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Using Dairy-free chocolate for baking: The Complete Guide

That sweet smell of melting chocolate chips, the rich flavor of a delicious cake, the calm solitude of working in the kitchen.

If you want to enjoy life, baking is an essential activity. But what if you live a dairy-free lifestyle? What if you keep to an organic vegan diet? A gluten-free diet? It's not as simple as going to the store and picking out any old food items.

Staying Dairy free can be difficult

Food allergies can really be a pain. The reality is, many people have to carefully monitor what their food contains. Vegan, nut-free, and gluten-free diets all come with their own set of special ingredients, and a dairy-free diet is no different.

But that doesn't mean that dairy-free baking can't be fun! Adhering to a dairy-free diet can have its own benefits and rewards,  and it's important to know all the facts before you get to the kitchen. So what are the benefits, what ingredients do you need, and how do you get started?

What Are The Benefits Of Dairy-Free Baking?

Making sure food brands don't contain dairy ingredients may be time-consuming, but it certainly comes with its perks. Even if you aren't lactose intolerant or vegan, cutting dairy from your life is a great way to improve your overall health.

Dairy can have high levels of fat and sugar. If consumed too often, these can result in a calorie surplus and poor digestion. Taking in too many calories can lead to obesity, which causes a myriad of health issues.

For the lactose intolerant, the biggest benefit is a relief from the awful symptoms of their disorder. Consuming dairy if you have dairy intolerance can lead to indigestion and an upset stomach. A lactose allergy can be even more serious, with accidental dairy consumption resulting in hives and even anaphylaxis.

Is Baking With Dairy-Free Chocolate Difficult?

Baking with dairy-free chocolate is just as easy as using regular chocolate!  There are dairy-free versions of every type of chocolate used in regular baked goods. In a chocolate chip cookie recipe, for example, you would just switch regular chocolate chips for any dairy-free chocolate alternative.

But chocolate is only one weapon in a dairy-free baker's arsenal, and it's important to know all of the ingredients necessary before making your dairy-free food. Here are some of the more commonly used ingredients, and the part they play in dairy-free recipes.

Common ingredients in dairy-free baking

The first step is to make sure you are using organic ingredients. Certified Organic ingredients are grown with fewer pesticides; Not only that, but organic food doesn't contain preservatives, so it keeps that fresh taste. If you want the best, make sure it's certified organic.

Milk Alternatives

Unfortunately, in traditional baked goods, milk does play a major role. It can moisten the dough, add color, and change the texture of food. Substituting out milk is relatively easy though. With options like soy, almond, coconut, and more, there are plenty of milk alternatives to use in your recipes.

Sugar

If you look up any baked goods recipe, you are certain to find some form of sugar or sugar alternative present. Cane sugar is an especially common form used in the creation of baked goods. Cane sugar is a less processed version derived from the sugar cane plant.  If you want a more natural and organic form of sugar, cane sugar should be your number one choice.

Soy

An emulsifier is also vital to crafting any solid baked good. Soy lecithin is a good organic choice for vegan and dairy-free bakers. If you happen to have a soy allergy, there are other types of lecithin you can utilize. Sunflower lecithin is an excellent alternative. It is lecithin derived only from sunflower seeds, so it remains vegan while being soy-free.

If being soy-free helps you enjoy life, that's great! But, Soy lecithin is an essential component in vegan and dairy-free baked goods and is present in many dairy-free ingredients. Dairy-free and vegan chocolate chips, semi-sweet or otherwise, tend to contain soy lecithin.

Tree Nuts and Peanuts

Tree nuts and peanuts are a great addition to any dairy-free baked goods, though you want to make sure anyone you bake for doesn't have a nut allergy. There are actually two separate allergies when it comes to tree nuts and peanuts, as peanuts aren't actually nuts at all.

Common misconception

Some people call peanuts tree nuts, but this is inaccurate. To call peanuts tree nuts would be like calling a tomato a vegetable: You are close, but not quite there. Peanuts are actually legumes, which are separate from the nut family.  So when someone says they enjoy a tree nut-free life, this doesn't necessarily mean they are peanut-free.

Chocolate

Where the difficulty comes in is making sure you choose the right dairy-free chocolate. Many recipes call for chocolate in various forms, mainly chocolate chips. Whether it be semi-sweet, unsweetened, or mini chocolate chips, you have to be careful about any traces of milk being found in your baked goods. 

Chocolate Choice: Be wary of hidden dairy

So before you go reaching for a bag of unsweetened chocolate or mini chocolate chips, it's important to carefully read the label.

If a recipe calls for milk chocolate, you can pretty much write it off right away. Milk chocolate tends to naturally contain some level of milk.

White chocolate is another common cow-product culprit, with a typical grocery store brand containing various amounts of dairy. It is very difficult to find semi-sweet milk and white chocolate without milk products. When you want to ensure a product is dairy-free, avoid both white chocolate and milk chocolate.

The best option

The best choice you can go with for organic dairy-free ingredients is dark chocolate. With its strong cacao, a hint of vanilla, and signature bitter flavor, dark chocolate morsels are the cornerstone of any dairy-free recipe.

Dark chocolate comes in every form necessary for crafting delicious dairy-free baked goods. Whether it be regular chocolate mini-chips, semi-sweet mini chips, or unsweetened bars; if a recipe calls for it, this chocolate has the answer.

Dark Chocolate: The king of dairy-free baking

But what is dark chocolate? Before you go to the grocery store, grab any old chips, and throw them in your chocolate chip cookies, it's important to understand what comprises this fascinating ingredient.

What makes up chunks of this chocolate, and what ingredients are in each variation? Well, for the building blocks of dark chocolate, you need several important components: cacao, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and cane sugar.

Cocoa Butter

One essential element is cocoa butter. This ingredient is derived from the cocoa fruit, but don't let the name fool you; This doesn't have the traditional sugar flavor associated with traditional fruits. Cocoa fruit contains beans, and these beans are turned into chocolate liquor. This chocolate liquor is then separated into solids and mass and turned into cocoa butter.

Cacao

Cacao is vital to any dairy-free dark chocolate. For a bar to be classified as "dark", it needs to contain a minimum of 50% cacao solids. If that reaches 100%, that is considered pure chocolate. Cacao is what gives dark chocolate its flavonoids, the antioxidants that boost its health benefits.

Sugar and Soy lecithin

Though present in much smaller amounts than other forms of chocolate, sugar is one of the building blocks for dark chocolate. The higher levels of cacao solids in a bar, or the "darker" it is, the less sugar will be present. In good quality organic dark chocolate, cane sugar is often used.

As an emulsifier, soy lecithin ensures that cocoa butter doesn't separate, and helps all the flavors blend together. It also helps the chocolate maintain its viscosity when it melts, making sure all the components are well blended.

Different Versions of Dark Chocolate

Semi-sweet chocolate

Semi-sweet chocolate is made much like regular dark chocolate. It contains vanilla extract, an emulsifier, and cocoa butter.  For baking, it usually comes in the form of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Chocolate chips are just smaller formed chunks of chocolate and come in several varieties: Semi-sweet mini chips or regular-sized chocolate chips. For smaller baked goods, semi-sweet mini chips work best.

The amount of sugar does help define what makes a chocolate semi-sweet, but sugar is only one part. While semi-sweet needs to have less than 50% percent sugar to be labeled "semi-sweet", the level of cocoa solids also helps define it. Cocoa solids, like cocoa butter, are a derivative of the cocoa plant.

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder is commonly used by bakers when they want to add a chocolate flavor, without changing the texture with clumsy chunks. Cocoa powder is one of the remnants left behind after the cocoa butter is removed from cacao solids.

Unsweetened Chocolate

Unsweetened chocolate is very similar to cocoa powder, except it includes cocoa butter. Unsweetened chocolate is a baked good essential formed from chocolate liquor.

This unsweetened chocolate liquor is then formed into bars or chips. It is very similar to semi-sweet, though semi-sweet can include a lower level of sugar and cacao. Unsweetened chocolate is always 100 percent cacao and cocoa butter.

So now that you have chosen the chocolate for your dairy-free baked goods, you'll want to get started. Let's look at a cookie recipe, and how you can substitute some dark chocolate products for others.

How To Use Dairy Free Chocolate for Baking Cookies

Traditional cookies with chocolate chips can be boring. If you want to enjoy life, so why not substitute in your own dairy-free chocolate chips to spice it up? 

If a recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate chips or semi-sweet mini chips, you could instead use chunks of Mid-Day Squares. You can also substitute any non-vegan ingredients for healthy alternatives if you wish to make vegan chocolate chip cookies.

Try Mid-Day Squares as an organic substitute for dairy-free chocolate chips

Mid-Day makes great organic dairy-free chocolate that works well as a substitution for chocolate chips in any recipe. With excellent reviews, it is far higher quality than any bag of chocolate chips you'll find in stores.

Mid-Day Squares Fudge Yah is a great flavor to do this with, and you can break them down into regular chocolate chips or mini chips. If you go the mini-chips route be careful, as these will melt much faster.

Gather Your Ingredients

Besides the dark chocolate morsels you crafted,  you'll need several other ingredients. Take the time to ensure these ingredients are certified fair trade and organic. You'll need 1 cup of coconut oil, 3/4 cup of cane sugar and brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

You will also need 2 large eggs or vegan equivalent, 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free equivalent, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.

You can also add a little cocoa butter for texture. You'll want to include 12 ounces of your homemade Mid-Day chocolate chips in place of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the original recipe.

Preheat and mix

First, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and combine your coconut oil, cane sugar, brown sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla extract. Stir then briefly refrigerate, alternating between the fridge and stirring every five minutes until the batter lightens. Then add your eggs or vegan equivalent slowly, mixing after each egg or portion is added.

Adding Dry ingredients

Next, mix your remaining ingredients into a bowl. Combine and add to your other mixture. Now, add your Mid-Day chunks in like chocolate chips. Then, drop the chocolate chip dough in tablespoons onto several cookie sheets.

Bringing The Cookies to Life

Place the chocolate chip cookies in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Then pull the cookies out and store them safely for 2 minutes to cool. That's it! Depending on what ingredients you used, you now have an organic, dairy-free vegan cookie that will taste amazing.

Mid-Day Squares: Organic Chocolate Perfected

Mid-Day Squares are the absolute best substitute for standard dairy-free chocolate chips. Our products have better flavor than any regular brand of chocolate chips; all while being certified fair trade.

Mid-Day squares aren't only dairy-free, but vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO as well! Other brands may claim to be dairy-free or vegan, but can they really promise that without a specialized facility?

Enjoy life, and don't settle for less

Our squares are made in a dedicated facility to ensure your food does not come in contact with allergens.

This facility uses only the finest organic ingredients including vegan soy lecithin, coconut sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla.  At Mid-Day Squares, we want you to enjoy life.  You need a brand with amazing reviews and top-shelf food, and we're here to provide. Try a starter pack today!