Chocolate is chocolate, right? Not so fast — from semisweet to bittersweet, from milk chocolate to dark chocolate, from bars to morsels to powder, there are lots of types of chocolate to use in baking! With so many varieties, deciding which type is best can be tough.
7 types of chocolate for baking and when to use each one
We’re going to break down some of the most common types of chocolate, including what they are and what types of recipes are best for each kind.
What is baking chocolate?
Baking chocolate comes in a bar, but you wouldn’t want to take a big bite: there’s no sugar in this stuff.
You may also know it as “unsweetened chocolate” or “bitter chocolate.” Basically, it’s the essence of chocolate: solidified 100 percent chocolate liquor (the center of cocoa beans ground to a liquid) without the added sweeteners, flavors and emulsifiers that make chocolate candy bars a delight.
These days, baking chocolate comes in many varieties, including semi-sweet and milk chocolate bars. Unless your recipe says otherwise, use the unsweetened kind in your baking.
How to use baking chocolate
Baking chocolate is primarily used as an ingredient in recipes such as brownies, fudge icing or cakes. These recipes typically call for sugar, which will bring out the flavor and sweetness of the chocolate.
This also lets you control the sweetness of a recipe. If you were to add semisweet morsels in the same quantity, for instance, you’d be adding too much sugar to your recipe, which might make your cookies burn or your cake sink in the center.
Don’t use baking chocolate in recipes that don’t include sugar. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use this as a candy coating or chopped as chocolate chunks.
What is dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate is chocolate liquor that’s been fancied up with extra cocoa butter, sugar, emulsifiers and flavorings. It retains a high percentage of cacao — anywhere from 65 percent to 99 precent. The higher the percentage, the less sweet the chocolate.
Within the umbrella of dark chocolate, there are several types, all with different ratios of sugar to cocoa. None of the types contain milk solids, which means that dark chocolate is are often suitable for vegan baking.
Semisweet and bittersweet chocolate
Both semisweet and bittersweet chocolate are types of dark chocolate that contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor. Bittersweet chocolate usually contains more cacao than semisweet chocolate. Because of its sweeter flavor, semi-sweet is more favored in baking, and is typically the type of chocolate used in chocolate chip cookies.
How to use dark chocolate
Dark chocolate can be eaten out of hand or used in recipes. It’s a good choice for making a ganaches, icings and glazes, and it can even be chopped and used in cookies.
Some dark chocolate can be quite expensive. Reserve the really good stuff for recipes where the flavor will really shine. Refer to your recipe to know which type of dark chocolate is best.
What is milk chocolate?
Unlike dark chocolate, milk chocolate does contain dairy. It’s commonly made by adding dry milk solids (like powdered milk) to the chocolate. At around 55 percent sugar and 20 percent cocoa butter, this creamy variety of chocolate is mild and quite sweet.
How to use milk chocolate
Milk chocolate’s high sugar content makes it sensitive to heat, so it may burn if you try to substitute it in recipes that call for semisweet chocolate.
On the other hand, milk chocolate melts easily, which is great when you’re making a sweet treat like s’mores. It can be used when called for in a recipe, but is easiest to handle in no-bake recipes such as sauces, as a topping for already-baked treats, or fillings or icings.
What is white chocolate?
White chocolate is made of sugar, milk and cocoa butter, but without the cocoa solids. Its ratios of cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar are actually quite close to milk chocolate, but without the cocoa solids it has a creamy ivory hue.
How to use while chocolate
White chocolate’s sweetness makes it a lovely addition to baked goods. Typically, if a baked good contains melted white chocolate, it will contain less sugar to make up for the sweetness.
White chocolate is wonderful as a candy coating or as a component of icings. It can even be used in ganache.
White chocolate should not be substituted for dark or baking chocolate in recipes, as it has a different sensitivity to heat and may burn more rapidly. This post details the process of properly melting white chocolate.
What are chocolate morsels
These are the little “chocolate kiss” shaped morsels that you stir into cookies. Dark, milk and white chocolate (as well as a number of other flavors) can be purchased as morsels.
How to use chocolate morsels
Morsels are not meant to melt entirely — they are meant to hold some shape so that they form chips in your cookies. Because of this, chocolate morsels may not melt smoothly. They will fare much better when folded into a batter or used as a topping.
What is chocolate coating?
A candy coating that uses vegetable fats to supplement (or replace) the cocoa butter. Technically, these are not chocolate, but may be labeled to reflect that they contain chocolate. They do have a slight chocolate flavor, but sometimes can also taste waxy.
How to use chocolate coating
Chocolate coating melts well, so it’s useful for coating truffles, cake pops or other treats. It’s also rather malleable and can easily be molded, so it works well in shaped molds.
What is cocoa powder?
Cocoa powder is made from ground cocoa solids that don’t contain any cocoa butter. There are two key types of cocoa used in baking:
Ground chocolate solids. The mixture can be sweetened (which is used to make hot cocoa) or unsweetened (the kind more frequently used in baking).
Because the acid has not been neutralized as in Dutch process version, this cocoa reacts with alkali ingredients such as baking soda, which creates a reaction during baking. It helps with a lift in baked goods, and lends a milder flavor and warmer color.
Dutch process cocoa
While being ground, the nibs are treated with an alkaline solution to neutralize the acidity in the mixture. This process darkens the color and makes the flavor more mild. It may be sold as “dutched,” “alkalized” or “Dutch process” cocoa.
How to use cocoa powder
Cocoa powder can leaven and flavor baked goods. Be sure to use the type of cocoa called for in a recipe for best results.
Let’s get baking!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2014 and was updated in January 2018.