It is no secret that chocolate arguably heals more ailments than modern medicine. Chocolate in its simplest form is the cocoa bean from which chocolate is made. I am no expert so I thought this week’s Wednesday Recipe Blog was worth the education on chocolate.
Thanks to our friends at Wikipedia and the National Confectioners Association, (NCA) for the information I am about to share. You can click on these links to read more details about my favorite food group. Happy reading!
According to the NCA, there are three types of chocolate:
- Dark Chocolate: The bare essentials.
Dark chocolate is simply chocolate liquor (the centers of cocoa beans ground to a liquid), extra cocoa butter, sugar, an emulsifier (often lecithin) and vanilla or other flavorings. Dark chocolates may contain milk fat to soften the texture, but they do not generally have a milky flavor. Dark chocolate also is known as semi-sweet chocolate. Unsweetened chocolate, or baking chocolate, is 100 percent chocolate liquor and is typically very bitter and astringent. Darker chocolates often have a higher percent cacao, which means they have a higher proportion of cocoa beans in them than other chocolates do. See more about percent cacao and how it affects a chocolate’s taste.
- Milk Chocolate: All of the above, plus milk solids.
Surprisingly, sweet and creamy milk chocolate isn’t usually made with cold, frothy milk. It’s usually made with dry milk solids, which look like powdered milk. Milk chocolate has at least 10 percent cocoa liquor by weight, and at least 12 percent milk solids. It’s the most common kind of eating chocolate.
- White Chocolate: Cocoa butter takes center stage.
White chocolate features cocoa butter—think milk chocolate minus the cocoa solids. In addition to the cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, lecithin and vanilla, white chocolate may contain other flavorings. It has at least 20 percent cocoa butter, 14 percent milk solids, and no more than 55 percent sugar.
Here are a few more you may come across now and then:
- Baking Chocolate: Chocolate liquor, served straight up, is all that’s in baking chocolate. Its bitterness comes from pure nibs, the finely ground centers of roasted cocoa beans. Also called unsweetened chocolate, it has no sugar and is used often in dessert recipes with sugar as a separate ingredient. All other chocolate is called eating chocolate.
- Bittersweet Chocolate: The darkest of eating chocolate, bittersweet has the highest percentage of chocolate liquor and may contain extra cocoa butter. Both bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate must contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor, but bittersweet usually contains at least 50 percent cacao. Chocolates in this range are often referred to as dark chocolate.
- Cacao and % Cacao: Pronounced “kuh-KOW” or “kuh-KAY -oh”, cacao represents the three ingredients derived from a cocoa bean—chocolate liquor, extra cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The % cacao refers to the total amount of these ingredients contained, by weight, in the finished product. See more about cacao percentages.
- Cocoa Butter: Cocoa butter is the fat naturally present in cocoa beans. It melts just below body temperature, giving chocolate its unique mouthfeel. The nibs, or centers of the cocoa beans, are 50 to 60 percent cocoa butter. There is no connection to dairy butter.
- Cocoa or Cocoa Powder: Comes from pressing chocolate liquor, the liquid that comes from grinding the nibs or centers of cocoa beans, to separate out of the cocoa butter. What’s left are the chocolate solids, called press cake. The press cake is then ground, becoming the dry cocoa powder used in hot cocoa mixes and baking. Under U.S. regulations, “cocoa” and “cocoa powder” can be used interchangeably.
- Semisweet Chocolate: Like bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate is required by U.S. regulations to contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor. Generally, semisweet chocolate contains 35 to 45 percent chocolate liquor. Semisweet chocolate is often referred to as dark chocolate.
It really does not matter what you call it or how it is presented. Personally, I am a Peanut M&M fanatic, a cheap date. Some look for healing in truffles from France or German Bittersweet bars of goodness. As a teenage girl when that once a month friend would visit (Ralph), nothing eased the pain, not a heating pad, not Midol, nothing like a good old-fashioned Hershey Bar!
One day in Heaven, I hope to be greeted by my long-lost family and friends, dogs and puppies and a veritable cornucopia of chocolate. Ah…