The Best Chocolate Percentage For Baking, According To Alice Medrich

When it comes to chocolate, choice seems to reign these days. Long gone are the times when all you had to do was choose between milk, dark, and white chocolates. Today, a trip down the chocolate aisle at the grocery store tends to be a bit overwhelming, presenting a plethora of choices encompassing raw, vegan, flavored, alternatively sweetened, and even grass-fed milk varieties.

Choosing a bar for snacking out of hand can be confusing enough, but how about when it comes to baking? Recipes for brownies, layer cakes, chocolate chip cookies, and mousses each seem to call for a different, highly specific type of baking chocolate, whether it's unsweetened chocolate, ruby chocolate, couverture chocolate, or compound chocolate. So, is there a specific chocolate percentage that's a solid best bet for most types of baking? According to baking expert, cookbook author, and so-called "First Lady of Chocolate" Alice Medrich, there is, indeed (via Chocolate by the Bay). 

Reach for 60% chocolate when you're baking

Back in the day, shopping for baking chocolate was a bit easier. The bars typically came in unsweetened, bittersweet, and semisweet varieties, according to Kitchn. But more recently, the outlet notes, makers of baking chocolate have gotten even more specific, offering bars with differing percentages of cacao — which, of course, indicates how sweet the bar is. But how to tell which to buy — especially when "bittersweet" and "semisweet" basically sound the same?

According to MasterClass, bittersweet chocolate should contain 70% cacao, and semisweet is a bit sweeter at 60% cacao. But these percentages are just guidelines, and actual cacao content can vary by brand, the outlet states. Because of this, as Medrich told Kitchn, it's best to read labels — and choose 60% chocolate (whether it's labeled as bittersweet or semisweet) for most baking recipes. 

"Many of our favorite older recipes don't specify percentage," the baking expert told the outlet. "They probably just say bittersweet or semisweet. In that case, your safest bet is to use 60% chocolate." If a recipe calls for a darker chocolate but doesn't specify "bittersweet," "semisweet," or a certain chocolate percentage, Medrich still recommends using a 60% chocolate, which has a nice balance of cocoa content as well as a mellow sweetness.