coating.
Most recipes will call for dark chocolate, as this tends to offer the most chocolate flavor. And dark chocolates are made with more or less actual chocolate (or cocoa beans) along with more or less sugar. This is what the percentages refer to…a 70% chocolate has 30% sugar; a 54% chocolate has 46% sugar. (It’s a math thing – the precentages will add up to 100)
You will often see recipes (for mousse, cake, glaze, ganache) refer to dark chocolates as semi-sweet, bittersweet and extra-bitter sweet…here lies the first confusing choice: Officially, (FDA) semi sweet chocolate must have at least 35% cocoa beans (also listed as cacao, cocoa and chocolate liquor). However, there actually is no official definition for bitter or extra-bitter chocolates. So, as the industry has changed, and more and more chefs are using higher percentage chocolates, professionals have come up with definitions in order to try to differentiate between chocolates.
A chart for types might list a semi-sweet as anywhere from 35% – 55%; a bittersweet chocolate would be 55% – 65% and an extra-bitter chocolate would be 65% and higher. This is our interpretation and unfortuantely you will see many others. As one man’s bittersweet is another man’s semi sweet!!
The key thing to remember is your choice of chocolate is mostly a matter of preference! When I make my favorite warm-chocolate molten cake, I use a 70% dark chocolate. But you could just as well use a 50%, a 60% or an 85%!! And I happen to like Valrhona…. this week! but I also could use any of the brands on the site. In fact for many formulas, although the recipe may suggest a semi sweet, you can actually use whatever chocolate you like, (which might be whatever chocolate you have on hand!)
I usually suggest a higher percentage chocolate as you are usually diluting the chocolate with the other ingredients, but it is your (and your guest’s) preference!!