As a fifth-generation member of the family behind Guittard Chocolate Co., Amy Guittard grew up surrounded by chocolate and loved to spend time in the kitchen. “I was always baking as a kid,” she recalls, adding, “I really liked to experiment.” Today, Amy—who now heads up marketing for Guittard—still enjoys playing around with chocolate; last year, she authored the Guittard Chocolate Cookbook, a collection of family recipes that have been passed down in her family for generations.
We asked the chocolate marketing guru and avid baker for advice on baking at home with chocolate. Here are three of her biggest pointers.
Tip #1: Experiment and compare.
Amy suggests comparing and contrasting chocolate baking bars, chips and wafers side by side in a cookie experiment. “Do a base experiment of different cookies made with wafers, chopped bars and chips, and see how each comes to life,” she suggests. “A chocolate chip has less cocoa butter in it than, say, a wafer, so it’s going to hold your cookie up more. If you bake with a wafer, the cookie’s going to be flatter. And if you bake with chunks of a baking bar, it’s going to be flatter, but also very different from wafers.”
And don’t forget to apply the same principles to other chocolate desserts, like brownies. She adds: “Making a brownie with cocoa powder versus unsweetened chocolate is going to be totally different. One’s going to be cakey; one’s going to be fudgy.”
Tip #2: Think outside of the baking box.
Another piece of advice Amy offers is to play with chocolate in ways you wouldn’t normally think to play with it, whether you’re adding it into a dish, melting it down to be dipped or using it in another application. On a recent weekend away with girlfriends, Amy discovered the deliciousness of fresh satsumas dipped in chocolate. The combination reminded her of a fresher version of orangettes, the chocolate-dipped confited orange peel that’s so popular in France. “It was almost a layman’s way of doing that,” she remarks. “Mind = blown!”
Tip #3: Bake with single-origin chocolate.
At Guittard, cacao beans come from a wide range of equatorial countries around the world, including Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Ghana and the Côte d’Ivoire, and for Amy, taking things to the next level and baking with single-origin chocolate is really fun. “Practice pairing, which requires you to get comfortable with tasting and picking up on the nuances of flavors in chocolate, which are sometimes easiest to pick up on when paired with different things,” she suggests. “I talk to our pastry chef about this all the time: He’ll taste our Guittard 64% Cacao L’Harmonie with passion fruit, then sesame, then banana. Taste with different things, and you’ll start to see how the flavor harmonizes with other paired flavors. That’s a good way to stretch yourself.”