So if dark chocolate is good for you, is baking with dark chocolate good for you too? The answer, sadly, is no! Baking with chocolate involves significant quantities of added sugar, butter, eggs, and/or cream, which, while admittedly delicious, definitely rain on this healthy parade. That said, sometimes you just need to indulge! The key? Moderation (!) and choosing the purest and highest quality ingredients possible, such as the high quality chocolate, organic eggs and butter, turbinado sugar, and real extracts. The better the ingredients, the better the outcome, and the more satisfying the end result will be!
Before taking a look at a few nutritionally tweaked recipes, let’s start with a run-down on the types of chocolate products you may encounter on your baking journey. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans that are fermented, dried, roasted, and processed much like coffee beans. The end results are:
Cocoa Nibs-crunchy broken bits of cocoa beans with a bitter, deep chocolate taste. Nibs are approximately equal parts cocoa butter and cocoa solids. They are used most commonly in cookies or chocolate candy.
Chocolate Liquor-cocoa in its purest form, made by grinding cocoa nibs to a paste.
Unsweetened Chocolate-chocolate liquor that has been hardened into a bar.
Cocoa Powder-results when most of the cocoa butter is removed from the chocolate liquor before it is pulverized into powder form. Natural cocoa powder is fruity and complex in flavor, and naturally acidic. Dutch-process cocoa powder is treated with alkalis to reduce the acidity, yielding a milder flavor and darker color.
Bittersweet, semisweet, and milk chocolates are different blends of chocolate liquor and sugar, with higher cocoa content creating stronger, more bitter flavored chocolate.
With all of the choices out there, which type of chocolate should you use in a recipe? Exactly what the recipe calls for! Differences in cocoa content and in Dutch-process vs. natural cocoas can significantly alter the chemistry of your baked goods…and with baking, messing with chemistry is a recipe for disaster! If the recipe doesn’t specify a type of chocolate, either by cocoa content (50%, 60%, 70%, 85%) or name (bittersweet, semisweet, milk), try to choose a chocolate with around 60% cocoa to reap up the nutritional ante. And remember, whether melting chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, the key to success is to use gentle heat and to avoid getting any water in the chocolate. For more in-depth look at tips for melting chocolate, see www.best-chocolate-recipes-online.com/chocolate.html.
Which baking chocolate is the best? As with eating chocolate, this is often a matter of personal preference. Some of the most popular high quality baking chocolates are Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, Dagoba, and Tcho, an organic dark chocolate developed for professional chefs (www.tcho.com). Chocolate quality is especially critical in recipes where chocolate is the headliner, such as chocolate pot de crÃ¨me or chocolate fondue. Â So now that we’ve stated the rules…use the highest quality ingredients available and stick to the recipe…it’s time to break the rules! If you’re willing to experiment (that is, to fail occasionally!), there are ways to tweak the nutrient content of even the most decadent chocolate baked goods. Try substituting white whole wheat or oat flour for refined white flour, or applesauce or prune puree for some of the oil. For more detailed information on low fat baking, see www.recipes.howstuffworks.com/low-fat-baking2.htm.
Hate to bake, but love to indulge? Check out www.BakingForGood.com, where 15% of every yummy purchase is donated to a cause of your choice. Now that’s sweet!
Now let’s get started experimenting with a few not so guilty, but still decadent treasures…
Guilt Free Chocolate Muffins (adapted from www.health.com)
1 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon canola oil
Â½ cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Â¼ teaspoon almond extract
Â¾ cup oat flour or white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
Â½ teaspoon baking soda
Â½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Â½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cocoa)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 8 muffin tins with paper liners then spray with cooking spray. Combine applesauce, oil, sugar, and extracts. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to applesauce mixture and stir until blended. Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake 20-22 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. Muffins are done when tops are firm to the touch. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Makes 8 servings. Per serving:154 calories; 5g fat; 2g protein; 3g fiber; 21g sugar
Frozen Chocolate Bananas (adapted from www.epicurious.com)
2 ripe but firm bananas
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Â½ cup granola, chopped pecans or walnuts, coconut, or sprinkles (optional)
Line baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment paper. Cut bananas in half and insert a popsicle stick in each. Place on the baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate with the oil in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave using 30 second intervals. Stir until smooth. Roll each banana half in the chocolate, then quickly sprinkle with topping if desired. Freeze until the chocolate sets, about 30 minutes. Can be stored in airtight container in the freezer for up to a week.
Chocolate Angel Food Cake (adapted from www.weightwatchers.com )
1 cup cake flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
10 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 Â¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Â¼ teaspoon salt
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated
1 Â½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake flour and cocoa in a small bowl, sifting twice. Beat eggs whites with electric mixer set on medium in large bowl until thick and foamy. Gradually add sugar to egg whites, beating until blended. Add cream of tartar and salt to egg white mixture, beating until medium peaks form, 3-5 minutes. Using spatula, gently fold 1/3 of flour mixture into beaten egg whites until blended. Repeat until all flour is blended into egg whites. Gently fold in chocolate and vanilla until just blended. Pour batter into 10-inch tube pan sprayed with cooking spray. Gently tap pan on counter to remove air pockets. Bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and toothpick comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool completely. Run knife around sides and center of pan to loosen, then unmold cake onto serving plate. Serves 12. Per serving: 154 calories; 1g fat
Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies (adapted from www.epicurious.com)
1 Â½ cups bittersweet chocolate chips, divided
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 Â½ cups powdered sugar, divided
Â½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Â¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment. Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in glass bowl in microwave for 2 minutes, stirring twice. Cool slightly. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow fluff. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Beat dry ingredients at low speed into egg white mixture. Stir in lukewarm chocolate and Â½ cup chocolate chips. Batter will be very stiff. Place Â½ cup sugar in bowl. Roll dough into 1” balls, roll in sugar, and place on prepared sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheets set on cooling racks for 10 minutes before removing from sheets.
Chocolate Pound Cake (adapted from www.mardiweb.com )
2 Â½ cups cake flour, divided
Â¼ cup organic butter, softened
Â¼ cup prune puree (can use baby prunes or baking prune puree)
Â¾ cup sugar
3 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla
Â¼ cup dutch process cocoa
Â¾ teaspoon baking soda
Â¼ teaspoon salt
8 ounces vanilla low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat bottoms and sides of loaf pan with cooking spray, line bottom with parchment, and spray again. Cream butter and prune puree. Gradually add sugar and beat well. Add egg whites and beat until well blended, about 4 minutes. Add vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, soda and salt and mix well. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternatively with yogurt, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool at least 10 minutes in pan before removing. Serve with berries to garnish. 16 servings.
Per serving (cake only) 143 calories; 3g fat
Chocolate Truffles (adapted from www.marthastewart.com)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
Â½ cup organic heavy cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
Â¼ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
Unsweetened cocoa for dusting
Place chocolate in bowl. Bring cream, Grand Marnier and salt to simmer in small saucepan over medium low heat. Pour over chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Pour chocolate mixture into 8-inch square baking dish and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Scoop balls of chocolate mixture using melon baller or 1-inch ice cream scoop. Roll balls in cocoa powder until fully coated. Shake off excess. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
That should get you started experimenting with some not so bad for you chocolate treats…but sometimes you just need to jump off the ledge (and into some really rich, decadent chocolate!) So, for those special occasions, here are a couple of over the top indulgences.
Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake (adapted from www.epicurious.com)
24 chocolate wafer cookies
1 tablespoon sugar
Â¼ cup organic butter, melted
9.7 ounces 70% coca (bittersweet) chocolate, chopped
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 Â¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Â¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large organic eggs
Â¾ cup whipping cream
6 ounces 70% cocoa (bittersweet) chocolate
1 tablespoon sugar
For crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 9-inch springform pan with 3-inch high sides. Blend cookies in food processor until finely ground. Blend in sugar. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press mixture evenly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake until just set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.
For filling: Stir chopped chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and cool chocolate until lukewarm but pourable. Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in processor until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour filling over crust. Smooth top. Bake until center is just set and appears dry, about 1 hour. Cool 5 minutes, then run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Chill overnight.
For topping: Stir cream, chocolate, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over center of cheesecake, spreading to within Â½ inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until topping is set, about 1 hour. Can be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and keep refrigerated. When ready to serve, release pan sides and transfer cheesecake to platter. Top with chocolate curls or berries if desired Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.
Decadent Chocolate Cake (adapted from InStyle, February, 2009)
Â½ pound bittersweet chocolate
Â½ cup organic unsalted butter, cut up
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 organic orange, zested (whenever using zest for a recipe, be extra certain to purchase organic!)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Â¾ cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Â½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Â¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray sides of 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Melt chopped chocolate and butter in double boiler over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Mix in bourbon and zest and set aside. With electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in bowl until mixture is thick and pale yellow ribbons form, about 6 minutes. Fold mixture gently into chocolate bit by bit. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. In the meantime, beat cold heavy cream until frothy. Add confectioners’ sugar and spices and continue beating until soft peaks form. Chill until ready to use.
Mexican Chocolate Souffles (adapted from www.epicurious.com)
Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra, contains cinnamon. The golden rule of baking applies here…if the recipe calls for Mexican chocolate, use Mexican chocolate! Souffles are not as difficult to prepare as legend would have you believe, but they do benefit from close adherence to the specified ingredients!
5 (3.1-ounce) disks Mexican chocolate, chopped
Â½ cup organic unsalted butter
8 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
Sweetened whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and sugar eight Â¾ cup soufflé dishes. Melt Mexican chocolate in heavy medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Mixture will be grainy. Whisk egg yolks in large bowl to blend. Gradually hot chocolate mixture into egg yolks. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in separate bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold Â¼ of egg white into warm chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining egg whites. Divide mixture among prepared soufflé dishes. Place dishes on rimmed baking sheet and bake until tops have risen about Â½ inch above rim of dish and appear dry with softly set centers, about 18 minutes. Serve soufflés with sweetened whipped cream and orange zest for garnish.
Chocolate Cakes with Praline Sauce (adapted from www.blisstree.com)
2/3 cup flour
Â½ cup dark cocoa
Pinch kosher salt
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 sticks organic unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick organic unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecans, toasted
Â½ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt one stick of butter until it becomes golden brown. Melt chocolate and second stick butter together over low heat, whisking frequently. Remove from heat and add the browned butter. Sift all dry ingredients together 3 times. Beat eggs and egg yolks until light, then beat in sugar. Carefully whisk in the chocolate and butter combination. Divide batter between 8 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 12 minutes for gooey cake and 15 minutes for moist, rich cake. While cakes are cooking, make praline sauce: Melt the butter, salt and brown sugar together until no longer grainy, stirring frequently. Add the cream and stir well. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. When cakes are done, cool for no more than 3 minutes before unmolding onto dessert plates. Sprinkle pecans over the cakes and pour the warm syrup over all.
Valentine’s Chocolate Fondue Recipe (adapted from www.101cookbooks.com)
1 pound premium bittersweet chocolate, well chopped
1 Â½ cups organic heavy cream
Put chopped chocolate in bowl and set aside. Pour cream into medium, thick-bottomed saucepan or double boiler over low heat. Bring cream to simmer and add the chocolate, stirring until melted. Serve with organic handmade marshmallows, dried apricots, or whatever tasty treat you can imagine! Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy!!