Gourmet baking chocolate is a fairly general term. The truth is that there is more than one kind of chocolate that could be labeled as “gourmet”. What it all comes down to is the quality of the ingredients and the care with which the chocolate is made. You can always use cheap chocolate, but then your cakes, cookies, bars, pies, and other desserts will not have the same delicious taste.
One of the reasons a lot of people haven’t tried gourmet baking chocolate is that it can cost more. However, you will never go back to “regular” chocolate once you have had the high-quality stuff. Also, because it tastes so much better, you may not need quite as much in your recipes, and that helps make it more affordable. Knowing the different varieties will help you to buy the right kind for your needs.
Unsweetened baking chocolate is only made from chocolate and cocoa butter. It is very dark and very bitter. It doesn’t contain any sugar, allowing you to add the precise amount you need for each recipe. It comes in a solid form. Unsweetened baking cocoa powder has simply had the cocoa butter removed, but maintains the color and bitterness of the solid chocolate.
Bittersweet and semisweet gourmet baking chocolate are basically the same thing. Each is made up of at least 35% chocolate, with sugar and cocoa butter being added. The sweetness can vary widely due to the variable amount of sugar that’s added. This type of chocolate is often labeled with the percentage of pure chocolate. So, chocolate that’s labeled as 80% would be much more bitter than chocolate labeled as 60%.
Milk chocolate is made with at least 15% chocolate, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids. The addition of milk makes this type of chocolate quite creamy, but it also softens the flavor considerably. You can notice the difference right away, and a lot of people prefer it to dark chocolate varieties. It is typically used in making chocolate candies.
Sweet gourmet baking chocolate is also made with at least 15% chocolate but differs from milk chocolate in that no milk solids are added. This chocolate can give you plenty of sweetness without sacrificing any of the depth of flavor associated with other types of dark chocolate, though it isn’t very bitter.
For the record, white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate. It is made with cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar. However, you can also get it in gourmet varieties if you want to make sure you are baking with the best possible ingredients.
Discovering the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the various types of gourmet baking chocolate is part of the fun. Each type has its own nuances of flavor, sweetness, and texture. That being said, all of these chocolates are a welcome addition to anybody’s pantry. You can use them to cook wonderful desserts…or just use them as a deliciously decadent treat.