I happily fall into the subset of individuals who believe that it's not dessert unless there's chocolate involved. So I most definitely bow down to chocolate queen, Alice Medrich. The author of countless cookbooks, she has been dubbed the "First Lady of Chocolate," and, when it comes to baking with the sweet ingredient, there's no better person to learn from. Alice has more tips and tricks than we can count, but these are five of our very favorites.
1. Choose 60% bittersweet chocolate.
These days, a trip to the baking aisle can be daunting; no longer is baking chocolate noted as simply unsweetened, bittersweet, and semi-sweet. Now, just when you thought you were safe from math class, there are percentages involved!
So, what do you do when your recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate and you're wondering which bar to choose? Medrich recommends always going for 60 percent; it's the safest bet when the recipe doesn't call out a specific percentage.
2. Look for cocoa powder with a higher fat content.
When shopping for cocoa powder, be it natural or Dutch-processed, choose the one that has the higher amount of fat. The fat content will still be quite small (likely between .5 and 1.5 grams per tablespoon), but the higher the fat, the more cocoa butter and the richer the cocoa powder. Medrich suggests cocoa powder that contains at least 1 gram of fat per tablespoon (5 to 6 ounces).
3. Use cocoa powder for brownies with a candy-like crust.
Brownies come in all shapes and sizes, but if you love when they have a crunchy, wafer-like crust on top, you'll want to make a recipe that uses some, if not all, cocoa powder. According to Medrich, since cocoa powder isn't a significant contributor of fat (even when using a higher-fat cocoa) or sugar, cocoa brownie recipes will have more butter or oil and more sugar — both of which result in a crispy brownie crust.
Get the recipe: Pantry Cocoa Brownies
4. Use chocolate bars, not chips (unless they are specifically called for).
Chocolate chips were formulated for a specific purpose: to hold their shape when baked into cookies and other treats. That means they won't melt or blend into a batter properly. Medrich advises using chocolate chips only when called for and sticking with chocolate bars for everything else.
5. Use a water bath for melting chocolate.
There are plenty of ways to melt chocolate, but a water bath is the most foolproof. Simply simmer water in a skillet and place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the skillet. Unlike a double-boiler or the microwave, this allows you to keep your eye on things, which means less chance of the chocolate burning.