So many types of chocolate; unsweetened, bittersweet, dark, milk, semi-sweet. Confused? Here’s a little primer to help you out.
It comes in many shapes, colors and forms. Chocolate is one of those foods that make life worth living. Its melting point is close to body temperature, around 90° which accounts for the delightfully creamy mouth-feel.
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I think I may be a hoarder. Almost all of the chocolate pictured above came directly out of my pantry (I bought the dark chocolate bar because it was pretty). I just kept finding the stuff. And that’s not even all of it! I have multiple bags and boxes. The big bag of milk chocolate? That will be No Fail Fudge later in the month. The white chocolate candy melts are going to be White Chocolate Cherry-Almond Clusters. I have plans for much of the rest of it, too. Stay tuned.
So in no certain order we have…
Just as the name implies, unsweetened chocolate contains zero sugar. This is chocolate in one of its simplest forms. It has a fat content (cocoa butter) of around 55%, which is close to the content of the natural bean. Not good eats because, without sugar, it’s very bitter. Best used in recipes. It allows you add a deep, rich chocolate flavor without adding more sugar.
The definition of “dark” chocolate varies widely from one country to the next and, in the U.S., has no official standard. Dark chocolates can range from 70% to 99% cocoa. Semi-sweet can be used for dark, bittersweet can be used for extra dark. Good for eating and baking.
This is chocolate that has a small amount of sugar added. European brands often call it dark chocolate. Still a little bitter for eating but some people like it. Can be interchanged with semi sweet depending on personal taste.
By far my favorite, at least for eating, although I prefer some brands over others. It has lots more of everything yummy. More sugar, more cocoa butter, milk. Did you know that Some brands sour their milk before adding it?
Not really chocolate. No cocoa solids, just cocoa butter, milk solids, and vanilla. I guess some people like it. My daughter loves the stuff so I use it sometimes just for her. It adds a nice variety when used with other chocolates. Be very careful melting, the sugar caramelizes quickly and can discolor or burn.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
This is pure chocolate with most of the cocoa butter removed. There are actually two types of cocoa powder:
- Broma process-sometimes called natural process. Made by hanging bags of cocoa beans in a really warm room to let the cocoa butter drain off. Then the beans are ground up.
- Dutch process-starts out like broma process but then the beans are soaked in an alkaline solution to neutralize the acidity. Dutch process cocoa has a milder flavor and a redder color.
Dipping/Almond Bark/Candy Coating/Confectioners Chocolate
Known by many names but not true chocolate because it has had most of the cocoa butter removed and replaced with vegetable fat. Don’t let this deter you from using it. This is my go-to chocolate for anything dipped or coated. Have you ever slaved over a tasty treat just to have it get that unappetizing grayish coating on it? That’s the cocoa butter coming to the surface. Called the “bloom”, it occurs when the chocolate is not properly tempered or when it hasn’t been properly stored. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s still tasty, if you were to melt it back down and mix it together it would go away, it just looks bad. So… I prefer this type of chocolate for things like peanut clusters and dipped pretzels. The most common are vanilla and chocolate. Wilton’s Candy Melts can be found in a huge variety of colors.
A couple more tips:
Store chocolate in a cool, dry place away from light in an air-tight container. Avoid temperature extremes.
To easily chop chocolate, use a serrated knife. It digs into the chocolate better and doesn’t slip as easily.
To melt chocolate, put it in a large metal or glass boil over a saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water. Don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. And DO NOT let water, even a drop, get into the chocolate while it’s melting. This will cause your lovely, luscious chocolate to seize. And you will cry.
Hope all of this was useful. Happy baking!