Chocolate, Butter, Sugar


Most chocolate is labeled by the percentage of cacao—sometimes called cocoa solids —it contains. Since the main ingredients in chocolate are cacao and sugar, this tells you just how sweet it is: The higher the percentage, the darker and less sweet.
     Most of the recipes here just call for “chocolate” that you chop or melt yourself. Choose what you like to eat straight—milk, dark, or white they’re interchangeable in these recipes. You don’t need a scale; just buy a bar that’s a little larger than the size you need and use the little squares to help you calculate the right quantity. (Nice: You’re almost certain to have extra for a snack.)

  • Unsweetened Chocolate 100 percent cacao—it contains no sugar and too bitter to eat. If a recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, use it.
  • Dark Chocolate Anywhere from 35 to 99 percent cacao; the higher the number, the less sweet (and more crisp) it will be.
  • Milk Chocolate Less than 35 percent cacao, so it’s much creamier.
  • White Chocolate Contains no cacao but is sweetened cocoa butter, which is also a component of the cocoa bean.
  • Cocoa This is what’s left when you separate the fat from out of partially refined chocolate—and then dry it to a powder. It’s intense, unsweetened, and good for baking.


As far as I’m concerned there’s only one kind of butter: unsalted. It has a fresh, creamy taste you’ll never get with the salted kinds. Local butter is a special treat if you have access to it, but supermarket brands are fine too: Just make sure it’s unsalted! (You can always add salt, of course.)

  • Some Measurements 1 pound (the common supermarket package) contains 4 sticks. Each stick is ½ cup and measures 8 tablespoon —whether it’s cold, softened, or melted. Use the marks on the wrapper as your guide or use a tablespoon to measure.
  • Some Translations When a recipe calls simply for “butter,” it can be either room temperature or out of the fridge. Softened butter is at room temperature. Cold or very cold butter is used in crusts and crumbles and should be quite hard; you’ll usually be asked to cut it into bits and need a knife to get through it. (Butter that’s put in a food processor is almost always cold.) Melted butter should be liquid but not browned or burned. To get it to that point, put it in a small pot over low heat or microwave it on medium for 10-second intervals and watch it like a hawk. You can measure butter before or after you melt it (the results are the same).


The recipes in this book call for three kinds of sugar:

  • Granulated (Just sugar in recipes, unless it appears with another type.) This is common table sugar, which is best for baking since it dissolves reliably and has a simple sweet flavor.
  • Brown Light (or golden) or dark, your choice. Both include molasses (dark has more) for more moisture and a deeper flavor. When you  measure it out, press it into your measuring cup for accuracy—this is what is meant by a packed cup.
  • Powdered Also sometimes called confectioners’ sugar and labeled 10×, this is the kind used for frostings, glazes, and dusting. It’s made by combining pulverized sugar with cornstarch so it dissolves easily without any grittiness.

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