Oct 24, 2013

Baking Booster: Bittersweet Chocolate

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So here we are, careening towards the holidays. Please stop the train, I need to get off.

Fortunately, there is something to look forward to in all this calendar-flipping madness. The good part is that the best of high baking season is coming up soon! Let’s make it great this year, friends. Let’s break out our best tried-and-true recipes and magazine clippings that we shoved away and haven’t gotten to yet. Stock up on flours and sugars and pounds of butter. Finally buy a dang candy thermometer and get to some old-fashioned confectionery magic (you can do it!!). Wrestle the baking sheets out from under the everyday pots and pans and fire up the oven. And hey, even let your kids get into the fray! (I’m speaking for my Type A self here–it’s not my favorite thing to bake with little ones underfoot and under armpit; there I said it.)

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But here’s a top tip that I think has changed my baking for the better: Reach for the bittersweet chocolate this year, even if your recipe calls for semi-sweet or milk. I’m talking at least 60 to 70% cacao, nice and dark. Because nothing balances out a sea of sweet quite like it. In the same way that a good hit of salt or acid (like lemon juice or buttermilk) makes sweet things all the more craveworthy, a slight bitter edge can also add the kind of balance that makes you unable to resist taking just one. More. Bite. Tastebud trickery! Plus, if you really love chocolate, bittersweet is just that much more chocolaty, because it’s got more cacao power AND it has less fat and sugar, both of which can coat and confuse the tongue and keep you from getting the ultimate chocolate experience.

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Now, with real bittersweet chocolate, you’re going to find that things are a bit more spendy. That’s because you’re actually getting more chocolate in your chocolate! But to me, this is a situation where I’m willing to pay a little bit more for something that really makes a difference in a recipe, kind of like splurging on a good vanilla extract for recipes that are really vanilla-forward. And there’s never been a better time to find really great chocolate. Here in San Francisco, you can’t walk five feet without tripping over some amazing artisanal chocolate bar. I know that’s not the case all over the country, but luckily, a lot of these chocolate geniuses ship. And! Because the world has thought of everything ever already, there’s now a wonderful little company that’s doing phenomenal chocolate curating. That’s right. Chocolate curating is now a thing. I know!

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The good folks at Bar & Bean basically seek out the best craft chocolate makers, and get them directly to you, according to your individual tastes (you can shop by brand, by cacao percentage, and even by flavor profile). They sell incredible individual bars, but also put together really inventive Tasting Sets that offer a selection of bars that come packaged with a detailed tasting menu in a beautiful linen wrap. They sent me their fantastic Baker’s Set for a looksee, and honestly, people, I just can’t think of a more perfect, delicious, sophisticated gift for the holidays (or for yourself, for that matter).

These are the kind of chocolates that will take even the most simple cookie to some heretofore mystical level. Speaking of which, here are some of my favorite recipes using bittersweet chocolate from the archives that can really help you get the most bang for your buck when you spring for the good stuff:

Endlessly Riffable Chocolate Bark

Chocolate-Drizzled Sponge Candy

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake

Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Triple Chocolate-Pecan Biscotti

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***The giveaway that was attached to this post is now closed. Thanks!***

72 Comments

  • I think cookies would have to be my favorite, but most of the time I just have a square or two of really dark [80% or so] chocolate for dessert.

    I have been following you on facebook, username: Lilli Edwards

    I have also been following you on twitter username: @mrpantsoff

  • Chocolate sorbet is one of my faves. But a plain and simple, good quality chocolate bar is all I really need. This bakers tasting set looks out of this world! I’m hoping the company will ship to APOs because is love to try it out.

    I already follow on Facebook via Renee DuTill Zublic!

  • Molten chocolate lava cake!

  • Homemade chocolate ice cream! It’s even better when you turn it into rocky road (with about twice as many nuts and marshmallows as the recipe says)… yum.

  • My favorite chocolate dessert is my aunt’s Chocolae Cake recipe — it also happens to be my all-time favorite dessert in general. Yum!

  • Brownies

  • Easy, Brownies!

  • Nothing better than a good gooey brownie!

  • I’ll never say no to chocolate chip cookies. :-)

  • I love chocolate cake

  • I’ve already BEEN following you on Twitter! @kathystrahs :-)

  • I recently made a dark chocolate/date/coconut pie that was pretty amazing. It was rich and creamy, and it gave me a new appreciation for coconut that I’d never had before!

  • I already like you on Facebook! (eautumne / Emily Robinson)

  • I’m now following you on Twitter as lemonslush!

  • Oh my gosh – I have to pick JUST ONE!?!?! That’s pretty hard! My sister makes some wicked brownies (from the Moosewood cookbook), I just recently made a chocolate pumpkin cake with chocolate ganache. Then there are chocolate bars, and chocolate mousse….and, and….

    Oh please don’t make me choose just one favourite!

  • I would have to say a chocolate cheesecake is probably my favorite. :)

  • I have been following you on facebook! (Stephanie Richley)

  • Chocolate Chipotle ganache tart!

  • My mother’s Lincoln log: a sheet of chocolate cake rolled like a jelly roll around whipped cream dotted with sour cherries and a Cadbury bar melted of the top of the roll. YUM!

  • My fave would have to be nutella cookies with dark chocolate chunks-yum!!

  • I already follow you on facebook! Adi Lev-Er (my account’s temporarily deactivated, but I think you can still see my name in your list of followers…..)
    Favorite chocolate dessert…. Alice Medrich’s cocoa brownies is one of my favorite recipes of all time. The texture is unreal, and the chocolatey flavor almost knocks you over. Thanks for the giveaway!!

  • My favorite chocolate dessert is brownies! Although classic chocolate chip cookies are a close contender!

  • Straight up chocolate. Or brownies. Or chocolate chip cookies with nuts. I’ve already BEEN following you on Facebook.

  • I just love my brownies with chocolate buttercream icing!
    Facebook following – Distracted Debra
    Twitter following- @Distracteddebra

  • Chocolate mousse is my all time favorite.

  • I absolutely love chocolate silk pie! Another favorite is Rolo Cookies, chocolate and caramel is the best combo!

  • I love dark chocolate brownies with a little bit of espresso powder mixed in. They are so decadent and rich – worth every calorie!

  • Chocolate covered pretzels! I love them so much…

  • Death by Chocolate — chocolate pudding, brownies, whipped cream…..yum

  • I love Black Forest Gateau!

  • Sour chocolate cake from Saveur! And any Scharffen Berger bar!

  • I love making (and eating) chocolate eclairs – chocolate pastry cream plus chocolate glaze means double chocolate goodness!

    I follow you on Facebook under Christine Lynn.

  • So hard to pick just one! I love homemade deep dark chocolate brownies.

  • My favorite is my wife’s Devil’s Food Cake with dark chocolate ganache.

  • Probably have to go with these ridiculous chocolate pb cookies I make with dark choc chips and mini peanut butter cups. Rolled in sugar. Mmmmm.

  • Chocolate mousse, all the way!

  • Anything chocolate is the best, I suppose as the holidays are approaching one I make every year and everyone loves is pb kiss cookies. Yummy

  • Squares of Green and Black’s milk chocolate dipped briefly in hot green tea. I kid you not.

  • Okay now I’m totally craving chocolate!! I think today my favorite chocolate dessert is hot chocolate, it sounds so good on this chilly night!

  • a good, fudgy, rich brownie :)

  • Lately I’ve been making chocolate mousse pie with Girardelli’s bitter dark. So rich it gives me a stomache but so worth it.

    I follow on facebook: kim dropik koehler

  • Favorite chocolate dessert? Just eating the bar of chocolate! Anything from milk to unsweetened! Yup! I love it all!

  • Liquid salted caramels from the uk-I don’t get to eat them much because of the cost with shipping to the us….but man are they worth it!!! I’ve got you on FB, name is Lucki!

  • I find it hard to improve on just eating chocolate. Chocolate mousse is pretty wonderful, though!

  • I agree that a high cacao percentage makes a world of difference. I use an 86% for almost everything.
    Chocolate trifle is my favorite.

  • I’m already a Facebook follower.
    Patty Prosise/Pattypro

  • Brownies!

  • just stumbled into your website from shutterbean! already in love! and just my luck on a giveaway week!

    my favorite chocolate treat is just a bowl of hot popcorn mixed in with M&Ms. can’t beat that salty sweet combo

  • I love a good chocolate mousse!

  • Chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies- I wouldn’t say no to any of these!

  • Definitely brownies are my favourite! Thanks for the giveaway! :)

  • Definitely brownies.

  • I liked you on Facebook!
    Username is Shauna Davis.

  • I followed you on Twitter!
    Username is xShaunaDx

  • I think my favorite chocolate dessert would have to be brownies! XD

  • I’m following you on Twitter as Feol Razerwing!

  • I liked you on Facebook as Grethin Holter!

  • I adore homemade dark chocolate pudding!

  • Nigella’s chocolate brownies from Feasts cookbook are the most delicious I’ve ever had. White chocolate chips add a wonderful vanilla roundness to deep, dark chocolate. Yum!

  • One of many favourites are salted chocolate caramels (made with 60% cocoa), and mocha friands with chocolate chunks. Also now following you on Facebook (Kelly Hughes). And now I need to go eat some chocolate.

  • My favorite chocolate dessert is chocolate souffle.

  • I love eclairs

  • I love chocolate lava cake!

  • I follow you on Twitter (@shala_darkstone).

  • I “like” your Facebook page (FB name: Madeline Brubaker).

  • I love flourless chocolate cake with caramel ice-cream…….yum!

  • chocolate covered strawberries, simple, but so delicious!

  • Brownies…homemade of course, warm and gooey…nothing better to me!

  • Chocolate Mousse!

  • What a great business idea! Anna and Robbie (Ritual Chocolate) are my neighbors in Denver and they are more fun, more knowledgeable and more humble than you could ever imagine.

  • i love chocolate cheesecake!

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