Chocolate is not just an ingredient for baking for me. It’s an emotion. It’s pleasure and decadence tumbling over each other. And it’s an amazing springboard for creativity for the baker in me.
Of the 500 blogs I’ve penned over the years, about half are devoted to chocolate, from the bitterest dark chocolate bark to the sweeter white chocolate. So, I am often asked two questions, “Which chocolate to use for baking, and where can I buy baking chocolate in India?”
We’re fortunate to have really good quality chocolate in India that lets the flavor of true cocoa shine through, creates a rich, luscious mouthfeel, and that inexplicable 'ooh chocolaty' allure.
Most of what I use is available online without any hassle. It's just a question of knowing which type of chocolate to buy and from where.
The rule of thumb when using chocolate for baking.
The realm of chocolate is Amazonian-wide because it's made up of over 600 volatile compounds. So, if you tweak even one of them, it changes the aroma, taste, and mouthfeel of the chocolate.
That's why we need to get the basics right.
When a recipe explicitly tells you to add chocolate, it means baking chocolate, not compound chocolate or chocolate chips. At times, yes, you can substitute them, but then the recipe will mention so.
That’s the golden rule: when baking, stick to baking chocolate.
Is chocolate healthy?
Eating chocolate or the bars that you find in shops is not healthy. So, don't load upon them. They're chock-full of additives and don't even get me started on the mountains of sugar.
Dark chocolate is the healthiest chocolate. I'm not going to dive into the deep end of their health benefits. I'll leave that to the experts.
What you should know is that it is full of antioxidants. Thrice more than green tea! So, it's great at boosting the immune system. It also has enough Zinc to help tissues, veins, and skin. And, of course, the very aroma of chocolate gets those happy hormones bubbling.
What is the difference between baking chocolate and compound chocolate?
Not all chocolate is created equal, but they all start from cacao pods. The pods are harvested to remove the beans from them. Which are then fermented, dried, and finally roasted to separate the hard shell from the cocoa nib.
The nibs contain the good stuff – cocoa solids and cocoa butter. They are ground to make a paste called cocoa or chocolate liquor. It is this liquor that forms the base of every chocolate.
Mix sugar, milk, and other ingredients in different ratios, and you get varieties of chocolate – bitter, sweet, milk, etc.
What is baking chocolate?
Baking chocolate is the very essence of chocolate—the purest form of the foods of the gods. Also called unsweetened chocolate, it is 100% chocolate liquor. It contains no sugar or additional flavors. The texture is smoother, richer, and creamier.
What is compound chocolate?
Because baking chocolate has cocoa butter and high quantities of cocoa solids, it's expensive. So to make chocolate more affordable, companies substitute cocoa butter with vegetable oil like palm or coconut.
That’s how compound chocolate was born. It’s definitely cheaper and only parades as chocolate by using cocoa powder. While it is inferior quality chocolate, it is easier to work with when using it for dipping truffles, or making molded chocolates. Though I stick to couverture chocolate for these purposes too.
Why do I prefer using baking chocolate over compound chocolate?
Baking chocolate contains good quality ingredients. Anything you bake with it becomes a joyful experience for all the senses. You get that "melt-in-your-mouth" texture, the intoxicating aroma, and the addictive bittersweet taste of God-honest chocolate.
Why can't I just use commercially sold chocolate for baking?
A Cadbury, a Galaxy, a Hershey, or any other candy bar is great at satisfying the chocolate craving we all have from time to time. You can use them as toppings with eyes closed, as I did with Hershey's Kisses for my peanut butter blossom cookies or Cadbury Silk bar for my gluten-free chocolate brownies.
But nothing more. They're not meant for baking. Full of sugar and additives, if you bake with them, the mouthfeel will be wonky and the consistency subpar. The only taste you will get is sweet.
So, always, and I emphasize again always, cook with good-quality baking chocolate.
What to look for when buying chocolate for baking?
Two things: is it made with cocoa, and what is the percentage of cocoa in it? That's how you judge the quality of baking chocolate. For example, if a bar says 60%, it means 60% of the chocolate came from a cacao bean.
In other words, more than half of the ingredients in chocolate are chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. The rest 40% would be emulsifiers, sugar, fat, and other flavors.
So, a higher percentage means better and more intense chocolate flavor and less sugar.
- If the cacao is around 70%, it's bittersweet or dark chocolate. You can use it for any recipe, from no-bake oatmeal peanut butter bars to fudgy miso brownies.
- If the cacao is 35 to 45%, it is semi-sweet chocolate. Your baked goodie will be lighter in color, a little sweeter, and smoother in texture. So, it's great for souffle and chocolate sauce.
What is couverture chocolate?
The word couverture is French for "to cover" because originally, couverture chocolate was used for glazing or coating pastries and cakes. It is not like regular chocolate. It is so much more.
By rule, couverture must have 31% or more cocoa butter. This gives the chocolate a finer texture. Plus, a higher butter percentage means when you melt couverture, it forms a glossy paste that pours smoothly and easily.
Try it in a chocolate lava cake or hot chocolate, and you'll be a convert for life. You can also use it for dipping and garnishing, as I did for my chocolate truffles. FYI, couverture comes in dark, milk, and white varieties.
Where can you buy good-quality baking chocolate in India?
I've experimented with quite a lot of baking chocolates over the years (listed down below). I won't tell you which is the best chocolate for baking because it's a question of personal preference.
Tastes differ from person to person, so go ahead, give a handful of these a whirl, and then stick to what you love best.
And here are some of the wonderful brands available in India: