This French Chocolate Is the Best for Baking — And It’s Available at Most Grocery Stores
Next time you have a mind-blowing chocolate ganache or soufflé at a fine-dining restaurant, ask the server what brand of chocolate they’re using. Chances are high that the pastry chef’s secret to that silky-smooth texture and rich chocolate flavor is Valrhona. The French chocolate brand can be found in Michelin-starred kitchens worldwide — and on shelves at grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The chocolate comes in pieces called feves, which are uniquely shaped indented ovals, and they come in white, milk and dark chocolate varieties, with more than a dozen different blends for baking.
Delicate, tropical 66% Caraïbe and warm, fudgy 70% Guanaja are the most popular baking blends and two of my personal favorites for chocolate lava cake, cookies, and chocolate-covered strawberries. I love Valrhona chocolate because it’s aromatic, melts smoothly, and doesn’t taste waxy like some lesser-quality chocolates can. In a straightforward dessert where chocolate is the star, you can really taste the difference.
Chocolatier Chris Kollar of Kollar Chocolates in Yountville, California, exclusively uses Valrhona for all of his chocolate bonbons and confections. “Valrhona has a super-consistent product,” he says. “It’s very user-friendly and you get nice fluidity, from milk, to white, to dark chocolates. None of their chocolate gets too fudgy or thick.”
Buy: Valrhona Guanaja Dark Chocolate Feves, 70%, $29.99 for 1 pound
If you don’t see the baking feves at your local grocery store, look for Valrhona’s bars instead. You’ll find the same blends, just in bar form, and you’ll just have to break or chop it into pieces yourself.
If you really want to splurge for a special occasion, a number of craft chocolate makers offer baking chocolate too. Maui Ku’ia Estate‘s baking drops are perfect chocolate chips for cookies, and Dandelion Chocolate offers ground untempered chocolate, large chocolate chips, and cacao nibs. You can find a mix of all three in my pantry at home.
Can’t find any of those brands? Kollar has a tip to help you make the best pick. He recommends looking at the percentage of cocoa mass on a label for baking chocolate and scanning the ingredient list. “I only like to see four things on a label,” he says. “Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, and soy lecithin. If there’s anything else on the label that I can’t pronounce, I stay away.” Why the soy lecithin? It lowers the viscosity of chocolate, so it will temper, melt, and blend more smoothly. This helps chocolatiers like Kollar create thin, even shells for chocolate bonbons, and helps give your chocolate a more workable consistency at home too.
Have you tried Valrhona’s chocolate feves? Tell us in the comments below.