Apologies for being away for so long! As usual, real life got in the way. I should be back posting regularly from now.
Anyway, I’m not sure about you, dear reader, but I am a chocoholic. I’m not afraid to admit it. While I’m not a big candy person and never have been, I adore chocolate of almost any kind.
And there are many different kinds. So many, in fact, it can get a little confusing. In this primer, I’m going to focus on the basics of chocolate (I’m guessing no one is surprised…). Answers will include: the different between dark and milk chocolate; what those percentages actually mean; is white chocolate actually chocolate?; and what exactly “Dutched” cocoa is (it’s not made by someone from the Netherlands, which I may or may not have believed when I was a child…).
Types of Chocolate (AKA What those Percentages Mean…)
What am I talking about here? Dark, milk, semi-sweet, bittersweet chocolate, etc. Much like humanity, there really isn’t too much separating the types of chocolate. In the end, it’s all chocolate and it’s all made from roasting and extracting butter and liquor from the beans of the cacao tree (but that’s another blog).
Chocolate is made up of cocoa butter, milk solids, milk fat, cocoa solids, and cocoa liquor. They are:
|Unsweetened Chocolate||85% to 95% cocoa solids, 18% cocoa butter|
|Bittersweet Chocolate||35% to 84% cocoa solids, 18% cocoa butter, less then 5% milk solids and milk fat|
|Semi-Sweet Chocolate||15% to 34% cocoa solids, 18% cocoa butter|
|Milk Chocolate||25% to 27% cocoa solids, 15% cocoa butter, 15% milk solids and fat.|
Keep in mind, this is just for the US. Other countries have different types of chocolate with different combinations of ingredients and required percentages of components. For example, Japan includes “quasi chocolate material”, which has a cocoa content of less than or equal to 15%, less than or equal to 3% cocoa butter, less than or equal to 18% fats, and less than or equal to 3% water. In France you can find, among many others, cream chocolate, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does not allow artificial sweeteners, vegetable fats, or other oils in chocolate.
So is white chocolate actually chocolate? Not technically. It does have cocoa butter (the good stuff does, anyway), but it lacks cocoa solids (cocoa powder) and chocolate liquor, thus most countries do not consider it to be chocolate.
Dutched vs. Regular Cocoa
You may have seen recipes call for “Dutch-processed cocoa” or “natural cocoa powder”. So what’s the difference? It all has to do with science.
Keep in mind that for baked goods to rise, there has to be a certain amount of acidity, such as baking soda and baking powder, which are called “leaveners”. Both produce leavening gasses, or bubbles, really, that help baked goods rise.
“Natural” cocoa is roasted cocoa beans that have been ground down to a very fine powder. Because the acids within the natural cocoa haven’t been removed, it’s best to use it along side baking soda when baking. This will also mellow the acidic flavor.
Dutch-processed cocoa (which can also be called “alkalized”) is still ground cocoa beans, but it has been processed with a potassium solution to neutralize the acidity, a process which also darkens the color. When baking, Dutch-processed cocoa powder should be paired with baking powder to return the acidity so the baked good will rise (thanks to carbon dioxide created by the chemical reaction). Dutch-processed cocoa has a softer, mellower flavor than natural cocoa. The milder flavor is actually the why behind the Dutch processing; the milder flavor translates to a milder end product, like chocolate ice cream.
So, can you substitute one for the other when you’re baking? You can, in certain circumstances, but it gets kind of tricky. It may alter the flavor (a more acidic ice cream), or whatever it is you’re baking may not leaven properly, especially if you change out Dutch-processed cocoa for natural cocoa. I usually stick with what the recipe asks for.
And what if a recipe doesn’t specify? It’s not perfect, but the general rule is to see whether the recipe calls for baking soda or baking power. If it calls for baking powder, use the Dutch-processed cocoa. If it’s baking soda, reach for the natural cocoa powder.
So those are the very basics of chocolate, for now. Additions like chocolate coverture and tempering will come in future blogs.
‘Till next time!
Veronica Coffing says
If I were to buy dark chocolate chips and it says in the ingredients list, “cocoa (processed with alkali,” does this mean the cocoa was processed without the addition of milk products and is therefore dairy-free? (Sorry, longest run-on sentence of my life)
Haha, no worries. I love my run-on sentences 🙂 Anyway, yes. The potassium solution I talked about in the blog they use to neutralize the acid is what they’re referring to when they say “processed with alkali,” so, yes, you’re safe from dairy. The only way the cocoa would include dairy is if it was listed in the ingredient list, but I don’t think I’ve seen that myself. You may know about this already, but there’s a dairy-free (and nut- and soy-free, I believe) brand of chocolate chips called “Enjoy Life”. They taste just like regular chocolate chips, too (says the person who’s eaten them by the handful…). You can find them at Whole Foods, probably Sprouts, and possibly Albertson’s? I can’t quite remember, but I know they’re available in more places now than they were. Hope that helps 🙂