Does it matter what chocolate I use for baking? Ian, EdinburghThis sounds like a job for our baking brigade: Ravneet Gill, Benjamina Ebuehi and Tam
Does it matter what chocolate I use for baking?
This sounds like a job for our baking brigade: Ravneet Gill, Benjamina Ebuehi and Tamal Ray. “I’m a big chocolate fan,” Ebuehi says, “but there are so many different types, it can be intimidating.” In part, what bar you choose comes down to personal taste, she adds: “If you wouldn’t eat it on its own, you probably won’t want it in your baking.”
And that means steering clear of the supermarket baking shelves. “It’s counterintuitive, but the best chocolate for baking is in the confectionary aisle,” Ebuehi says. Baking chocolate, which usually contains added oils and fats, is much less reliable: “It’s not as good for melting or tempering, and it’s more likely to split when making a ganache.”
Instead, use the best-quality chocolate you can afford. “You shouldn’t ever feel excluded if you don’t have the budget for quality chocolate,” Gill says, “but if you’re going to bake a flourless chocolate cake, say, where chocolate is the lead singer, you should spend a bit more, if you can.” Ebuehi agrees: “If chocolate isn’t the most pronounced flavour, you can get away with whatever you’ve got to hand, but if it’s a chocolate torte or truffles, it definitely matters what type you use.” Gill and Ebuehi favour Waitrose No. 1 own-brand (Gill also recommends Tesco Finest and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference) or, if your budget permits, Original Beans. “If I’m feeling especially fancy, I buy Pump Street chocolate,” Gill adds, “but I usually just end up eating that.”
This question couldn’t be better timed for Ray, who recently took part in a Zoom bake-along where his chocolate fudge tart was on the menu. “I specified that you could use cheapo chocolate, and I stand by that,” he says. “I’m not a chocolate connoisseur; I always go for milk chocolate, which is fattier, so in that context, there’s not much point spending loads on it.”
There are, of course, exceptions to Ray’s rule. “If you’re doing ‘chocolate work’, such as tempering for decorations, I’d definitely use a good-quality dark chocolate,” he says. “You want something that’s high in cocoa solids and cocoa butter, rather than vegetable fat.” The chocolate will behave more reliably, and you’ll get better results.
There was a time when baking with dark chocolate meant Bournville, but its 36% cocoa content perhaps doesn’t quite cut it these days. “I would always recommend using 70%,” Gill says, “especially if you’re making a chocolate cake.” Ebuehi suggests keeping two bars in your arsenal: “A 70% and a 50% or 54% will cover a lot of bases.” You could even combine the two in cookies. Ebuehi favours chopped bars over chocolate chips, too: “I want really chunky, uneven bits, plus you get a better melt and little pools of chocolate.” (If you do go for chips, though, try the likes of Guittard.)
Finally, experiment. “It’s important to try different chocolates and start noting the differences between them,” Gill says. “If you don’t mind the difference, then fine – no one’s judging.” Now, chocs away.
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