Differences In Chocolate (Part One)
Now that we know where our chocolate comes from, it is time to broaden our taste buds and talk about the differences in chocolate.
Chocolate, as we commonly know it, is the product of a long refining process that begins with the fruit (cacao beans)of the tropical tree Theobroma cacao. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted, and ground, and the resulting products include cocoa butter, a smooth, solid fat used in both food and cosmetics, and chocolate liquor, or ground roasted cocoa beans.
Various Chocolate Options
The type of chocolate is determined by the various amounts of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor the chocolate contains, as well the amount of sugar and any other ingredients added to the mixture. Here is a list of some of the more popular chocolate variations.
This unsweetened powder is pulverized, partially defatted chocolate liquor. Cocoa powder gives an intense chocolate taste and is available in “Dutch-processed” (alkalized) or natural varieties. Natural cocoa powder is light brown, with a strong, pronounced chocolate flavor.
It is slightly acidic, so it is best to use natural cocoa powder in recipes calling for baking soda. Alkalized cocoa powder is darker in color, less acidic, and has a milder chocolate taste. Alkalized cocoa powder is recommended for recipes that call for baking powder.
Also known as “bitter” or “baking” chocolate. This is pure chocolate liquor, composed solely of ground cocoa beans. Although it looks and smells like chocolate, it has a bitter taste and is not meant for consumption on its own—it is best used in cooking, when it can be combined with sugar to make it more palatable.
Because cocoa beans contain equal amounts of cocoa butter and cocoa solids, unsweetened chocolate lends a deep, rich chocolate flavor to baked goods. Unsweetened chocolate is the base ingredient in all other forms of chocolate, except white chocolate.
Chocolate that contains chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and lecithin (an emulsifier).There are no milk solids added in dark chocolate. The cocoa content of commercial dark chocolate bars can range from 30% (sweet dark) to 70- 80% for extremely dark bars. Bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate also fall into the “dark chocolate” category.
Chocolate, as defined by the FDA, that contains at least 35% cocoa solids. Most bittersweet bars contain at least 50% chocolate liquor, with some bars pushing 70-80% chocolate liquor. This chocolate often has a deeper, more bitter flavor than sweet dark or semi-sweet bars.
However, the amount of sugar in the chocolate is not regulated, so one manufacturer’s “bittersweet” bar may taste sweeter than another’s “semi-sweet” bar.
This is primarily an American term, popularized by Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips. Semi-sweet chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa solids, and is generally assumed to be darker than sweet dark chocolate, but sweeter than bittersweet. However, the lack of regulations regarding sugar content means that these classifications are relative and not consistent across brands.
Sweet Dark Chocolate
Is “dark chocolate” in the sense that it does not contain milk solids, but it still has a high percentage of sugar and is much sweeter than other types of dark chocolate. Many brands of sweet dark chocolate have only 20-40% cocoa solids.
In addition to containing cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, milk chocolate contains either condensed milk (most European varieties) or dry milk solids. Milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor (in the United States), 3.39% butterfat, and 12% milk solids.
Milk chocolates are typically much sweeter than dark chocolate, and have a lighter color and a less pronounced chocolate taste. Milk chocolate is more difficult to temper properly and more prone to overheating.