Last updated on October 4th, 2022.

Why am I asking what dark chocolate is, and why am I answering this question?

Beauce, I would like to own up to my mistakes and make it clear that it is more than just not milk chocolate. And when it comes to baking, understanding the world of chocolate and its different types is key to our success.

Dark chocolate is chocolate with no added milk solids and with the essential ingredients of cocoa butter, cocoa solids (chocolate liquor), sugar, and emulsifiers such as soy lecithin for an optimal texture. Lower-quality chocolate also contains butter fat, oil, flavors, and stabilizers.

I want to add and say that In this article, I will not talk about how chocolate can lower the risk of heart disease, how it can reduce the risk of diabetes, or how much good cholesterol it has. But the good news is that this post is all about that sweet tooth and baking with different types of dark chocolate.

Different types and form of dark chocolate

Types

Any chocolate product that contains little to no added sugar, a min. of 15% cocoa liquor (cocoa powder (solids) and cocoa butter), and no addition of milk solids is the legal definition of dark chocolate. It can be as little as 15% chocolate liquor and up to 100%.

We all know the different types: dark sweet, semisweet, bittersweet, and bitter. Each brand has its formula and manufacturing process but must follow the following FDA (food and drug administration) regulations:

  • Sweet Dark Chocolate. Any chocolate with the min. of 15% chocolate liquor is the mildest chocolate and typically ranges between 15-34%.
  • Semisweet chocolate. Any chocolate with a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor typically ranges between 35-64%. The most common to use in baking and for Chocolate Ganache.
  • Bittersweet chocolate. Any chocolate with a minimum of 65% chocolate liquor typically ranges between 65-98%.
  • Bitter chocolate. Also known as unsweetened chocolate with a min. of 99% chocolate liquor and no addition of sugar.
TypeFDA
Regulations
CommercialCommon Uses In Baking
Dark sweetMin. 15%15-34%Chocolate chips (cookies), mousses, syrup
Semi-sweetMin. 35%35-65%Chocolate chips (cookies), cakes, ganache,
mousses, custards, brownies
BittersweetMin. 65%65-98%Chocolate chips (cookies), cakes, ganache,
mousses, custards, brownies, fillings
BitterMin. 99%99-100% cakes,
mousses, custards, brownies

Varieties and Forms

Nowadays, it is widespread to find almost every type of chocolate in different forms and varieties, such as chips, morsels, wafers, chocolate bar, and blocks. Here is a list of the most common forms of chocolate:

a variety of chocolate: blocks ,bars, chips and wafers

Chocolate chips and morsels

Morsels are slightly larger than chips, but both are specially made to keep their shape during baking by adding special fats and stabilizers. The addition of stabilizers changes the melting point of chocolate and it no longer melts at the temperature of our body, making it less pleasant to eat.

Wafers

They are thin chocolate discs that are meant to melt quickly.

Bars

Chocolate bars are thin rectangles or other shapes of chocolate that are easy to break.  

Blocks

Like bars, chocolate blocks are shaped as rectangles, but they are much thicker and used mainly by bakers and chocolatiers.

Dark Chocolate In Baking

I don’t believe there is such a thing as “the best dark chocolate”. It is a personal preference. Still, each type has its unique make-up of cocoa butter (fat), cocoa solids, sugar, and sometimes stabilizers and other ingredients that might affect the texture, flavor, and overall quality of our baked goods.

Here are the rules you should keep in mind when baking with dark chocolate:

  • Chocolate chips and morels do not melt well. Use them as add-ons for flavor and texture, much like you would use nuts and sprinkles.
  • The high levels of cocoa solids also point to less sugar content and a more bitter flavor.
  • Bitter chocolate should not be replaced with other types of chocolate. Its high cacao content (both fat and solids) is a crucial part of the recipe, so if you must, replace it with bittersweet chocolate that is 80% and higher.
  • Remember that the lower the percent cocoa is, the higher the sugar content is. That means that your recipe will gain more sugar (sweetness) and lose some of its bitter flavors, the balance between the two is essential in any recipe.
  • When a recipe calls for bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, use the type of dark chocolate bars you enjoy eating. (Don’t be tempted to try unsweetened chocolate, it has a very bitter taste…).

Substitutions For Baking

Below is the substitution table for the different types of dark chocolate. To use it, you will need to increase or decrease the fat content, cocoa powder, and sugar from your recipe. For example, if you wish to substitute semisweet 35% with bittersweet 85%, for every 1 oz, you will need to remove 3/4 teaspoon of fat and 1 1/2 of cocoa and increase the sugar by 3/4 teaspoons.

AmountTypeFatCocoaSugar
1 oz, 28 gramssemisweet 15%1/2 teaspoon1/2 teaspoon2 tablespoons
1 oz, 28 gramssemisweet 30%1 teaspoon1 teaspoon1 3/4 tablespoons
1 oz, 28 gramssemisweet 35%1 1/4 teaspoon1 teaspoon1 1/2 tablespoons
1 oz, 28 gramssemisweet 49%2 teaspoons1 1/2 teaspoons1 1/6 tablespoons
1 oz, 28 gramsbittersweet 56%2 teaspoons1 3/4 teaspoons1 tablespoon
1 oz, 28 gramsbittersweet 65%2 1/4 teaspoons2 teaspoons3/4 tablespoon
1 oz, 28 gramsbittersweet 72%2 1/2 teaspoons2 1/4 teaspoons2 teaspoons
1 oz, 28 gramsbittersweet 85%1 3/4 teaspoons2 1/2 teaspoons1 teaspoon
1 oz, 28 gramsbitter 99%1 1/4 Tablespoons1 Tablespoon0
  • If you are out of chocolate bars, the table can also work the other way around. 1 1/4 teaspoons butter, plus one teaspoon cocoa and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, can substitute 1 oz (28 g) of semisweet 36% chocolate.
  • When it comes to chocolate chips, you can replace any type with any type according to your preference. For example, use semisweet chocolate chips instead of bittersweet for a sweeter flavor. (of course, you can also use milk and white chocolate chips).
  • One ounce of chocolate (chopped) can replace three tablespoons of chocolate chips or 6 oz (170 g) of chopped chocolate per 1 cup of chocolate chips.

Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate contains a percentage of milk solids, which gives the chocolate a light color and a distinguish creamy flavor. The amount of cocoa varies from one brand to the other and it is the main difference between the two types of chocolate.

Expert Notes

When melting chocolate, there is the risk of the chocolate burning and seizing. Make sure to read these notes carefully:

  • Burning. The chocolate’s cacao solids (cocoa powder) have a very low smoking point, which means that the chocolate will burn at a temperature of 200F (90C). The bad news is that when we burn the chocolate, there is no way to reverse it. Make sure to melt the chocolate at a low temperature. A double boiler is an excellent option since there is no direct heat contact with the chocolate. When using the microwave, use increments of 30 seconds and allow the chocolate to melt by the heat residue.
  • Seizing. Chocolate is delicate emulsification of fat (cocoa butter) and solids (cocoa powder). When we add even the tiniest drop of water, the balance breaks; as a result, the chocolate seizes and looks like a big mess. If that happens, the only way to fix it is by adding more liquids, and at that point, you’ll end up with ganache.

Where To Buy

Most grocery stores offer a wide variety of chocolate. Check specialty stores or online for high-quality chocolate, wafers, and more extensive options. Pay attention to the percentage of cocoa, and remember that high cocoa content indicates the bitterness of the product, as well as the dark color. If a product does not mention the percentage, you can try and contact the brand via social media or email. Another good option is also to try to contact the recipe creator and ask which brand they used, and of course, using the brand you know and trust is the first and best option.

Also, pay attention to any flavoring added, such as crushed nuts and small amounts of sea salt.

Storage

Chocolate is best stored in a dark, cool spot. Avoid storing in the refrigerator or a warm area. An extreme temperature change will cause the chocolate to bloom, creating a white powder-like layer on the surface of the chocolate. When properly stored, it can last for up to 24 months.

If the chocolate bloom, its texture is chalky, and it loses its snap and shiny appearance, you can fix it by melting and tempering it. I have the full tutorial on How To Temper Chocolate? and What Is Tempered Chocolate?

FAQ

what does dark chocolate taste like?

Sweet rich chocolate.

Is Dark Chocolate Bitter?

Not necessarily, semidark and semisweet and not bitter at all.

Is dark chocolate real chocolate?

Yes. As long as it contains cocoa powder and cocoa butter and no stabilizers.

what makes dark chocolate dark?

The absence of milk solids and a high percentage of cocoa powder.

Now that we have mastered the question of What Is Dark Chocolate? It is time to get baking; here are some of my favorite recipes:

Triple Chocolate Cookies (semi-sweet chocolate)

Brownie Cake (unsweetened chocolate)

Matcha Brownies (Bittersweet chocolate)

And be sure to check out my article about Dutch cocoa powder vs. natural cocoa and What is white chocolate?

 If you enjoyed this article by One sarcastic Baker baking blog, please take a movement to rate and comment at the bottom of this post. Your questions, ideas, and thoughts are priceless, and here at OSB we value them more than butter!

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