Baking Browines. Is there a noticeable difference if I use high quality chocolate (Valhrona) versus Nestle Semi-Sweet Chips?
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I have to suggest you go to Joy of Cooking and follow the directions. I've never had better. No chips involved.
thank you for your post. However, I want to understand more about the difference between high end chocolate and the grocery store brands to be used in baking. Will I notice a difference when using the higher quality chocolate? Is it worth the money?
To me, yes. But I notice the difference in quality of chocolate. Some notice more than me but most less. I adjust the quality based on the audience. I usually use cocoa powder in brownies, the best I used Sharfenberger, but good old Hershey is fine for most uses.You can use melted chocolate and that is sometimes better. Or are you talking about adding chips or chunks into the batter? Chips would stay firmer where Valhrona would melt. Please explain the use of the chocolate.
See: Alice Medrich Brownie, Katherine Hepburn brownie..too many to name.
To answer your question directly, yes. The caveat being simple enough. In order to differentiate between the two brands you must have a good, not great palate (although a great palate does not hurt). A good chocolate chocolate like Valhrona or Ghirardelli's, uses chocolate sourced from better quality beans and processes that do not inhibit the chocolate's true flavor. If you do a side by side comparison and if you can tell a difference, and if that difference justifies the cost ($$$), then make your decision. Personally, I use mid-tier chocolate because I like the taste and it doesn't cost me a bundle every time I want chocolate chip cookies. Remember, you are baking these treats for you or someone you want to like them, do not pander to people who say brand X is better just because you believe them to be an authority (ie Barefoot Contessa), its all about personal preference and cost control.
For years, I used melted Nestle semi-sweet chips in my brownie recipe (about 6 oz. melted chocolate and about 1/4 cup cocoa in my recipe). Then, on a whim, I tried Valrhona instead. I noticed a textural difference - they were more compact, with less of a crumb. In a good way. I don't know if this is because Valrhona doesn't have stabilizers like chocolate chips tend to, but it was a nice difference.
Tastewise, though, I prefer plain ol' melted Nestle. As much as I love high-quality ingredients, Valrhona has a dark, almost smoky flavor that I personally didn't prefer in brownies. The texture difference wasn't pronounced enough to make me switch over.
Not all that long ago, home bakers could only choose among Hershey, Nestle and Baker's products--cocoa, baking (unsweetened) and semi-sweet chocolate in various forms. Now, within three miles of my home, I can buy chocolate from those three companies and Droste, Scharffen Berger, Valrhona, Ghirardelli, Callebaut, Guittard and Lindt--and I can buy them with different percentages of cacao. Amazing.
Depending on what you're making, the type and brand of chocolate used can make a big difference not only in taste, but also in texture and color. For baking--when the chocolate flavor will be cut or mellowed with butter, eggs, vanilla, flour and sugar--I've used all of the above and I don't think that the best is necessarily better. Is there a difference between Droste and Nestle cocoa when I use them in a recipe from a Hershey magazine ad? Yes--the Droste brownies are very good and very dark, almost exotic, and so rich I can eat only one, but they don't pair well with vanilla ice cream (go figure), so I like the brownies better when they're made with Hershey or Nestle cocoa.
I like to use Callebaut, Valrhona and Scharffen Berger ($11 to $14 a pound at my local market) for hot cocoa, truffles, ganache and candy dipping. They taste different from each other, but they're all really good. Plus, I just feel so continental when I say those names.
Just for fun, you should make Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookies, once with Nestle Toll House or Hershey Special Dark chocolate chips and once with chocolate discs ordered from him. I did it a couple years ago and it was worth the splurge. It's a totally different cookie.
The bottom line: Make your brownies both ways, then do what your taste buds tell you to do from then on, and make sure to tell us which version you like the best.
I'd go with the Nestle semisweet morsels. They taste good, and you can't beat the price. But if you can spare the expense of a higher quality chocolate, like a Valrhona, or a Scharffen Berger, then by all means, go for it. It will taste better.
My grocery store carries a variety of chocolate. I buy the Valrhona 8.82 oz bars for $9.99, which I quickly eat before I ever get a chance to bake with, they are that good. Compared to the Nestle morsels that I get at Costco for $8.29 for a 72 oz. bag, that's gonna be one pricey Valrhona brownie!
Unless you're making these for Jacques Torres and/or some foodie fanatic with a hyper-acute palate that you want to impress, most normal people/kids probably won't notice the difference. Stick with the Nestle for brownies. And buy the Valrhona to eat. ;-)
FYI, I use cocoa powder for brownies, just because I hate the added step of melting the chocolate. One of my favorite recipes is On-The-Fence Brownies from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, page 158. These rock.