Essentials: Chocolate Basics

Satisfy that chocolate craving in your very own kitchen. All you need is baking chocolate and a little know-how. It also helps to know a few clever tasting terms.

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Tasting

Taste chocolate before you bake with it, and gravitate to the types you enjoy. Here's how professional chocolate tasters break chocolate down:

 

  • Appearance – how it looks; shiny, dull, etc.

  • Aroma – how it smells; hints of quality ingredients

  • Break – how it snaps when broken apart

  • Melt – how easily it melts for baking

  • Taste – bitter, sweet, salty, etc.

  • Aftertaste – the taste after the taste

  • Texture – smooth, brittle, grainy, etc.

  • Roundness – fruit qualities, spices and depth

Types

Bittersweet – lends an intense chocolate flavor, but can lack the roundness needed for chocolate mousse or truffles; great for bundt cake, soufflé or any recipe where the chocolate has to stand up to other ingredients

Semisweet – has rounder, fruitier qualities that work well in mousses, truffles and recipes that depend heavily on the chocolate flavor

Unsweetened – also called "baking chocolate," it's used for recipes like brownies, where granulated sugar is added; because it's so bitter, it can be hard to judge by taste, so check its appearance and aroma

Milk – sweet chocolate; not used as much in baking/cooking; lacks the health benefits of dark chocolate

White Chocolate – technically not chocolate, because it's made from cocoa butter, not cocoa solids; consider using for decorative purposes or the occasional nibble

Cocoa Powder – primarily used in baking, comes in two styles: natural (non-alkalized), and Dutch-processed (alkalized); natural has a "direct" chocolate flavor, while Dutch is mellower

Chips & Chunks – designed to hold their shape during baking, so not a good substitute for chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Storing

Keep chocolate wrapped in a cool, dry place — not the refrigerator. Milk chocolate keeps for up to a year. Dark chocolate keeps for even longer.

When those white dots or streaks appear on the outside, it's because the cocoa butter has separated. That's called "blooming," and it's still totally safe to eat.

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