Pantry 101: Know Your Chocolate (The Foodie Magazine, Apr 2014)

Chocolate is not all about common store bought bars that we usually eat. Chocolate is also applied for cooking and baking. We present you with the various types of chocolate and their characteristics which appear in our daily consumption of this most luscious and well-loved ingredient.

The US FDA and the European Union both have specific definitions of the types of chocolate, with their corresponding compositions. But these can be very confusing for the uninitiated.

Let’s define some terms first:


    This is the cacao bean, right out of the cacao pod, it is fermented and dried, then it is either sold raw or roasted without the shell. Whole cacao is the whole bean, cacao nibs are crunched up pieces of bean, and ground cacao is powdered. This is the barest and healthiest form of chocolate, cacao can sometimes be quite bitter but already has the same chocolate aroma.
    This is the basis of all types of chocolate, formed by grinding cacao beans into a smooth, liquid paste. Nothing is added, and it does not contain alcohol, despite the name. It naturally contains about 53% cocoa butter (fat).
    Also called theobroma oil, this is a pale yellow, edible vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean. It is used to make chocolate. Cocoa butter has the same flavor and aroma as cacao. Cocoa butter is are fermented, roasted, and then separated from their hulls or shells. About 54–58% of the residue is cocoa butter. Chocolate liquor is pressed to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids.
    Made by pressing the chocolate liquor, the cocoa butter will then be partially separated and left to harden. The solids, or usually called ‘press cake’, is then ground and becomes dry cocoa powder. Light brown in color and possessing a strong chocolate flavor, the cocoa powder becomes the base for cakes, cookies, brownies, and confections when added with sugar.

And now, let’s jump to the luscious stuff that we all know so much!

Dark chocolate is made up of at least 35% cocoa solids, other brands may even have a high of 70% to 99% of cocoa content, with fat and sugar making up the remainder of the content. For certain dark chocolates, milk is also added to soften the texture but only up to around 12% of the content.

The different ratios of cocoa butter and other elements will further classify dark chocolate into several types such as sweet, semisweet, bittersweet, and ‘couverture’. Semisweet chocolate contains 40% – 62% of cocoa solids and is frequently used for cakes, cookies, and brownies, but if more sugar is added then it is classified into sweet chocolate.

Meanwhile, the bittersweet chocolate has less sugar and more liquor than its semisweet counterpart. Good bittersweet chocolate is what that classified as having 60% – 85% of cocoa solids depending on the brand.

Milk chocolate usually contains at least 10% of chocolate liquor, this type of chocolate also contains cocoa butter and sugar in varying amount in addition to at least 3.39% of fat and 12% of milk in a form of dry milk solids, cream, or condensed milk.

Originally it is much sweeter than dark chocolate, lighter in color, and has less chocolate-y taste although the latest trend shows us that chocolate producers are now putting more than the minimum amount of chocolate liquor, making it possess stronger chocolate taste and less sweetness.

Milk chocolate is mostly consumed directly or made into cookies because of its difficulty to be tempered properly and its proneness to overheating.

White chocolate is not technically one of the types of chocolate because it does not contain any chocolate liquor. White chocolate does not contain any non-fat ingredients from the cacao bean, making it possess an off-white color. It must contain at least 20% cocoa butter and 14% milk solids, 3.5% milk fat, and not more than 55% of sweeteners alongside lecithin, vanilla, or other flavorings. Its mild and pleasant flavor makes it a star ingredient for making panna cotta, mousse, or can be eaten directly.


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Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE April 2014 edition

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