{Cooking with Friends} A Lesson in Baking with Chocolate, by The Messy Baker

Chocolate Chipotle Brownies, A Lesson in Baking with Chocolate by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

Welcome to my Cooking with Friends series! This spring, as I work on cookbook projects that keep me very busy, I’ve invited some of my favorite blogger friends to share recipes with you. I hope you’ll have just as much fun cooking and baking with them as I do.

Today,  I’m welcoming Charmian from  The Messy Baker. As a cookbook author and culinary instructor, Charmian is passionate about creating from-scratch recipes and turning regular recipes into DELICIOUS ones. Today, she’s teaching us a lesson in baking with chocolate. Enjoy!

With Lent over and Mother’s Day looming, chocolate is never far from my thoughts. I’m a big fan of the dark chocolate but have a sister who prefers milk, and a long-time friend who only wants white. Together we can share the chocolate box without argument, even though we know the others are wrong.

My blog, The Messy Baker is proof of my obsession. One Mother’s Day I celebrated with a drip-all-you-want recipe for Cherry Cointreau Truffle Puddles. Christmas presented an opportunity to share an elegant Salted Chocolate Humble Pie. My go-to potluck dessert is a pan of Deep Dark Cherry Chipotle Brownies. And when I interviewed the one and only Mary Berry, I chose to share her recipe for Chocolate Roulade, even though a classic vanilla Victoria Layer Cake is her favourite.

For all the enthusiasm chocolate generates, it creates just as much confusion.

Chocolate Tart and Tartlette, A Lesson in Baking with Chocolate by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

Which chocolate does your recipe need?

Substituting one kind for another can lead to disappointment.  Here’s how to interpret what your recipe needs:

  • Cocoa Powder is basically dried, de-fatted cocoa beans. It delivers a lot of flavour and richness. Natural cocoa has a reddish tinge and is slightly acidic. The recipe will call for baking soda to counterbalance the acidity. Dutch-process cocoa, which has been alkalinized, is darker and less acidic.  Don’t confuse these two baking cocoas with instant cocoa powder, which is sugar-loaded hot chocolate mix.
  • Unsweetened or bitter chocolate has no added sugar. It’s common in cakes and brownies where it delivers intense flavour and relies on the sugar in the batter to provide the sweetness.
  • Bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate can be used in most recipes interchangeably. When buying, make sure sugar is not the first ingredient.
  • Milk chocolate is most common as a topping or glaze. With lots of cocoa butter and milk solids, it melts quickly but burns easily.
  • White chocolate is technically not chocolate. While it contains cocoa butter, it lacks the required cocoa mass. Sweet, creamy and mild, it’s easily overpowered by strong flavours. It however, makes a striking visual contrast against dark chocolate.
  • Chocolate chips are designed to keep their shape when heated, not dissolve into the batter. They cannot be used in place of melted chocolate. However, if a recipe calls for chips, semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate chips are interchangeable.

Chocolate Roulade, A Lesson in Baking with Chocolate by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

How to Store Chocolate

If your chocolate has a white film, or bloom, don’t panic. Bloom is harmless, doesn’t affect the taste, and will disappear when the chocolate is melted. It is, however, evidence you need to reassess your chocolate storage. A cool, dry place away from spices is a good place to start.

  • Dark chocolate: Keeps for up to a year if wrapped well and stored in a cool, dry place like a pantry cupboard.
  • Milk and white chocolate: If you are not going to use it all within a few months, double wrap in cling wrap and freeze in a freezer bag with the air squeezed out. To prevent the chocolate from sweating when it defrosts, leave it wrapped until it has thawed completely.
  • Cocoa Powder: It won’t go rancid but it will lose some intensity after a year. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Chocolate Truffle Puddles, A Lesson in Baking with Chocolate by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

Chocolate Substitutions for Baking

Things don’t always go as planned. Don’t panic. You just might be able to pull off that dessert.

If you don’t have Substitute
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate • 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon butter, vegetable oil, or shortening


1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate + 1 tablespoon sugar

• 3 tablespoons cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon sugar + 1 1/2

3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder • 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder and omit the baking soda
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder • 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder plus a pinch of baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips • 1 cup milk or white chocolate chips

• 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts and pecans are the most common)

Chart is excerpted from The Messy Baker: More than 75 Delicious Recipes from a Real Kitchen by Charmian Christie ©2014.

Because, sadly, we can’t survive on chocolate alone, make sure to check out these favorites from the blog to round out your meals:

Breakfast: Caramelized Dutch Apple Baby

Caramelized Dutch Apple Baby, by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

Lunch: Smoky Navy Bean Soup

Smoky Navy Bean Soup, by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

Side: Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters, by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

Dinner: Braised Beef With Orange and Tarragon

Braised Beef With Orange and Tarragon, by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

Dessert: Concord Grape Pie

Concord Grape Pie, by The Messy Baker // FoodNouveau.com

Charmian Christie is the author of the award-winning cookbook The Messy Baker (HarperCollins © 2014). She’s messed up the kitchens of Canada AM, Steven and Chris, and various culinary studios across the country. Canadian Living, the Toronto Star, and Calgary Herald named The Messy Baker a Top Cookbook for 2014. Charmian lives in Guelph, Ontario in a draughty stone house with her husband, two cats, and more measuring cups than she cares to admit.

Make sure to follow Charmian through her blog and on social media:

All photos above this point: © Charmian Christie.

More Treats for Chocoholics:

White Chocolate & Hazelnut Blondies

White Chocolate & Hazelnut Blondies // FoodNouveau.com

Mocha Madeleines with White Chocolate Glaze

Mocha Madeleines with White Chocolate Glaze // FoodNouveau.com

Textbook Fudgy Brownies

Textbook Fudgy Brownies // FoodNouveau.com

Dark Chocolate Gelato

The strongest hit of cocoa you’ll ever taste, short of biting into a square of dark chocolate: Dark Chocolate Gelato // FoodNouveau.com

What do you think of this recipe? Got any questions? Let's chat!

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