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Spectacular baking chocolate / cocoa?

THewat Aug 8, 2011 07:19 AM

I use mostly callebaut bittersweet & unsweetened (in blocks) and Ghirardelli bittersweet chips. I get my natural cocoa powder from King Arthur & I just bought some dutched cocoa from Lake Champlain chocolate. I bake many things that depend on good chocolate flavor, like this (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...) and I always wonder if I could be doing better by them. I'd be up for putting in a chocosphere order, but the options are completely overwhelming. What baking chocolates / cocoas do you love? Links to other threads appreciated. TIA.

  1. Karl S Aug 13, 2011 06:54 PM

    Tangent: be alert to weight of packages purchased. Ghirardelli pulled a nasty this past winter and downsized its chocolate bars from 12 oz to odd weights like 11 oz, screwing things up for recipes that are built on 4oz increments. That's the kind of downsizing that is particularly noxious for bakers, and the genius who thought of it should be fired because I know that I am not the only baker who's stopped using Ghirardelli because of it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Karl S
      SuperGrover Aug 14, 2011 11:20 AM

      I hate that. I was looking at their stuff and noticed that too. Glad I'm trashy enough to still like Nestle for my cookies.

      1. re: SuperGrover
        souschef Aug 14, 2011 11:22 AM

        If you like it that's all that matters, so long as it's not Baker's.

    2. c
      Cakegirl Aug 12, 2011 04:13 AM

      I use Penzey's Dutch process cocoa for everything. It's got a high fat content that adds something special to everything. I like it as much as Valrhona but it's far less expensive. Give it a try!! www.penzeys.com

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cakegirl
        THewat Aug 13, 2011 05:51 PM

        Cakegirl, I've only bought spices from Penzey's - thanks for the tip!

      2. ipsedixit Aug 8, 2011 09:12 PM

        I use Valrhona.

        But I know people who sear by Trader Joe's.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit
          oldunc Aug 10, 2011 06:23 AM

          Word on the street is that TJ's is Ghirardelli, haven't really checked into it.

          1. re: oldunc
            Caitlin McGrath Aug 10, 2011 11:22 AM

            TJ's Pound Plus bars and other Belgian chocolate, such as the three-packs of small bars sold near the checkout stands, is definitely Callebaut. There are various forms of proof around - my local market sells 500g bars of Callebaut that are the exact same size, shape, cocoa percentage (54%), and ingredients as TJ's "dark chocolate" Pound Plus bars; in 2006, I and others bought three-packs of the small bars with TJ's wrappers where the actual bars were stamped Callebaut, etc.

            I have heard that TJ's chocolate chips are either Ghirardelli or Guittard, but I don't have details.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath
              souschef Aug 10, 2011 06:42 PM

              The last time I was south of the border I brought back a bar of TJ's pound plus bittersweet, and took some to the chocolate shop where I buy Callebaut. The store owner liked it, and was astounded at how low the price was. I use Callebaut when I'm out of Felchlin.

        2. Delucacheesemonger Aug 8, 2011 07:19 PM

          My fav cocoa powder has been 'Maison du Chocolat' for some time, it reminds me of the hot chocolate at Angelina in Paris. When l sold food for W(t)F, l was the one who bought chocolate for the cheese dept, go figure, Callebaut in their 60% chocolate offerings offered at least 10 different depending on what the purpose was, whether couverture, baking, etc. opened my eyes as to the variety available that l had never known to exist. El Rey also makes feves in 62% and 70%. This Venezuelan product is super as well and far less expensive than Valrhona

          1 Reply
          1. re: Delucacheesemonger
            THewat Aug 9, 2011 08:37 PM

            It's the huge variety that flummoxes me. I'm not drawn to couverture. I use chocolate in baking & in sauce. I make about 8 things that are really, really chocolate based, and I'm sure that using different chocolate would make a difference, both in texture & in flavor, but I don't really understand WHAT difference. I look at the lists of different kinds of chocolate available and I'm pretty overwhelmed. I guess I could do my own little taste-test, but I wanted some beginning place from folks on these boards...

          2. o
            oldunc Aug 8, 2011 06:13 PM

            Have you tried Guittard's chips? I find them much the best. Long time since I did any extensive comparison testing- at that time a French brand called Poulain was the best I found; don't know if it's still around, or been bought by Nestle or something. For stuff you can get anywhere, Lindt makes some excellent chocolates.

            12 Replies
            1. re: oldunc
              THewat Aug 8, 2011 06:25 PM

              I haven't tried Guittard, but boy do they offer a lot of choices. http://www.chocosphere.com/cgi-bin/we.... I like that they are in SF.

              Poulain seems to be still around but perhaps not so easily available in the states.

              1. re: THewat
                Caitlin McGrath Aug 8, 2011 07:08 PM

                I'm a fan of the Guittard bittersweet chocolate chips. Estimable baker souschef has said his favorite baking choc. is Felchlin, which Chocosphere carries, but I don't know which he carries.

                My mother turned me on to her favorite Dutch-process cocoa, from Bay Area coffee purveyer Peet's. It's very dark and rich-tasting. http://www.peets.com/shop/essentials_...

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                  THewat Aug 9, 2011 08:20 PM

                  Seems like there are a couple of Guittard lovers. Estimable baker souschef's recommendation is, of course, duly weighted. Thanks for the Peet's tip.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                    Caitlin McGrath Aug 9, 2011 08:28 PM

                    Oops, I meant to say I don't know which variety of Felchlin souschef *prefers*, not carries! Sorry to confuse.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                      souschef Aug 10, 2011 09:40 AM

                      Caitlin, "estimable baker" souschef (that's me!) likes Felchlin's 68% from Bolivia. I like the 65% Maracaibo as well.

                      Unfortunately I have to make a pigrimage to Montreal to pick up the stuff, and it's not cheap, at around $65 for a 2-kilo bag. It conveniently comes in callets.

                      At the store in Montreal you can get milkshakes or hot chocolate made with any of the Felchlin chocolates.

                      Like Buttertart I have an aversion to cocoa, but used Droste and Fry's when I had to.

                      1. re: souschef
                        THewat Aug 10, 2011 09:52 AM

                        And I just had a friend visiting Montreal, too. Bummer. Thanks for your recommendations, Souschef!

                        1. re: souschef
                          THewat Aug 10, 2011 10:05 AM

                          Souschef - Looks like in the states I can get them delivered: Cru Sauvage at chocosphere looks like the Bolivian, and Felchlin Maracaibo Clasificado Grand Cru Couverture might be the Maracaibo you like.

                          1. re: THewat
                            souschef Aug 10, 2011 10:22 AM

                            That's what the label on the Maracaibo says. I always stick the label to the container in which I store the chocolate, so I know what I'm using; too bad I'm all out, though. Time for another pilgrimage; fortunately it's only a 2-hour drive away.

                            Here's a link to a thread I started on the store in Montreal a while ago. Montreal is worth a visit for more than the chocolate.


                            1. re: souschef
                              THewat Aug 10, 2011 11:04 AM

                              I'll add La Pendulerie to my wish list of places to go. I've had some wonderful visits to Montreal, although not in a couple of years.

                              What is it about cocoa that bugs you? I've always just thought of it as a chocolate variant & assumed there were better & worse versions.

                              1. re: THewat
                                souschef Aug 10, 2011 11:22 AM

                                Cocoa cakes always seem dry to me. Even the cocoa recipes from the always-reliable Rose Levy Beranbaum don't work for me; they turn out dry and heavy. The only exception, to some extent, is when the cocoa is bloomed in water. I was discussing this with a baker here, and he told me that he always uses a combination of cocoa and chocolate as he too finds cocoa-only cakes too dry.

                                And I despise truffles rolled in cocoa as they always make me cough.

                                1. re: souschef
                                  THewat Aug 11, 2011 04:50 PM

                                  OK, I'm with you. I do use cocoa with chocolate in several things, but not successfully alone.

                  2. re: oldunc
                    Delucacheesemonger Aug 8, 2011 07:20 PM

                    Do not know if Poulain still around, but l have 10 lbs of their powder that l have moved three times. It is dutched and almost red and great.

                  3. w
                    wonderwoman Aug 8, 2011 05:01 PM

                    pernigotti is my all time favorite cocoa. it's dutched, and scented with vanilla. i used to get it at williams-sonoma, but amazon has a great deal, about $30 with shipping for 2.2 pounds.


                    1. THewat Aug 8, 2011 10:35 AM

                      Ah HA! Why I couldn't pull this up earlier I don't know: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/740258

                      1. SuperGrover Aug 8, 2011 09:57 AM

                        Have you ever used the double dark cocoa from KA? That's good too.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: SuperGrover
                          kattyeyes Aug 8, 2011 10:12 AM

                          I've wondered about it and meant to purchase when I put a KA order together as it sounds like the cocoa I described from Quebec. I know you're not asking me, but that never stops me from chiming in. ;) It really does sound good.

                          1. re: SuperGrover
                            THewat Aug 8, 2011 10:33 AM

                            I haven't used the KA double dark. Kattyeyes - thanks for chiming in - the more opinions the better!

                          2. biondanonima Aug 8, 2011 08:24 AM

                            I used to use Valrhona cocoa powder but I find the flavor has become harsher over the years (as has that of their chocolate, to my palate). I just purchased a tub of Callebaut cocoa on the advice of CI and some threads here, and so far I'm very happy with it, although I haven't had a chance to make anything with it that is a showcase for cocoa powder. As for chocolate, I generally use the Callebaut blocks simply because I think they offer an excellent quality:price ratio and they're easy to find. The Callebaut callets are great too.

                            1. kattyeyes Aug 8, 2011 07:34 AM

                              Valrhona dark chocolate feves (they come in different percentages/names at Whole Foods) and Valrhona cocoa, packaged in tubs, sold there also. If you wanna go really batty, you can have them order an entire bag for your baking pleasure. I know this because I now have a 6.9 # bag of their ivoire.

                              Other spectacular cocoa I found (and can't get unless I make another trip to Quebec) is Erico Choco-Musee's Poudre de Cacao L'Extra Brut. So sad they won't ship to the states. Truly intense.

                              I do like Callebaut, too, but find the feves so much easier to work with. The flat ovals are much less a PITA to chop, melt, etc.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: kattyeyes
                                danna Aug 12, 2011 06:14 AM

                                I, too, buy my Valrhona cocoa powder in bulk from Chocosphere. In fact, I buy it in packs of 3 giant bags and split it w/ my friend and mom. All of us find it impossible to bake without good cocoa now that we're spoiled.

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