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Gourmet Food WorldGourmet BlogDesserts, Baking and SweetsA Holiday Baking Chocolate Primer

A Holiday Baking Chocolate Primer

by Gourmet Food World
A Holiday Baking Chocolate Primer

Bittersweet or semi-sweet? White, milk, or dark? Bars or chips? There are a lot of questions when it comes to chocolate, and determining the best kind of chocolate for your intended purposes can sometimes be a daunting task.

With over 600 volatile compounds contributing to a complexity of aroma and flavor that’s hard to match, chocolate is one heck of a complicated ingredient. Until, of course, you read our complete guide below to buying and baking with chocolate.

While we wouldn't recommend baking with a $20 artisan bar of chocolate, we would also never tell you to bake with chocolate you wouldn’t relish eating on its own. When looking for chocolate, you’ll generally be confronted by six different formats: blocks, bars, wafers (or pistoles), chips, powder and nibs.

Different Baking Chocolate Presentations


For the home baker, big multi-pound blocks probably won’t enter into your purview but for those who are doing a lot of baking, buying your chocolate in bulk makes the most sense. Excellent for big projects, high-quality blocks from Valrhona are the ideal candidate for most projects. Available in white, milk, and dark options along with a range of your favorite percentages.


The most versatile form chocolate can take, bars are ideal for baking. Chop them down for melting or swirling into doughs and batters. Chocolate bars are perfect for everything from cakes and cookies to puddings and hot chocolate.

Pistoles or Callets

Thin small disks of chocolate, pistoles, or wafers are designed specifically for melting. Free of stabilizers, they melt quickly and evenly, making them ideally suited for the creation of ganache, frostings, glazes, puddings, or any recipe that calls for melted chocolate.


While chips may have been the most common form of chocolate in your mother’s kitchen, chocolate chips are not, in truth, very versatile. Filled with stabilizers that help them maintain their shape even when subjected to high heat, chocolate chips are not well suited for melting. These stabilizers also dilute the flavor of the chocolate and can give chips a waxy texture. While chocolate chips are still great for some applications, think quick breads and cookies; be sure to buy high-quality brands with minimal added ingredients.

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder is one of the pantry staples that every seasoned baker keeps on hand at all times. Ideal for cakey desserts like brownies or swirled into milkshakes for an extra hit of chocolate flavor. An easy and impressive garnish coat everything from truffles to flourless chocolate cake with a liberal sprinkling of cocoa powder. Dutch-processed or regular, be sure to always keep a good supply of quality cocoa powder on hand.

Cocoa Nibs

The last and final form, cocoa nibs are sometimes passed over by the busy or inexperienced chef but the crunchy and flavorful chunks of pure roasted cacao bean are a valuable asset to any kitchen’s pantry. The perfect mix-in to so many recipes try swirling your nibs into ice cream or sprinkle them over yogurt or granola. Swap out all or part of the nuts in a recipe for flavorful crunchy cocoa nibs, or simply enjoy them as a stand-alone snack, served as is or candied.


This entry was posted in Desserts, Baking and Sweets, Featured Ingredients, Gourmet Blog, Holidays and Seasonal, How To Guides and View All Posts on October 25, 2021 by Gourmet Food World

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