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Choosing Chocolate Brands

Three things to consider

by Joanne Smart

from Fine Cooking
Issue 61

You have a lot of choice when shopping for chocolate. Supermarket brands (Baker’s, Nestlé, Hershey’s, Ghirardelli), big European chocolate makers (Valrhona, Lindt, Callebaut), international brands such as Venezuelan El-Rey, and newer boutique chocolate makers, such as Scharffen Berger in California and Michel Cluizel in France, can all be good. Which chocolate do you choose?

First, consider taste — The chocolate you bake with should taste good to you when eaten out of hand, so be sure to sample it when you get it home. Better yet, buy a few different kinds and have a chocolate tasting to decide what you like best.

Second, consider value and what you will be baking — The qualities that make high-end chocolates so distinctive right out of the wrapper can become muted in certain baked goods. Since you’ll pay more for really good chocolate, save it for when it really counts—when you’re making sweets in which the chocolate is most pronounced, such as a sauce or a flourless chocolate cake.

Third, consider the form in which the chocolate comes — Chocolate for baking is manufactured in squares, thin bars, and thick blocks. Thin bars are convenient to store and can be easier to chop than blocks, which take a bit of elbow grease to knock apart. Some better quality chocolates only come in huge blocks, which are great for pros but may be too big a quantity for home cooks. Fortunately, specialty stores often sell smaller chunks of the blocks wrapped in plastic.

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