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Feb 8, 2008 06:46 PM

Question for Pastry Professional Please

I want to try some recipes for fancy chocolate cakes that call for "bittersweet chocolate" but what I find at the store is called "semi-sweet chocolate". Are they the same? And how does "German sweet chocolate" fit in? All I am really familiar with is unsweetened baking chocolate eg Baker's, and semi-sweet chocolate eg chocolate chips.

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  1. There is a lot of confusion about what constitutes bitter-sweet and semi-sweet chocolate. German's sweet chocolate would probably be classed as bittersweet chocolate, as it was created to be a baking ingredient. Most chocolate chips are either milk or semi-sweet.

    My default baking( and snacking) chocolate are either 60% or 72% Ghirardelli bars.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Kelli2006

      Baker's classes German's sweet chocolate as a semi-sweet chocolate, with 48% cocoa solids (

      1. re: Kelli2006

        I like the new Nestle chocolatier chips. I think they're comparable to Guittard but easier to get for me. They come in semi-sweet and bitter-sweet, in small 10 oz. bags.

        1. re: chowser

          about $4 to 5 a bag.

          glad to hear the quality is good.

          1. re: toodie jane

            I just bought some yesterday. They're $2.60 a bag for 10 oz which is a lot more than the Tollhouse which is under $1.50 a bag but worth the difference to me.

          2. re: chowser

            I have never seen Nestle Chocolatier in chip form. I tend to use either Ghirardelli or Guirttard semi-sweet chips, if I make cookies. I prefer to use E. Guittard chips in either semi or bitter formula. but they are difficult to find in retail size bags.

            Where did you obtain the Nestle Chocolatier chips, as I would like to try them?

            1. re: Kelli2006

              I buy them from the Commissary but have also gotten them at Shoppers Food Warehouse (not sure it's that's a regional store). Toodie, the prices for them are much lower here than where you are. I can't remember how much I pay and it is more than Nestle Tollhouse morsels. It could be that I get them at the Commissary, too. I'll have to look next time. I can't get Guittard there so I'll have to compare the prices at different locations.

        2. Here's what the Feds say:

          Here's what the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association (made up of big corporate chocolate producers) has to say about interpreting the Feds:

          Here's what Hershey's has to say (they are members of the CMA):

          Here are some definitions from Guittard (non-corporate US chocolate maker):

          And now for my say (since you asked).

          "Bittersweet" and "Semi-Sweet" are marketing terms for chocolate. "Semi-Sweet" implies a more-sweet chocolate than "Bittersweet," although there is no standard for either term regarding percentage of sugar content. Cocoa mass/liquor content must be a minimum of 35% to be labeled either "Bittersweet" or "Semi-Sweet."

          "Sweet chocolate" is a mixture of cocoa mass/liquor, cocoa butter and sugar with a minimum of 15% cocoa mass/liquor.

          "German Sweet Chocolate" and "Baker's Chocolate" refer to the Baker's Chocolate Company, founded in 1765 by Dr. John Baker outside of Boston, MA. They made "unsweetened" chocolate (which is why some people still refer to "baker's" chocolate as an unsweetened chocolate). In 1852, an employee of the Baker's Company named Sam German created "a new variety of chocolate--a sweet baking bar," with sugar added to it for the convenience of the home baker. It was named in his honor--"German's Sweet Chocolate." A "German's Sweet Chocolate Cake" recipe was submitted to the Dallas Morning News (Baker's Website references 1857, but I think that's a typo meant to be 1957, since the DMN was founded in the 1880's). Popularity of the recipe and the chocolate took off. This type of cake (with pecans and coconut) had been popular for decades in the American South.

          Baker's makes several varieties of chocolate, only one of which is "unsweetened." They are now owned by Kraft Foods.

          But back to your original query--what chocolate to use for fancy chocolate cakes that call for "bittersweet" chocolate. Where you live may determine what is available. I like to bake with Guittard chocolate, which is available at many of the big grocery stores in California, but you might not have it available where you live. Whichever brand you use, stick to bar chocolate. I suggest staying away from chocolate chips, which are frequently coated in parafin wax, unless they are specifically called for in the recipe. Parafin won't affect the taste of the cake, but it may mess with the texture. If chips are the only thing available, compare labels and select one without parafin if possible.

          Good luck with your baking!

          1. Hi Querencia, as a professional I would use a chocolate with about 60-70% cocoa mass for anything that requires "bittersweet" chocolate.

            A favorite brand among pastry chefs and my personal favorite is Callebaut but it can be hard to find. If you do find it it will usually be in plastic-wrapped chunks sold by weight near the deli area of the store. (Try Whole Foods or specialty stores if your regular supermarket doesn't have it.) It's sometimes just labeled "dark chocolate" but the chocolate should have the Callebaut name and logo imprinted in it.

            Valrhona would be my second choice but it is obviously very expensive, Callebaut is much cheaper. And in my experience Valrhona doesn't play quite as well with other ingredients in baking, although it's wonderful for candy making.

            At home I often use Ghirardelli Bittersweet Baking Bars which are easy to find in most supermarkets and are pretty good but for something fancy I'll seek out Callebaut.

            I never use German Sweet Chocolate, even in german chocolate cakes, because I find it too sweet and not chocolatey enough for me.

            Hope this helps!