Chocolate 101

Chocolate 101

My Quick Chocolate Guide for Cooks

Who doesn’t love chocolate? This luscious delicacy is rich in antioxidants and mood enhancing chemicals, bringing possible health benefits along with pure pleasure.

If you’ve got a craving for something chocolate, you’ve got a multitude of satisfying product choices.

Cocoa Powder

One of the most basic chocolates in any kitchen is cocoa powder. This unsweetened staple is perfect for baking as well as adding a chocolate flavor to desserts and beverages:

  • Raw cacao powder: This is chocolate powder in its purest form, and is generally an organic product. Raw cacao powder is made from nothing but cold pressed cacao beans and is an excellent choice for smoothies, baking and frozen desserts. It’s generally the most expensive type of cocoa powder, however it may also have the highest health benefits.
  • Traditional cocoa powder: Created from pure chocolate liqueur (non-alcoholic), traditional cocoa powder has three quarters of its cocoa butter removed, making it a low-fat chocolate choice. Although its unadorned flavor is bitter, when sweetened it gives a satisfying signature flavor to brownies and chocolate cakes.
  • Dutch cocoa powder: Also created from chocolate liqueur with all but a quarter of its cocoa butter extracted, low-fat Dutch cocoa has a somewhat mellower flavor than its American counterpart. It’s a great choice when baking subtle flavored European style pastries and cakes, and of course for that steaming cup of Dutch cocoa.

Keep in mind that since cocoa powder is unsweetened, you can also use it to lend a unique flavor to savory dishes.

Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

Baking chocolate may look like a chocolate candy bar, but if you bite into it you’ll be in for a bitter surprise! This unsweetened product is made from chocolate liqueur and has between 50 and 58 percent cocoa butter.

Its flavor, like traditional cocoa powder is very strong, so it’s another great choice for brownies and chocolate cakes.

Although they’re both made from chocolate liqueur, baking chocolate squares and cocoa powder aren’t interchangeable. Be sure to use the specific product called for in your recipe for great results.

Sweetened Ready-To-Eat Chocolate

When you need instant gratification, reach for one of the many types of sweetened chocolate. These ready-to-eat confections also add a nice dimension to cookies, muffins and other baked goods. Available in bars, bark, chips and sculpted shapes you’re sure to find a variety that satisfies your craving:

  • Dark chocolate: If you’re looking for the maximum health benefits from ready-to-eat chocolate, savor the sophisticated taste of dark chocolate. While no U.S. standard exists for exactly how much chocolate must be contained, most dark chocolate has somewhere between 55 and 99 percent cocoa (or chocolate liqueur).
  • Semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate: These varieties are a little sweeter than dark chocolate and contain higher amounts of cocoa butter and vanilla. Bittersweet chocolate is required to contain at least 35 percent chocolate liqueur and generally averages between 30 to 35 percent fat. Semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolates are a popular choice for chocolate chip cookies.
  • Sweet chocolate: Containing a minimum of 15 percent chocolate liqueur, sweet chocolate is somewhat sweeter and richer than semi-sweet/bittersweet varieties.
  • Milk chocolate: This creamy treat is America’s most popular chocolate. To be classified as milk chocolate, it must contain at least 10 percent chocolate liqueur and 12 percent milk solids. Fat in milk chocolate can only come from milk fat or cocoa butter, and flavoring such as vanilla may be added.
  • White Chocolate: When you need to have something super smooth and decadent, reach for some white chocolate. Made from milk, cocoa butter, sugar and flavoring, white chocolate is creamy like milk chocolate but doesn’t contain any chocolate liqueur. The richest of all chocolate varieties, white chocolate contains at least 20 percent cocoa butter, 14 percent milk solids and up to 55 percent sugar.

Chocolate prices for all varieties vary wildly according to brand, quality and origin. When selecting chocolate, look for products that are as natural and unprocessed as possible.

Keep in mind that the sweeter and creamier the flavor, the more sugar and in most case the more fat you’ll be getting.

In general, dark chocolate and cocoa powders have the greatest health benefits while white chocolate offers the lowest benefit.

In moderation, just relax and enjoy your favorite chocolate without guilt.

 

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