28 Jun June 28, 2011

Selecting the best Chocolate for your recipe

Rule of Thumb:


You truly get what you pay for when buying chocolate.  When choosing the right chocolate consider what you are using it for, i.e. truffle centers, children’s lollipops, or elegant molded chocolates for an assortment. You want the best chocolate for your recipe but also the best value too. You certainly don’t need to buy high end “couverture” chocolate @ 12.00/# for a cake recipe!!


Coco-Buttons.  Often called “melty’s”, “coco-lites” or “coco buttons”, the colorful and sweet candy buttons you find in every craft-hobby store are not chocolate at all!  Extremely easy to use, and very affordable, they are actually just a sweet candy product made with sugar products and vegetable fat.  They are missing one, if not all three ingredients required to be true chocolate; Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Liquor. Use these for quick tasty crafts, colorful table favors or children’s lollipops, but NEVER assume they are to be used in your prized gourmet confections. The big take away here is, if the directions say “NO tempering required”… it’s NOT chocolate!

Chocolate Chips. Basic recipes from magazines, on the side of food packaging etc. may call for “chocolate chips” as the chocolate ingredient. While these yummy morsels are great in cookies and delicious eaten by the handfuls, they are no substitute for pure, high quality chocolate. They contain a high concentrate of  vegetable fats in place of cocoa butter, yielding them great for high heat recipes but unsatisfactory for the “melt in your mouth” experience of fine chocolate.

Bakers chocolate, often sold as bittersweet chocolate or dark chocolate, bakers chocolate  is another grade of chocolate wonderful for baking but NOT great for gourmet candy making. It offers a strong, rich flavor but the texture is coarse and grainy and is very dry.

Baking bar. Catering to gourmet foodies, many companies have introduced their own version of the baking bar. Nestle, and Hershey have introduced 3-4 ounce chocolate bars (for baking) that are very nice but again, NOT the quality you are looking for to make great custom chocolate confections. Also, the cost of these convenient bars when multiplied is over $12.00 per pound!!

Good old candy bar.  Yes, these in many cases are real chocolate but the grade is inferior and the price is high! I once heard of a toffee maker melting chocolate bars for his chocolate topping. When it’s all said and done he was paying over $5.00 per pound for less than excellent chocolate!

Premium chocolate,  REAL chocolate. Wonderful to work with, and yes, it does require tempering. Smooth, rich and of superior quality for any gourmet candy recipe.  Melt, temper and use it for molded products, use it as dipping or coating chocolate for truffles, cream centers, or dipped fruits and nuts. Delicious on every level, you will love the results every time when you use a premium professional chocolate.  Find it in fine food stores, gourmet delis and through numerous online sources. Purchased in blocks, buttons or big chunks by the pound or ounce, this is the “real deal”.  In gourmet food stores and fine delis, 10 pound blocks are broken into assorted size chunks and sold by the ounce like fine cheese.  Online you can purchase blocks or slabs in 10 pound increments and buttons or pellets in 1 pound increments. Very popular and easily found brands to consider are Merckens, Peters made by Nestle, Guittard and Ghiradelli, to name just a few. Expect to pay between $4.50-$15.00 per pound depending on the resource and brand.

Pure chocolate, couverture.  Couverture means “coating” in French and represents the highest grade of chocolate available. High percentages of cocoa butter, 32-39% and cocoa liquor, as high as 70%  are the hallmarks of couverture. You can feel the silky smooth texture on your tongue. It has a very low melting point. It is rich and distinctive in flavor. Chocolate connoisseurs can often define a specific region of origin and certainly  can detect the brand and often the blend at this level of chocolate. Reserved for the “serious” chocolatier and especially wonderful for dipping and coating  look for this product mainly online. Callebaut, Sharfen Berger, Veliche, and Valrhona  are just three of the more easily found.  The price point is between $8.00-15.00 per pound.

There are several excellent ONLINE resources for confectionery supplies. The following are just a few:

P.S. When ordering from them, please tell them The GOURMET CANDY MAKER.COM sent you!!  Thanks…

AMAZON  A wonderful single destination to review products and pricing from multiple resourcres. We (Gourmet Candy Maker) has hand picked a list of products and vendors  for your review.

WINE AND CAKE.COM  Just discovered this website. they carry CALLEBAUT (to die for) PURE chocolate that is amazing! They also carry GUITTARD. If you purchase from them, let us know about the experience.

KING ARTHUR FLOUR  This resource is referenced in almost every chocolate and candy cookbook. They offer speciality ingredients, spices, fabulous premium chocolate.

CHOCOLEY  Candy Making Supplies. While they specialize in a private label brand of quick melt, compound coating or confectioners coating-not pure chocolate, they do carry a nice assortment of REAL chocolate as well as a fully stocked store of tools, packaging, and confectioners gadgets.

AN OCCASIONAL CHOCOLATE  Specializing in Guittard and Van Leer REAL chocolate they also carry a large assortment of supplies and confectioners chocolate

KITCHENCRAFTS   Carrying everything for candy making, canning and even gardening ? they do have an assortment of chocolate to choose from. Heads up: When you see the term “Coco lite and NOT chocolate, you know it is NOT real chocolate. Look for MERCKEN’S Yucatan Dark… That’s the real deal and is delicious!

COCOA SUPPLY  This supplier is a premier source for the Gourmet Candy Maker. Pure chocolate, cocoa powders, organic products, nuts, sweeteners, dried fruits. Very specialized.

CHOCO SPHERE  Carring all sorts of fine confections from around the word they DO carry bulk candy making couverture by CALLEBAUT and VALRHONA.

CHOCOLATE TRADING COMPANY  This is a UK based company so shipping may be cost prohibitive. Just another option for review and price comparison. By the way… They carry a line of GORGEOUS chocolate transfer sheets!!

WORLD WIDE CHOCOLATE  They offer a full range of chocolate from Cocoa Nibs to Cocoa Powder and block/bulk chocolate.

Your local specialty food store: Trader Joes, Whole Foods etc. When looking for chocolate always ask for REAL chocolate, COUVERTURE and chech the cocoa butter content.

Craft-Hobby stores: While these stores stock lots of candy making supplies they DO NOT carry REAL chocolate. You will find a full assortment of cocoa buttons, meltys that are sweet colorful and great for kids treats or decorative additions to cakes and cookies. They are super easy to use but make no mistake, they will not deliver the taste or quality results your are wanting when creating gourmet confections.







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46 thoughts on “Selecting the best Chocolate for your recipe

  1. Jessy Graves says:

    What about Lindt chocolate? I live in Germany so it’s available in the local grocery, whereas a lot of places won’t ship to me from the States.

  2. Lynn says:

    If you have access to bulk Lindt chocolate you will LOVE the results! Lucky you! Enjoy!!

  3. Where do I buy good chocolate in bulk.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Have you heard of Blommers chocolate? What quality is it for dipping?

  5. Sally says:

    I purchased Callebaut chocolate from WINE AND CAKE.COM, and they were great. Prices were reasonable, packaging was great, and shipping was fast. I’ve order three times from them.

  6. Sally says:

    P.S. Callebaut is to die for! You were right. The first time I tasted the milk chocolate it gave me gossebumps. Honestly!

  7. Lynn says:


  8. Lynn says:

    Thanks so much for the suggestion and recommendation. I haven’t used them but am familiar with their site. You can find Callebaut on AMAZON.COM for APPROX: 7.00-9.00 per pound.
    CONTINUE TO SHARE YOUR FINDINGS! Always looking for tips to share with other candy makers

  9. Lynn says:

    Yes, Blommers is a bakers grade of chocolate. I like the taste (a little) It is not as refined as Merckens, or Peters Chocolate and definately NOT the gourmet couverture of Callebaut. For a fine quality (PREMIUM CHOCOLATE) expect to pay $6.50-9.50 USD per pound.

  10. Lynn says:

    Online you can find Callebaut on AMAZON.COM there are several other online confectionery supply resources also. Check out this post for resources. “Sweet Success”

  11. Lynn says:

    ALSO… If you live near a restaurant supply company that also stocks food products in bulk they very often carry BULK premium chocolate for their baker clientele.

  12. rashmi anand says:

    have just bought the Callebaut dark chocolate 50% and milk chocolate 30%. can you please tell me if it is the right chocolate for gourmet candy making.
    Also if you could suggest in what proportion I should use them

  13. Lynn says:

    Both callebeaut chocolates are wonderful and perfectly suited to Gourmet Candy Making 🙂 I am not sure what you mean by right Proportions?? If you are wanting to blend them together… your taste is your perfect guide.I hope this has helped.. if not continue your questions.

  14. Cindy says:

    I ordered chocolate from and am very pleased. They called me to let me know how I could adjust the way I ordered to save money as well as offered a different shipping option to cut my shipping cost down and still get my order when I need it. They were so friendly. And, my order shipped right away. I would recommend them and I will order from them again.

  15. Lynn says:

    Thanks so much Cindy for the recommendation! With so many choices, having a first hand review definitely takes the guess work out of quality and integrity of our suggested vendors. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. What are some of the candy recipes you love and make for the holidays?

  16. Trudy says:

    I am looking for a chocolate that will easily melt to the liquid state that I see in commercials. In the past, I have used candy bars and added a little wax or shortening to aide in hardening and shine, but have always wanted a better quality but didn’t know where to look. I do have access to Merken’s. What does tempering mean, and would I need to do that if I used Merken’s? Thanks for your help.

  17. Traci Leonardson says:

    Happy holidays! I have always used Callebaut. However, a great friend said Peter’s Chocolates are better in her opinion. What are your thoughts?

    Thank you,

  18. Lynn says:

    Hi Tracy and Merry Christmas. Peters was the first chocolate I ever used commercially and I LOVE IT! I can’t say enough great things about the Nestle brand… I discovered Callebaut about 4 years ago and love its texture taste and ease in use. EITHER BRAND IS FANTASTIC AND EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY! Enjoy and thanks for contacting us:)

  19. Melanie Haas says:

    This is the best and cheapest website by far to buy the Callebaut or Peter’s and many other great quality products. Check it out. Prices beat any I have seen. They are a family owned business in PA (since 1948) and just started selling online in the past couple years.

  20. Melanie Haas says:
    Wanted to pass this along to all.
    This is the best and cheapest website by far to buy the Callebaut or Peter’s and many other great quality products. Check it out. Prices beat any I have seen. They are a family owned business in PA (since 1948) and just started selling online in the past couple years.

  21. Karen Kean says:

    When I want an orange flavor or maple or coconut flavored Truffle, do I still follow your Truffle recipe……and just switch the vanilla for the flavor I want? If I want a white truffle ganache center how do I make it?

  22. Lynn says:

    Hi Karen,
    You can add flavoring and KEEP the Vanilla. Orange oil is wonderful, easy does it… and I suggest using orange ZEST as well.
    Coconut flavoring can be strong. Again easy does it. Whenever adding flavorings, I LOVE including the actual fruit, leaf or nut as well.
    Gives the flavors a wonderful rich balance.
    WHITE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES. Delicious, sweet and rich. They require LESS heavy cream and butter. You will have to experiment to find the consistency you love.
    White chocolate truffles can often be very soft and hard to manage but they are fabulous. I will add a recipe for white truffles soon. Let us know what you come up with 🙂

  23. Lynn says:

    WONDERFUL Thank you for sharing. Is this part of the RUSSELL STOVER brand? Will definitely visit and share what I find. Happy Valentines Day and thanks again

  24. Jay says:

    I love your review of chocolates, very helpful! I’m looking to upgrade from Merckens to Callebaut chocolate for dipping fruit. I was wondering if you tried the Callebaut dark semisweet chocolate 53.8% or 54%? If so, is it bitter? I don’t want to buy anything too bitter but don’t want milk chocolate either 🙂 Thank you!

  25. Lynn says:

    Thanks for your comment. 53.8-54 is a wonderful taste. NOT bitter at all. Callabeaut goes up to as high as 74% cocoa products (which can be VERY dark and quite strong). I think you will be very happy with the mild yet semi sweet taste of the 54% formula.
    PS I loved and still do love the Merckens product BUT… I absolutely adore the Callabeaut brand, so smooth, works like a dream and ULTRA yummy… Enjoy and thank you for your question.

  26. Rose says:

    While shopping one day, my husband bought a couple of Lindt’s baking chocolate bars, but they are 85% cocoa. I don’t know what I can use these for or if there is anything I can add to cut the bitterness of the chocolate.

  27. Mr. Jordan Belfort says:

    Good Day!

    My name is Jordan Belfort, I am interested in ordering some candies, truffles and all types of chocolates and Confectionery for my sister. Please if these is something you do i will like you to send me an e-mail with your list of all Confectionery you make for sell. Attach the list and send it to my personal email
    Also if you do have a website kindly send it along so i can choose what i want. Thank you and i will be hoping to hear from you soon.

    Many Thanks,
    Mr. Jordan Belfort.
    Tel: 501-574-0457

  28. Lynn says:

    Thank you for the information. Happy to share a reliable and quality resource !

  29. Lynn says:

    Please get out QuickStart guide to gourmet candy making.
    the 3 part video series will answer all your questions and position you perfectly for GREAT candy making this holiday season!

  30. Jenna says:

    Hi Lynn!
    What should I look for if I want to buy what you call in this post “premium” chocolate?

  31. Lynn says:

    Hi there, ALWAYS look for 3 ingredients: cocoa power, cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. NEVER use anything with Palm Kernel oil or other oil substitutes. If it has Cocoa Butter and Cocoa Liquor you are good. Also premium chocolate costs between 5.50-9.00 per pound. If its less than 4.50 per pound it is either very poor quality or NOT premium/REAL chocolate. Brands to look for are Callebaut, Merckens and Peters/Nestle. There are many others that are fabulous (and pricey) Get our FREE QuickStart Guide to Gourmet Candy Making and you will have ALL the answers 🙂 Hope this helps.

  32. Charlie says:

    The link to King Arthur Flour is misspelled. SB.

  33. Charlie says:

    I’m uncertain why you would need to have cocoa powder, cocoa butter AND cocoa mass/liquor as cocoa liquor is the ground bean, and includes both cocoa butter and powder….?

  34. Lynn Hawks says:

    You are absolutely correct. Cocoa liquor is the combination of both cocoa solids, aka (Cocoa Powder) and Fats (Cocoa Butter) So to say you need Powder, Liquor and Butter is a bit confusing. The KEY ingredient that defines premium, REAL chocolate is Cocoa butter vs Palm kernel oil or other fat substitute. The percent-% of Cocoa Butter and the refined texture of the cocoa “powder” both contribute to the quality of the finished product. Couverture is a very high-quality chocolate that contains extra cocoa butter. The higher percentage of cocoa butter, combined with proper tempering, gives chocolate more sheen, firmer “snap” when broken, and a creamy mellow flavor. Many beginner candy makers. Thanks for your clarification. and so glad you found us.

  35. Christina Amadio says:

    Ok, I am just starting out. I have watched the videos and I want to start doing. What is the best chocolate to start with? Something that I can practice tempering with but not waste too much money if I mess it up? BUT will also taste good for the family.

  36. Lynn Hawks says:

    A great affordable chocolate is Merckens. Look for REAL chocolate and not cocoa buttons. The flavors are named: MARQUIS and YUCATAN. Here is a link to the semi sweet. Its only 2.90 per # and is delicious. Perfect when you are just starting out. Enjoy and Merry Christmas

  37. Chery Stouffer says:

    My Mother had a candy shop back in the 80’s and is now deceased. She always used Van Leer but now unable to find.Would like a comparable milk and dark chocolate in 10lb bars Any suggestions with something of same quality.
    Thanks, Cheryl Stouffer
    478 Shady Grove Dr
    McConnellsburg, PA 17233

  38. Lynn Hawks says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    OMG, I knew the Van Leer brothers and family well. I also had a chocolate shop (The Chocolate Truffle) in Denver Colorado from 1982-87
    I bet your mom and I ran across each other at an RCI, Philadelphia Candy show or Fancy Food convention 🙂 How fun.. those were amazing times for me, I hope your Mom enjoyed her candy shop and sorry to hear of her passing.
    YES, Van Leer was a good medium grade chocolate. MY suggestion in todays market would be Guittard or Merckens. Ghirardelli is another option. I absolutely LOVE Callebaut and if you search you can find online for $6.00#ish I often buy my chocolate at a restaurant supply warehouse. (Checking the production dates) Prices are GREAT and you can often avoid shipping costs.
    Please stay in touch. I would LOVE to know your Moms name, the name of her shop and where it was located. Hugs and Happy New Year. Thanks so much for reaching out.

  39. Chantel says:

    I am looking for a quality melt in your mouth chocolate to use in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve used the regular Nestle chocolate chips before but it not what I’m looking for. When I pull the cookie apart I’d like the chocolate to be gooey/runny. Any suggestions would be great.

  40. Lynn Hawks says:

    The Poly molds should first be filled with tempered chocolate. Once the chocolate has cooled to create a thin chocolate shell, they can the be filled with the raspberry ganache. Chocolate shell first, THEN the ganache. It will be wonderful!!

  41. Lynn Hawks says:

    Absolutely. Buy Callabaut “Callets” small chocolate morsels, available in many flavors. Look here Thanks so much! Have fun, wish I could have one of your amazing cookies !!

  42. JE says:

    In several of the classes on chocolate making I have taken, I have been told that I need to keep stirring the tempered chocolate to keep it in temper. The tempering machines do this as well. Is that true with your method of tempering?

  43. Lynn Hawks says:

    Great question. Staying in temper is all about maintaining a consistent “temperature”, and yes it is a good idea to stir your whole batch/bowl as you work. If you are working with the chocolate you have tempered, you should be able to use it before it gets too cool to work with.

    Tempering machines are fabulous and produce a large quantity of tempered product in excellent “temper”. Over the years I have been able to master melting and tempering 4# of chocolate in a bowl. The bigger the tempered mass, the more stable (overall) and the longer it stays in temper. 1 or 2 pounds can be challenging because the temperature does fluctuate easily. I hope this helps.

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