“Only use the best chocolate money can buy. Anything less than 70% cocoa solids will destroy your cake/biscuits/mousse and all your time and precious money will be wasted.”
This statement (or a variant of it) crops up time and time again. Food writers, bloggers, cookbook recipes seem obsessed about the cocoa content when it comes to cooking with chocolate. But how true is it really? Should we really be eschewing much maligned cheaper chocolate in favour of the cocoa content? I had a look online to see what others out there said.
David Lebovitz, in his excellent blog recommends using mid-range chocolate with a cocoa content of 35-64%. His reasoning behind this is that the depth of flavour you get in more expensive chocolate brands can get lost in the cooking process. He also had the interesting idea, which I’d very much like to try in future, of using chocolate extract to boost the flavour in baked goods. So I decided here to conduct my own experiment. I selected a range of chocolates – some of the cheapest and most expensive varieties out there, and baked a batch of brownies all to the same recipe. The chocolates I tested (in ascending order of price):
- Morrisons value
- Sainsburys Basics*
- Cadburys Bournville*
- Tesco 74% dark chocolate*
- Waitrose Continental chocolate*
- Green & Blacks Cook’s chocolate
- Lindt cooking chocolate*
- Lindt 70% dark chocolate*
- Valrhona Noir cooking chocolate
My main findings were that the Morrisons chocolate brownies lacked a certain depth of flavour whilst the Green & Blacks had a slightly bitter note I actually found rather unpleasant. All the other chocolate brands produced delicious results.
I’ve assigned an asterisk (*) next to all the brands I would use most commonly in cooking. All in all, it’s just common sense. Simply the best chocolate to use in baking is the sort you enjoy eating au naturel anyway. I personally prefer a sweeter dark chocolate such as Bournville, but to others, Green & Blacks would be more to their taste.
It also depends on the dessert itself. Sweeter brownies seem to pair up better with sweeter dark chocolates, but I say still go for 70% cocoa content when you are making something knee-breakingly decadent. Just experiment, and see what you like the best!