Taking a clever approach to baking with chocolate is all about understanding the ingredients that make it happen and then stepping outside the traditional recipes you're already familiar with — like using chocolate chips beyond chocolate chip cookies, or cocoa beyond your average pan of brownies. Here are the smart and clever ways to bake with the five most common chocolate ingredients stashed in your kitchen.
1. Chocolate Chips
What they are: These chocolate morsels contain stabilizers, which help them keep their perfect shape even after they've melted and cooled.
Traditional uses: We all know that chocolate chips excel at making irresistible cookies because of the way they keep their shape after coming out of the oven.
More smart ways to bake with chocolate chips: Since they don't stay melted after baking, lean on chocolate chips to upgrade basic granola bars, or to turn muffins and quick bread into sweet treats.
Clever Recipes to Use Chocolate Chips
2. Chocolate Wafers
What they are: These flat, round chocolate discs don't contain stabilizers, which means they melt like a dream and don't keep their shape after baking.
Traditional uses: Because of their melty nature, this is the chocolate we use for making chocolate-covered treats, or really anytime melted chocolate is required.
More smart ways to bake with chocolate wafers: Consider chocolate wafers an upgrade from chocolate chips. Since wafers lack stabilizers that make them hold their shape, this is the smart alternative to use for glazes, ganache, and frosting. They also work exceptionally well in pudding!
Clever Recipes to Use Chocolate Wafers
What they are: I'm not necessarily talking about that fancy $10 chocolate bar (although you can certainly bake with those). Mostly I'm talking about chocolate baking bars, which come in varieties from milk chocolate to semi-sweet to dark, and melt quite easily. Bars lack stabilizers, so they don't keep their shape like chips do.
Traditional uses: Because they melt so well, we regularly rely on bars for brownies, ganache, and frosting. Anytime you need a large volume of chocolate, this is a great choice.
More smart ways to bake with chocolate bars: Bars are a clever mix-in for cookies, since a chopped bar melts into glorious layers of chocolate patches throughout each and every bite. They're also an ideal choice for melting into pudding, cake, and hot chocolate. Anytime you want to add chocolate for texture, consider bars.
Clever Recipes to Use Chocolate Bars
4. Cocoa Powder
What it is: Cocoa powder is the smart pantry staple that infuses rich, chocolatey flavor into baked goods, without actually using solid chocolate. The trick to maximizing cocoa powder's potential is to bloom, or unleash, its flavor by mixing it with a hot liquid (usually water).
Traditional uses: Because of its rich chocolate aroma and dependence on hot liquid, cocoa powder is a key ingredient in making hot cocoa and chocolate fudge.
More smart ways to bake with cocoa powder: Look beyond hot water to maximize the flavor of cocoa powder. Pantry brownies rely on hot oil, while cocoa-laced chocolate cupcakes shine with hot coffee. A pinch of cocoa in a beef stew or chili also brings an undercurrent of richness to the dish.
5. Cacao Nibs
What they are: Cacao nibs are like nature's chocolate. They help satisfy chocolate cravings without the sweet indulgence. These crunchy bits come with an intense roasted, bitter aroma and deliver an unexpected yet very welcome contrast in flavor and texture to super-sweet baked goods.
Traditional uses: Because of their texture and not-too-sweet taste, cacao nibs are commonly in non-baking treats like trail mix, smoothies, and energy bites.
More smart ways to bake with cacao nibs: The intense, bitter taste of cacao nibs make them a welcome contrast to brownies, cakes, and quick breads, while the crunch factor makes them a good swap for nuts in a cookie recipe.