Know Your Chocolate

When baking or preparing a chocolate dessert, there are reasons that certain recipes specify the kind of chocolate you should use. It’s important to know that not all types of chocolate will produce the exact effect you seek. With varying flavors, melting points and end results, it certainly pays to know your chocolate.

Without cocoa beans, there would be no chocolate. The beans are dried, roasted and ground up to produce a dark, thick paste – also called chocolate ‘liquor’, cocoa solids or cocoa mass. It is this thick paste that is the basis of all chocolate and cocoa products. When you’re purchasing chocolate for your next dessert adventure, read the list of ingredients and check the percentage of cocoa solids and sugar. For example, if a recipe calls for bitter or dark chocolate, choose an option with a high percentage of cocoa solids (such as 70%).

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Consider the following types of chocolate that may appear in your next recipe:

Plain Chocolate – Lots of recipes will call for “plain chocolate” because it is stronger. This kind of chocolate is also referred to as dark (made by adding fat and sugar to cocoa), semi-sweet (dark chocolate with half as much sugar as cocoa), or bittersweet (less sugar and more liquor than semisweet). A minimum of 35% cocoa solids for plain chocolate is needed to enjoy the best results. To create desserts (such as soufflés, mousse or truffles) with a richer chocolate flavor, choose plain chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids.

Milk Chocolate – Milk chocolate has added milk solids, which produces a sweeter taste that is smoother and creamier when compared to other kinds of chocolate. While milk chocolate is best for making candy bars, it sometimes finds its way into various desserts, pastries and other confections. Milk chocolate is sensitive to heat, so it doesn’t make a good choice for baking.

Unsweetened Chocolate – The purest form of chocolate is unsweetened, which is the cooled and hardened form of chocolate liquor. Since no sugar is added, it tastes extremely bitter.

Cocoa Powder – When a nice amount of cocoa butter is removed from chocolate liquor, cocoa powder is the result. With a fine texture, the taste is rich yet bitter. This means that you don’t have to use a lot of it when creating a dessert. Sometimes, the powder is used as a garnish for ice cream or a sprinkled topping for cakes.

Drinking Chocolate – When looking for a tasty coating for truffles, consider drinking chocolate, which is cocoa powder with added sugars and milk extracts. The flavor is quite sweet and makes a delicious beverage.

White Chocolate – The white chocolate chips often found in Macadamia nut cookies is technically not a chocolate at all. There are no cocoa solids in this type of sweetness, but instead, is comprised of cocoa butter. A high amount of cocoa butter is blended with milk solids, vanilla, and sugar to obtain its taste.