Choosing and using baking chocolate


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    Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate. We’re not just talking about a box of chocolate, but also homemade chocolate goodies baked from the heart. From unsweetened to semisweet to white, Consumer Reports suggests which baking chocolate you should choose for your Valentine’s Day desserts.

    The type depends on what you’re making. A Consumer Reports editor and trained chef says you don’t have to use the most expensive! Paying more won’t necessarily get you a better tasting chocolate. If you’re going to use it in a recipe anyway, chances are most people won’t be able to tell the difference. Instead, save the really fancy stuff for embellishments or snacking.

    Baking chocolate, for even the most elaborate desserts, falls into one of these categories:

    Want to make brownies or fudge? Use unsweetened chocolate. Also called bitter chocolate, it doesn't have sugar, flavorings, or added fat, and gives your recipe a strong chocolate flavor.

    Cocoa powder is made of the “liquor” from crushed cocoa beans processed to remove most of the fat and ground into a powder. It’s easy to keep on hand due to its long shelf life, and it can be used for hot chocolate and a variety of desserts. You can buy natural or Dutch process, which is less acidic. But if your recipe calls for baking soda, don’t use Dutch-process cocoa. Because it’s not acidic, it won’t react with the soda and your batter might not rise!

    Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate is made with sugar and at least 35 percent chocolate liquor. It’s great for brownies, cakes, and dipping.

    You’ll see a lot of white baking chips or morsels in the baking aisle, but real white chocolate contains cocoa butter. So check the label.

    Milk chocolate is made with milk solids along with added sugar and fat. Its sweet flavor is best for desserts where the taste can stand on its own.

    And of course the magic ingredient in any chocolate dessert is LOVE.

    Whatever you buy, double-wrap your chocolate and keep it in a cool, dry place. If you refrigerate it, keep it away from anything that can transfer an odor, like cheese or fish.

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