While some people would classify chocolate as Hershey or Nestle, the actual classification of chocolate is based on how much cocoa is contained in the formulation. You may be surprised to learn that something known as “chocolate” really isn’t chocolate at all.
Cocoa powder is made from the nonfat part of the cocoa bean. Used in baking, it is available as “Dutch-processed” or natural varieties; the processed, or alkalized, powder is dark in color with a milder chocolate taste, while the natural powder is lighter in color with a strong chocolate flavor.
Unsweetened chocolate, known also as baking or bitter chocolate, is made of pure ground cocoa beans and is not meant to be eaten alone – it needs to be combined with sugar to be palatable. Unsweetened chocolate is the base for all other chocolates.
Bittersweet chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa liquor, though most cantains upwards of 50% (all percentages are based on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and requirements).
Semi-sweet chocolate also contains at least 35% cocoa liquor but is often sweeter that bittersweet. The term is based in the United States, most notably as Nestle Toll House Chips.
Dark chocolate contains no milk additive; it is made by adding fat and sugar to cocoa liquor. Cocoa content in dark chocolate ranges from 30% to 80%.
Sweet dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of sugar than traditional dark chocolate, but similar to dark chocolate, contains no milk solids and has approximately 30% cocoa liquor.
Milk chocolate must have at least 10% cocoa liquor, 12% milk solids, and 3.39% butterfat, but also contains condensed milk or dry milk solids.
Couverture chocolate is a professional chocolate, used by bakers or dessert makers. It is expensive due to the high percentage of both cocoa butter (at least 30%) and cocoa liquor; the ratio, however, makes for a very smooth chocolate that melts quickly and is perfect for tempering and coating candy.
Notice something missing? White chocolate contains cocoa butter, but is not considered a “true chocolate” by many purists, because it doesn’t contain cocoa liquor or other cocoa products. Per the FDA, white chocolate must have at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, and at most 55% sugar – be weary of “white chocolate” products that contain vegetable fats in place of cocoa butter.
Finally, also in the “not quite chocolate” chocolate category, is candy coating chocolate. Also called confectionery coating chocolate or compound chocolate, this product is a chocolate-flavored candy coating that contains small amounts of cocoa liquor, but the cocoa butter is replaced by vegetable fats. This candy is inexpensive but has good melting and molding properties, and is a less-costly alternative to couverture chocolate.
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