Your Essential Guide to Baking with Chocolate

Calling all chocoholics! Learn to bake with chocolate. Discover the difference between bittersweet and milk chocolate, explore the magic of cocoa and store your chocolate right to avoid the dreaded "bloom."

Your Essential Guide to Baking with Chocolate
Don't fear the bloom! Properly stored chocolate melts perfectly for delightful creations.

For those of us who find ourselves weak in the knees at the word of "cocoa," this is your moment. We take you not into the realm of the mindless candy bar unwrapping, but into the sacred art of culinary co-creation with chocolate – the mischievous muse of the kitchen.

Our journey of discovery begins with the cacao bean, a tropical treasure found within the pod of the Theobroma cacao tree. This diminutive seed holds the key to unlocking a combination of flavors. Harvested, fermented, sun-kissed, and roasted, the beans are then ground into a thick paste – the very essence of chocolate, known as chocolate liquor. This isn't your average after-dinner drink, mind you. It's a potent blend of roughly 55% cocoa butter (the luscious fat that gives chocolate its melt-in-your-mouth quality) and 45% cocoa solids, the secret ingredient that bestows that rich, decadent chocolate flavor.

Now, this liquor is the foundation upon which a universe of chocolate varieties is built. Here's a cheat sheet to navigate this delicious constellation:

  • Bittersweet & Semisweet: Don't let the double names confuse you, these are two sides of the same coin. Thanks to Uncle Sam, any chocolate labeled as such must contain at least 35% cacao solids. But a secret handshake among bakers: semisweet chocolate chips often have a lower cocoa butter content, making them more affordable and easier to melt (perfect for those impeccably gooey cookies).
  • Unsweetened Chocolate: Consider this to be the purist's choice. It's practically pure chocolate liquor pressed into a bar, offering an intense chocolate punch without the distraction of sugar. Bakers love its versatility, as it allows them to control the level of sweetness in their creations.
  • Milk Chocolate: Our childhood favorite! This crowd-pleaser boasts a milder, creamier profile thanks to the addition of milk alongside the cocoa butter and solids. The minimum required cacao content here dips to just 10%.
  • Cocoa Powder: This underappreciated icon is simply pulverized cocoa solids, minus the fat. It comes in two varieties: natural cocoa, with its bright, acidic edge, and Dutch-processed cocoa, boasting a smoother, mellower character. Use them interchangeably depending on your desired taste profile.


Even the most magnificent of ingredients can be brought low by neglect. To keep your chocolate performing at its peak, remember this mantra: cool, dry, and zipped tight. Unopened chocolate finds solace in a cool, dark cupboard, placed within a zipper-lock bag.

Opened chocolate requires the same treatment, but with the added step of a good, tight plastic wrap embrace. Why the fuss? Fear not the dreaded bloom – a harmless white film that can appear on improperly stored chocolate. It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but fret not, this textural misfortune melts away with ease.

So, there you have it! Armed with this knowledge, you are now prepared to set out on a culinary quest with chocolate as your guide. Remember, a sprinkle of curiosity, a dash of creativity, and a generous helping of good-quality chocolate are all you need to transform your kitchen into a haven for the decadent and divine.

In-text Citation: (Kathan, 2018, p. 17)