The Many Types of Chocolate

There are many types of Chocolate, and to the untrained there are a lot of confusing technical terms. We at are going to help you cut through all the red tape and understand what some of these terms really mean.

The FDA is involved in the regulation of Chocolate, setting out the guidelines for what can be labelled White Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Bittersweet Chocolate, Unsweetened Chocolate, Semisweet Chocolate and Sweet Chocolate. Outside of those terms it’s up to the individual chocolate producers to create their own terms and products, which introduces a lot of confusion into the chocolate market.

Below we try to help you find out what some of the more popular terms actually means, and what they relate to in the chocolate world.

Cacao - This is where all chocolate starts out. You can get cacao raw or roasted and it is just the cacao bean, without the shell or anything else.  The sometimes quite bitter cacao is the healthiest form of chocolate. Ground cacao is a powered ground form of the cacao bean, while cacao nibs are crunched up pieces of cacao bean.

Chocolate Liquor - This is the base of all chocolate types. It if made by grinding cacao beans into a very smooth paste. It contains somewhere around 53% cocoa butter, but nothing is added to the cacao beans and despite it’s name it does not contain alcohol.

Unsweetened Chocoate - This is chocolate liquor that has had time to cool, cure and harden. It’s main uses are in baking and as an ingredient in the creation of other types of chocolate.  Most bakers like this type of chcolate for baking as by using it they can regulate the flavor and sweetness of their creations.

Sweet Chocolate - This type of chocolate will contain 15% chocolate liquor along with sugar and cocoa butter which will regulate exactly how sweet the sweet chocolate is.

Bittersweet Chocolate - This type of chocolate contains at least 35% chocolate liquor. It’s sweetness is regulated by sugar and cocoa butter. Both bittersweet and semisweet chocolate are really the same thing and most times are known by the more broad term “Dark Chocolate”. Just to confuse things a little more,  there is also bittersweet or semisweet baking chocolate, which is just sweetened cocoa liquor  without any added cocoa butter.

White Chocolate - Not really one of the types of chocolate as white chocolate does not contain any chocolate liquor. It must contain at least 14% milk and 20% cocoa butter, plus sugar.

Milk Chocolate - This contains a minimum of 10% chocolate liquor plus cocoa butter an sugar, along with 12% milk based product.

Cocoa - It’s made by passing chocolate liquor through a press, which removes the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor,  leaving a slurry which, once hardened is crushed into a powder, making cocoa.  After crushing there is approximately 10% to 20% cocoa butter remaining in the cocoa. Cocoa is used a lot in low fat cooking as it has all the flavor of chocolate, without most of the fat.

Some cocoa is immersed in an alkali solution of potassium carbonate to create “Dutched” cocoa. This process darkens the cocoa’s color and neutralizes the acid levels of the cocoa powder. Black cocoa is extremely alkaized cocoa, and is used in products where a really dark dark look is required.

Most American recipes uses plain cocoa powder, and is usually used in recipes requiring baking soda, which is an alkaline, while Dutch cocoa is used in recipes that also include baking powder, which is acidic. If Dutch cocoa is required, usually the recipe will specify it.

Ground Chocolate - This one is normal eating type chocolate that has been ground up into a powder, yet should never be confused with cocoa powder. It is usually used in making drinks and should never be used instead of unsweetened cocoa powder.

Baking Chocolate - This one is not regulated by the FDA, so there can be a lot of other types of chocolate included in this one, including:
a) Unsweetened chocolate
b) Bittersweet baking chocolate, which is chocolate liquor plus sugar without any added cocoa butter
c) Bittersweet chocolate, which is chocolate liquor plus sugar plus cocoa butter.
d) Baking resistant chocolate, more commonly known as chocolate chips, which is bittersewwt chocolate with less cocoa butter added, so that even in the oven it will not melt very easily.

All this makes it difficult to know which to use when. Usually a recipe will specify at least unsweetened baking chocolate or bittersweet baking chocolate, and whether the chocolate you use has cocoa butter added will probably not really make a difference to your finished baking. About the only thing to avoid is to make sure you do not try to use chocolate chips in a  recipe that calls for melted chocolate.

Chocolate Coating - These coatings are vegetable fat based, with sugar added along with some cocoa powder, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter for that added flavor. These coatings are not really chocolate,  and the main advantage in using these coatings is they usually do not bloom in high heat. The most typical use is in making chocolate decorations.

Couverture - This is usually some sort of dark chocolate with extra added cocoa butter to lower it’s melting point, making it perfect for drizzling onto the outside of chocolate confection. Typically it contains 35% to 45% cocoa butter, which makes it ideal for use in chocolate fountains.

Gianduja - This is chocolate mixed with hazlenuts, then ground into a powder. Once ground it retains a smooth texture, but has the distinct flavor of hazlenuts. Both the Italians and the Swiss claim to have invented gianduja.

Single Bean Chocolate - Also known as Estate Chocolate, Origin Chocolate, Single Origin Chocolate, Grand Cru and Single Cru Chocolate. These are all types of chocolate made from a single type of bean, usually grown in a specific region, or possibly even a specific plantation. With Single Bean Chocolate the only thing you can be sure of is the producer is selecting their beans carefully, and making a high quality chocolate from them.

Cocoa Butter - This is made when chocolate liquor is passed through a press, expelling most of the fat, which make cocoa powder. The fat expelled is cocoa butter. It is added to chocolate liquor to make smooth velvety texture that we all love in chocolate that we eat. Cocoa butter is also used in making pharmaceuticals and cosmetics as it melts at 97 degrees F, and will smooth into the skin evenly.

Chocolates - These are the most common types of chocolates that people refer to, and includes things like chocolate candy, truffles, pralines, creams, chocolate covered nuts etc. They use a wide range of other chocolates in their production.

Chocolate Extract - This is  a great way to add chocolate to your creations without adding fat. It is made by soaking cacao beans in alcohol, and can be very strong in flavor.

Chocolate Wine:   Currently there is no formal definition of chocolate wine, but two distinct varieties are emerging. Cream and non- cream based. Cream based would include brands such as Choco Vine, Cocoa Vino, Cocoa DiVine, one of the Chocolate Shop versions and  Cocoa Vees.  Non-cream based includes a version of Chocolate Shop, Ficklin, and others.
These can be made with chocolate flavoring or real chocolate syrup. Cream based are made with aseptic cream to give shelf life to the product, and are usually made with a fermented spirit


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