The Best Chocolate Bars For Baking, According To A Pastry Chef

Stock up before your next big baking day—but choose wisely.

Dessert is one of the highlights of the holiday season (or any season, really). And when it comes to dessert, there's no greater crowd-pleaser than chocolate. Baking with chocolate bars, however, can be a little intimidating. There are so many different kinds. The right chocolate bar for chocolate ganache isn't necessarily going to be the right chocolate bar for a brownie recipe. Choosing dark chocolate, milk chocolate, semi-sweet, or white chocolate will have a big impact on the finished product. To help you make sure you pick the best chocolate bar for baking, here's what to expect from different varieties along with some tips from Emilia Silva, pastry chef at the acclaimed Fredericksburg, Texas restaurant, Hill and Vine.

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Best Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate isn't only delicious, but according to research, it benefits your heart. It's one of the healthier chocolate dessert options (that's what we tell ourselves, anyway). When you're shopping for dark chocolate, look for quality bars like Chocolove Extreme Dark Chocolate Bars, which are made of 88 percent cocoa (although anything 70 percent or above will work nicely). Dark chocolate has a bitter quality that adds dimension to desserts and prevents your creations from being overly sweet. Dark chocolate is wonderful in desserts where you want to introduce a level of sophistication, like our Dark Chocolate Ginger-Molasses Cookies.

Best Bittersweet / Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Semi-sweet is the kind of chocolate you probably grew up eating in chocolate chip cookies. As the name implies, its flavor profile falls in between dark chocolate and milk chocolate, with a cocoa content of about 60 percent. Bittersweet chocolate tends to have higher cocoa content, and you'll generally see it labeled at somewhere around 70 percent. Options like Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bars or bittersweet chocolate bars can be used interchangeably in recipes. Silva loves these varieties in desserts like chocolate truffles and tiramisu and recommends serving them with a good cup of coffee. She's also a big fan of using semi-sweet chocolate in banana bread.

Best Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate is creamy and sweet due to having a higher content of milk solids than the previously mentioned varieties. According to the FDA, milk chocolate only needs to have a cocoa content of 10 percent; however, quality chocolate bars will exceed that by a significant margin. Endangered Species Creamy Milk Chocolate Bars have a cocoa content of 48 percent, which makes for a rich flavor profile. SIlva says milk chocolate is a winner in recipes like chocolate ganache and chocolate mousse served with raspberries.

Best White Chocolate

White chocolate is delicious, but it's also a bit of a misnomer since white chocolate doesn't actually contain cocoa solids like other varieties. Instead, it's made primarily from cocoa butter, milk, and sugar, often with a hint of vanilla to enhance the flavoring. The result is creamy, decadent, and sweet. Lindt Classic Recipe Milk Chocolate Bars are perfect for desserts that contain tart flavors like cranberries. Silva is also an advocate of layering white chocolate with darker chocolates for recipes like a triple chocolate cake topped with fruit. White chocolate can also serve as a stunning garnish in darker chocolate desserts.

Choose Chocolate Bars, Not Chips

The baking aisle is full of bags of chocolate chips that can be melted and used in chocolate desserts. But for most recipes, bars are the better choice. Chocolate chips are designed to hold their shape when heated, so they contain less cocoa butter and more stabilizers. Baking chocolate has a smoother, thinner texture when melted that you'll appreciate in your most indulgent desserts.

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