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tppytel

Chocolate recs for general baking/pastry?

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Like many folks I've been doing a lot of baking lately - something I never quite had time to do well before. I've been focusing on cakes and pastry and I'm getting frustrated buying supermarket fancy chocolate. I guess any plain dark chocolate under 70% just isn't trendy enough to stock these days, and not one of my four local markets carries a single bar of plain white chocolate anymore. I started browsing Chocosphere and Worldwide, but I'm lost in the vast selection there and comparative taste tests are surprisingly scarce online. I see there's a ton of chocolate knowledge on this forum so I'm hoping for some recommendations.

 

I guess I primarily want a white chocolate and a ~60% semisweet dark because I can't buy those locally. But it wouldn't hurt to order some ~70% bittersweet while I'm at it since that gets used a lot for brownies and cookies and it would probably be cheaper than buying Green & Black's or Endangered Species bars at the market. These would be used for a wide range of general baking and pastry preparations (batter, icing, ganache, mousse, whatever), but not real molding or truffle work. I'd prefer something in convenient disc or bar form over a huge block. One or two kilo sizes are probably as much as I'll use in a reasonable time, especially with summer approaching. With that in mind, I could totally just buy some Callebaut callets and call it a day (wow... alliteration!). But then I see Callebaut isn't all that highly regarded here. I'd welcome any suggestions from folks that have tested lots of chocolate. Something relatively inexpensive (~$20/kilo) like Callebaut or Guittard is nice, of course, but I could swing ~$30/kilo if it's really that much better. If there are any varieties that are particularly good for certain baking applications but not others, I'd be interested to know that too - I'm not entirely clear on fluidity or other chemical properties of chocolate.

 

Thanks for any thoughts or recommendations you can provide!

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If you are close to a Trader Joe’s, their block chocolate (they are not enormous) is very good for the price. I have heard it is made for them by a well known high quality chocolate manufacturer (Callebaut maybe?).

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You don't say what country you are in or region.   That might help. 

Walmart carries a not very good bar but it's usable, depending upon what you are doing and to whom you are giving it.  Lindt chocolate carries couverture in its larger stores.  I don't know if Lindt is in the US.  I live in Canada.  The Bulk Barn (in Canada) carries various grades of chocolate discs.  When last I looked they were from South Africa.  It was some years ago.  Try in local bulk food stores...my local bulk food (non-chain) carries Callebaut.  Another one in my nearby city carries    I think one of the larger Canadian grocery stores, like Super Store, carries a larger bar.  Again, like the Walmart bar, it's not really very good...but still usable. 

 

I use Lindt chocolate mostly and have had no problems with it.

 

I don't know anything about white chocolate.  Sorry. 

 


Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I use Felchlin for my dark and milk chocolates, but unfortunately they decided to go with one U.S. distributor (AUI), and now the chocolate can be bought only in whole-case quantities (a decision that is fine for me, but I really think they are limiting their audience). When Venezuela, the source of Maracaibo, totally collapses, which I expect any day, for dark chocolate I will switch to Valrhona's Caraïbe (66%). Chocosphere sells it in 1 kilo bags ($31), only slightly above your higher price point. Many people on eGullet use Guittard, so someone will probably chime in with recommendations.

 

For white chocolate (there is a whole thread on this), I have tasted many of them and settled on Valrhona's Opalys.(at $35/kilo priced a bit higher than the dark I mentioned). It is a white chocolate that those who do not like white chocolate (well, some of them maybe) actually like. My second choice is Cacao Barry's Zéphyr, priced considerably lower ($26/kilo).

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I'm in the US - sorry for not pointing that out and being the typical presumptuous American.

 

We have a TJ's, though it's not on my regular route. I also remember reading somewhere that their blocks were from Callebaut. Whole Foods (more convenient to me) used to stock Callebaut-marked blocks but didn't have any out as of a couple days ago - possibly due to virus precautions in the stripped-down prepared food area. I'm not opposed to Callebaut - I remember working through a big block years ago and it was fine. But I'd just as soon try other recommended varieties, especially in a more convenient disc form. I'm not that cost-sensitive, though I'm not going to be buying $45/kilo bags for my purposes either. I'll probably order a bag of basic Callebaut anyway for when my 12yo daughter wants to bake - in bulk that's cheaper than even the cheap, crappy supermarket chocolate.

 

I did read some of the white chocolate thread and remember Opalys being mentioned. I could probably stand to pay for that - I don't especially love white either and don't use it much, but it's annoying that I can't get plain white anywhere locally anymore. It's all doctored up with strawberries or whatever. If I use it then it will probably be for something relatively important.

 

The Valrhona Caraibe was one that I was looking at. The Extra Bitter at 61% is also written up on CS to be a good all-around semisweet. Any experience with that one?

 

The only Lindt I've ever tried are the bars available at the market. I blind-tested their 70% against a few others not long back and found it OK but notably less interesting. 

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I use Valrhona and the ones that I use most of the time are Caraïbe, Alpaco, Jivara, and Ivoire. There are many very good chocolate makers, to name a few: Guittard, Felchin, Amedei, Cacao Barry, Callebaut. All of the chocolates I mentioned have couverture in disc form and are available from chocosphere.

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6 hours ago, Darienne said:

You don't say what country you are in or region.   That might help. 

Walmart carries a not very good bar but it's usable, depending upon what you are doing and to whom you are giving it.  Lindt chocolate carries couverture in its larger stores.  I don't know if Lindt is in the US.  I live in Canada.  The Bulk Barn (in Canada) carries various grades of chocolate discs.  When last I looked they were from South Africa.  It was some years ago.  Try in local bulk food stores...my local bulk food (non-chain) carries Callebaut.  Another one in my nearby city carries    I think one of the larger Canadian grocery stores, like Super Store, carries a larger bar.  Again, like the Walmart bar, it's not really very good...but still usable. 

 

I use Lindt chocolate mostly and have had no problems with it.

 

I don't know anything about white chocolate.  Sorry. 

 

 

Speaking of canada some of the chocolate they regularly carry is honestly extremely good for being a bulk store. I'm always surprised. 

 

Also (in Canada), it might be slumming it for some of you, but I've had excellent results with the PC brand chips carried in those stores.

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I use Guittard.  I haven't tasted lots of different chocolates.  Guittard works for me and I haven't had any problem with it.  I can get it wholesale at a good price, so that's what I use.  

 

As for chips, I'm a fan of their extra-semi sweet Akoma chips, 55%.  They recently transitioned to make that an organic product.  A different flavor profile, it's still good, but more pricey.  I haven't decided if I'll stick with the organic product, or just move to their extra dark/bittersweet chip, 63%.

 

Within Guittard's line for a standard baking chocolate you have a lots of good choices.  Their Oro bittersweet, 67%, chunk/ribbon melts nicely.  I used to use it more than I do now.  It has a kind of earthy taste and have decided I like others better, but I know many who really like it.  

 

Their popular French Vanilla Semisweet, 54%, 10 pound bar also comes in wafer form.  I don't use it because it is thicker than my favorites below (which I also use for hand dipping chocolates so I like the thinner consistency.)

 

I like their Prestige wafer, 57% and their Onyx wafer, 72%.  These are my go-to non-chip and non-couverture chocolates.  

 

I'm more a fan of dark than milk and not a big fan of white chocolate.  I use their mystic white chocoalte.  It works for me.  

 

In addition to these wholesale products they do sell retail 12 ounce bags of baking wafers in places like Target, at least in the Bay Area.  

 

I think you can get these from places like chocosphere and worldwide and other places online.  If you're close to the San Francisco Bay Area, send me a message and I can connect you with a wholesale source.  

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On 5/16/2020 at 3:03 PM, Darienne said:

You don't say what country you are in or region.   That might help. 

Walmart carries a not very good bar but it's usable, depending upon what you are doing and to whom you are giving it.  Lindt chocolate carries couverture in its larger stores.  I don't know if Lindt is in the US.  I live in Canada.  The Bulk Barn (in Canada) carries various grades of chocolate discs.  When last I looked they were from South Africa.  It was some years ago.  Try in local bulk food stores...my local bulk food (non-chain) carries Callebaut.  Another one in my nearby city carries    I think one of the larger Canadian grocery stores, like Super Store, carries a larger bar.  Again, like the Walmart bar, it's not really very good...but still usable. 

 

I use Lindt chocolate mostly and have had no problems with it.

 

I don't know anything about white chocolate.  Sorry. 

 

One of Bulk Barn's belgian chocolates is Belcolade. 

 

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Thanks again for the replies and suggestions. I got some recs from Joanne at Chocosphere as well and then put together an order to try and hit a variety of them. I received that order today. I went with Joanne's rec of an inexpensive Guittard for the semisweet, which I haven't tried yet. I might have gone with the Zephry for the white given the cost but it was out of stock, so I went with the Opalys instead. I'd have liked to try the Ivoire as well, but that didn't seem to be available in a smaller size. I'll probably get that when the Opalys starts running low to test them side-by-side. The bittersweets weren't really my focus but there were lots of tasters available for those, so I grabbed quite a few of them and along with what was already in my cupboard we did a 66%-72% tasting tonight. We did a ~70% tasting of grocery store bars about 18 months ago, so I also wanted to compare back to that. I made no effort to double-blind this tasting, since I could discern the manufacturer based on the shape anyway and my wife and kids didn't know any of them to begin with. We made reasonable efforts to cleanse palates, record notes individually, and draw conclusions somewhat scientifically, but this was still ultimately an amateur operation. Still, here are my thoughts in case they're of use to anyone...

 

Callebaut Fair Trade 70% - $20/kg - The most bitter of the group, with a slight mineral taste to it. This reminded me of the Green & Black's bar, which was in the last tasting but not this one. I like this style of chocolate when I want a strong contrast between the chocolate and a sweeter/creamier ingredient, but it's not my favorite for general-purpose baking, even for a bittersweet. Very reasonably priced, though. Cutting this slightly with the (also inexpensive) Guittard semisweet to temper the bitterness might be a cost-effective general baking approach.

 

Valrhona Guanaja 70% - $32/kg - Highly recommended by Joanne at Chocosphere. This was indeed a really nice all-around bittersweet. Some fruity and spicy notes, but no particular flavor stood out. It was just tasty. If I had to pick a single, all-around ~70% chocolate to stock, this would be it. It would work in everything.

 

Valrhona Caraibe 66% - $31/kg - Recommended here. A bit sweeter than the Guanaja, with fruity-floral notes among other flavors. Quite excellent. I can see choosing this over the Guanaja in preparations where the chocolate is the star and I want something just a touch sweeter and also more interesting in its own right.

 

Baker's Bittersweet 66% - ~$2.50/bar at the grocery store - I'm not sure how this bar found its way into my cupboard but I discovered it there last week and figured I'd throw it in tonight. It's as bad as its reputation suggests, with a nasty, chalky mouthfeel and almost no flavor beyond some sugar. Really awful stuff. If this were all I could find, I'd make something without chocolate instead.

 

Endangered Species "Chimp" 72% - ~$3.50/bar at the grocery = ~$41/kg - A favorite from our last tasting, this bar still performs very well against high-end brands. For a 72% chocolate, it has a lot of fruity/spicy complexity and not just bitterness. I think I actually prefer this slightly to the Guanaja in the higher-percent category, but it's pricey to use in quantity. However, I can see trading cost for convenience and just buying this at the store as needed if you don't bake a whole lot. It's really good.

 

Michel Cluizel Single Plantation Assortment - ~$55/kg individually - Way too expensive for me to consider for baking purposes, but the taster assortment seemed fun enough for ~$18. We omitted the milk example from this and tried the others which were all in the high 60's. Honestly, the sophistication here was mostly beyond us. After the fact, our tasting notes lined up with the pamphlet for a couple of the chocolates, but none of them really leapt out at us as outstanding compared to the other options. At this level, I think I would 1) need a more experienced palate, and 2) need to test them in the context of a very specific application (e.g. one particular truffle). At least I won't feel compelled to go spending $55/kg on chocolate!

 

For completeness, the other three chocolates from our last, grocery-store tasting...

 

Green & Black's Organic 70% - ~$3.50/3 oz - As noted above, Callebaut seems quite similar to my recollection of this. Bitter with a sort of mineral taste. Not unpleasant, but best for specific applications. I think bulk Callebaut is quite similar as well as much, much cheaper in bulk.

 

Lindt 70% - ~$3/3 oz - Relatively sweet and creamy for the percentage, inoffensive but not especially interesting or complex. Acceptable backup grocery store chocolate if it's the best you can find.

 

Private Selection 70% (Mariano's/Kroger House Brand) - $2.50/3 oz - Slightly better than Baker's but that's not saying much. Weird oily mouthfeel. Not much to the flavor beyond sweetness. I wouldn't make a chocolate-forward dessert if this were all I had.

 

All good fun for a Friday night family activity!

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