The Chopping Block: Get Your Chocolate Fix

Have you ever stood in the baking aisle at the grocery store staring at the wall of chocolate available wondering which one you should choose? Chips or bar? Semi-sweet or bittersweet? And just what is white chocolate?

Chocolate is a complex ingredient that can be very expensive and comes in a myriad of types to choose from. The Chopping Block finally clears up the confusion among the different types of chocolate in our new guide Chocolate Craze: Everything You Need to Know about Chocolate.

Here’s how to tell the difference in the styles of chocolate:

Unsweetened or Baking Chocolate: 100% cacao (about 50-50 cocoa liquor and cocoa butter)

Unsweetened chocolate is a term often used interchangeably with baking chocolate. Unsweetened chocolate is produced without the addition of sugar, and keeps more of its original flavor, which can be very rich and rather bitter. Chocolate liquor and fat, which come from the cacao bean, are the two ingredients used to make unsweetened chocolate. Because it has nothing else added to it, it has an extremely long shelf life.

Bittersweet or Dark Chocolate: Must have at least 25% cacao but usually around 70% cacao

Bittersweet chocolate contains far less milk than other kinds of chocolate, and sometimes no milk at all. It is made by mixing cocoa solids, fat and sugar. Bittersweet chocolate is available in a range of cocoa percentages, and is sometimes sold with cocoa solids percentages of up to 90%. Bittersweet or dark chocolate with higher percentages of cocoa solids will taste more bitter than those with lower percentages.



Semisweet Chocolate: Has to have at le

Semisweet chocolate is technically a kind of dark chocolate. For dark chocolate to qualify as semisweet chocolate, it must contain half as much sugar as it does cocoa solids. Chocolate with any sugar to cocoa solid ratio larger than this one will be classified as a sweetened chocolate. Like unsweetened chocolate, semisweet and bittersweet chocolate are more frequently used for baking and cooking purposes and are commonly sold in larger quantities like blocks than other kinds of chocolate. Because of the labeling differences between companies, it’s safe to substitute bittersweet, dark and semisweet in recipes.

Milk Chocolate: Has to have at least 10% cacao, but usually around 35 to 45% cacao

Milk chocolate is probably the variety with which most people are familiar; milk chocolate is arguably the most popular kind of chocolate in terms of commercial consumption. It is made by adding milk, most often milk powder, to the traditional combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar and frequently vanilla flavoring. The addition of milk shortens the chocolate’s shelf life. Milk chocolate should not be substituted for bittersweet, dark and semisweet in recipes.

White Chocolate: Does not contain cocoa solids

Some companies won’t even label white chocolate as chocolate because it doesn’t contain any chocolate liquor. True white chocolate is made with cocoa butter, milk, sugar and vanilla. It will be a creamy, ivory color not stark white.

If you would like to learn more about chocolate, including its history, how it goes from bean to bar, how to temper, melt, taste, store and buy chocolate, download our new free guide Chocolate Craze: Everything You Need to Know about Chocolate.

The guide also includes 8 chocolate recipes for you to try at home including this Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Tart. If you want some hands-on experience working with chocolate with our pastry chefs, don’t miss our next session of Chocolate Boot Camp coming up this month at Lincoln Square.

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