Strolling through your local supermarket, you may notice that there are two distinct chocolate sections, one in the baking aisle and one in the candy aisle. That’s because, though they look quite similar, the chocolate bars you snack on are very different from the ones you bake with. But what’s the difference, exactly? We know it can be a bit confusing, so we’ve broken it down for you below.
The Basics of Baking Chocolate
To put it simply, baking chocolate is chocolate that’s specifically designed to be used in baking, cooking and confection-making.* Traditionally, baking chocolate is more bitter than snacking chocolate to accommodate for the added sugar in the baking recipe, but that’s not always the case. You’ll find baking chocolate all along a spectrum of sweetness levels, from perfectly bitter to super sweet. More on this below!
The biggest difference between baking chocolate and snacking chocolate, though, is that baking chocolate is designed to bring certain qualities to cooking and baking so you can use it in many chocolate recipes. Whether that means it’s easier to melt so you can create exquisite chocolate coatings or it’s effortless to incorporate into liquids so you can whip up velvety chocolate drinks, baking chocolate will help you get the job done better.
*That doesn’t mean you can’t snack on baking chocolate! Never bake with chocolate you wouldn’t eat or enjoy on its own.
Types of Baking Chocolate
There are many different types of baking chocolate, so you should always make sure you’re choosing the right one for your unique application. Typically, solid baking chocolate is produced in smaller pieces that make it easier to melt, chop and mix into doughs and batters. The most common types of solid baking chocolate include discs (also called couvertures), chips and bars. There are also nibs, crumbles and powders.
- Chocolate wafers, discs or couvertures are primarily used in applications where you want to melt your chocolate down — say, for dipping fruit or creating your own candy with molds. Chocolate chips can serve the same purpose, but they’re also ideal for mixing into cookies, muffins and more.
- Cocoa nibs are small pieces of rich, bitter chocolate made from crushed cocoa beans. They bring a pleasantly crunchy, nutty texture, so they’re great for mixing into breads, muffins, cookies and cakes whenever you want a bit of crunch. Some people also use them in ice cream and smoothies.
- Cocoa powder is another common type of baking chocolate. Essentially, this is just dark chocolate in powdered form, only it doesn’t typically contain as much cocoa butter (fat) as solid chocolate. This makes it great for emulsifying into cake batters, brownies and even ice cream. Traditional cocoa powder is on the bitter end, but you can find it in sweet varieties as well.
- Drinking chocolate is made with small chocolate crumbles that are designed to incorporate beautifully into liquid chocolate recipes, such as hot cocoa, chocolate milk or chocolate sauce. They melt and mix beautifully.
Bitter vs. Bittersweet vs. Semisweet vs. Sweet
Baking chocolate comes in a spectrum of sweetness levels starting with bitter on one end, with bittersweet and semisweet smack-dab in the middle, and milk and sweet at the sweetest end. The type of chocolate depends on how much sugar has been added.
- Bitter or unsweetened chocolate contains very little, if any, sugar. It is the highest cacao baking chocolate you can buy and usually has 100 percent cacao. It’s known for its crumbly, almost chalky texture. This kind of chocolate is ideal for brownies, cakes, muffins and more, especially when you want to balance out a higher sugar content, as 100 percent baking chocolate has zero sugar.
- Bittersweet is one of the most popular forms of baking chocolate. It works well in tons of recipes thanks to a lower percentage of sugar and a higher concentration of cacao. Technically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires any chocolate labeled bittersweet or semisweet to have at least 35 percent cacao, but bittersweet chocolate typically hovers around 70 percent. It’s commonly used for cakes, brownies and cookies, as well as dipping and coating.
- Semisweet has a bit more sugar and a lower concentration of cacao (around 60 percent). Bittersweet and semisweet baking chocolates are mostly interchangeable. Typically, if a recipe calls for one, you can choose either depending on how sweet you’d like the recipe to be. Semisweet chocolate is great for cakes, cookies, sauces, brownies, mousses and more.
- Sweet and milk will have less cacao (below 60 percent) and more sugar. Milk chocolate baking powder, of course, contains milk, which can help add a creamy or silky texture to your recipes. We don’t recommend using either of these chocolate types for baking applications that involve a lot of sugar, as it can be overpoweringly sweet.
Find Your Perfect Baking Chocolate
Finding the right baking chocolate for your needs comes down to your specific recipe and flavor preferences. TCHO offers an incredible variety of baking chocolates made with the finest-quality cocoa beans to help you craft the most luxurious and delicious chocolate creations ever.