If you're interested in baking and confections, it is important to understand the differences between the variety of chocolate selections available before you begin. It will affect things such as the melting, dipping & coating process, or how much sugar ends up in each recipe. This can make a difference is how your chocolate looks as well as tastes.
What Is Couverture Chocolate?
Couverture chocolate, which is sometimes called real chocolate, is made up of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor for the two main ingredients. This translates into a higher quality of chocolate that requires tempering when melting it down. Tempering is the process of slowly melting, then cooling the chocolate to keep its shiny texture. Without tempering couverture chocolate it will bloom, which is when your chocolate turns white. (At Legacy Chocolates we only use couverture chocolate in a variety of intensities).
What Is Compound Chocolate?
Unlike couverture chocolate, compound chocolate uses cocoa powder instead of chocolate liquor, and oil instead of cocoa butter. This means compound chocolate can be melted down without tempering and will still set up just fine. Compound chocolate is definitely easier and quicker to work with, however, it doesn’t have the attractive shiny look of the tempered couverture chocolate, or the rich and creamy taste due to lack of cocoa butter.
Should You Use Natural Or Dutch Process Baking Cocoa?
Many recipes don't specify whether they call for natural or Dutch process cocoa, but American recipes tend to use natural, as that's what you'll find from most American supermarket brands. When in doubt, stick to the leavening rule: recipes that rely on neutral-pH baking powder for leavening are best with similarly neutral pH Dutch process cocoa; those that are leavened by baking soda should stick to natural cocoa powder. If the recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda, either will work, but it's best to stick to what the recipe calls for to get ideal results.
What Are The Different Types of Baking Chocolate (blocks & chips)?
● Unsweetened Chocolate: This is pure chocolate without any added sugar. It may also be known as ‘bitter’ or ‘pure’ chocolate, and it's often used when baking. It is typically used in conjunction with a sweetener in a recipe, as it allows you to control exactly the amount of sweetener you use. (At Legacy, our unsweetened wafers are a 100% cocoa intensity).
● Bittersweet Chocolate: This chocolate is required to be at least be at 35% cocoa and will have a little sugar/sweetener added. This chocolate is usually sweet enough that it can be eaten alone, especially by those who love dark chocolate. But because it is a rather broad category, you may also need to test out several chocolates before you find the right one for your specific recipe. (At Legacy, our bittersweet wafers are 72%).
● Semisweet Chocolate: This chocolate category is also required to be at least 35% cocoa, and will typically have a little more sugar and cocoa butter in it. This chocolate is one of the staples of a baker, as it's used in nearly every type of recipe and is the most versatile type of cooking chocolate. (At Legacy, our semisweet wafers are 61%).
● Milk Chocolate. Milk chocolate is required to be at least 10% cocoa. It contains not only sugar/sweetener and extra cocoa butter, but, you guessed it – milk solids, which increase the fat content while decreasing the cocoa content. (At Legacy, our milk chocolate wafers are 38%)
● White Chocolate. Though is contains no actual cocoa, white chocolate is also available in chips and blocks for baking. Of all the chocolates, white chocolate is the sweetest. It has cocoa butter, but no cocoa powder. White chocolate can be used in the same ways as bittersweet, semisweet, and milk chocolate. (At Legacy, our white chocolate wafers are 31%)
Remember, the best part of trying-out new recipes is the journey (and of course all the taste-testing). Try experimenting with a variety of chocolate intensities and different ingredients, such as spices, and fruit zests. And, if all else fails, you can always stop by Legacy Chocolates in St.Paul, MN and pick-up some of our freshly-made chocolate treats!