Chocolate 101

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Hi friends. Let’s talk about one of the greatest food items on this earth – chocolate. I have a little bit of chocolate every day, whether that be in the form of cookies, candy or just popping a few chocolate chips in my mouth. It just brings me joy.

I know I’m not the only chocoholic around here. It’s rich, sweet and soothing to the soul. So even though we might love it, there’s a lot we may not know about chocolate. But there are a lot of questions around this stuff. After tons of research, I’m here to answer as many as I can!

Storage

As a rule, any form of chocolate should be stored in a cool, dry place. Ideally, it should be wrapped in its original packaging. If that happens to be foil, wrap the foil tightly back around the chocolate, and wrap again in plastic wrap.

If left near a stove/oven, dishwasher, or any appliance that gives off heat, there is a risk that it could bloom or melt while it sits on your shelf. We’ll talk more about that below.

Why Did My Chocolate Turn White?

Have you ever pulled out your bar of chocolate or bag of chocolate chips, and found that the surface has turned white and almost chalky? This is called blooming. Blooming occurs when moisture produces condensation on the chocolate, which leads to sugar absorbing the moisture and dissolving. After the condensation dissolves, the sugar forms larger crystals on the surface of the chocolate, which is the visual result.

If you have chocolate that has bloomed, don’t worry! This doesn’t harm the taste or texture of the chocolate one bit. This has happened to me plenty of times, and I just continue to use it as normal!

Fun Fact: All baking chocolate, no matter the type, is tempered before you buy it. Next time you buy some, hold the unwrapped bar in your hands. Notice how it doesn’t melt? Tempering chocolate means heating and cooling it to certain temperatures to change the crystal formations, which results in a shiny, snappy bar that doesn’t melt in your hands!

It Takes On Many Forms

Chocolate can be made into several different forms, and they each serve their own unique purpose.

  • Bars/Blocks – The best for baking, normally found in the baking aisle.
  • Wafters/Melts – Most commonly used to coat candies or drizzle on desserts. They contain no stabilizers, so they melt very smoothly.
  • Powder – Used a dry ingredient in baking. Consider this a concentrated form of chocolate.
  • Chips/Chunks – Made to hold their shape when they melt, these are ideal for dishes like cookies or pancakes.

Percentages: When you’re shopping for chocolate to bake with, you’re going to see percentages all over the boxes and bags of this stuff. This number is referring to anything in the chocolate that isn’t sugar, dairy (cream or milk), vanilla, emulsifiers, or other ingredients. Simply put, this is how much chocolate is actually in your chocolate bar.

Let’s Dig In

Unsweetened – This is often referred to as baking chocolate. It has no sugar, which means it’s very bitter and plain when eaten on its own. It lends a deep, rich flavor when used in a dish, but this is not typically eaten right out of the hand.

Bittersweet – This term is often used interchangeably with semi-sweet, depending on who you talk to. The cacao percentage can vary by producer, but it typically has a 60-70% range.

Semi-sweet – Cacao percentage normally sits at around 60%, but can vary by who makes it. This is the most versatile chocolate, so it’s the best to keep on hand.

Milk – This has the most sugar. The cacao percentage is normally between 30-40%, with about a 12% milk/cream. This chocolate melts much quicker than the rest.

White – Often said to not be chocolate at all, which is sort of true. There are no cacao solids. This is simply cocoa butter, sugar and dairy. FDA regulates that it must have 20% cocoa butter and 14% milk/cream. Because it’s largely cocoa butter, it melts very quickly, normally around 80° F.

Chips/Chunks – These have less cocoa butter, which is why they hold their shape in baking. Because of this, they are difficult (but not impossible) to melt.

To make chocolate, cocoa beans are fermented, roasted, and hulled. Then, the cacao nibs are ground up into a cocoa mass (also referred to as chocolate liquor). This is used to make all the different variations of chocolate you see on the shelves.

Powder

There are two different kids of cocoa powder you’ll see on at the store- 100% natural and dutch processed. I want to hit a couple points, but I will be doing an entire post on the difference between these two later.

100% Natural – It means just that! Powder made from roasted cocoa beans. It’s pretty acidic and bitter, so it’s not very tasty on its own. Normally (but not always) paired with baking soda to help make your baked goods rise.

Dutch processed – Before made into a powder, the beans are soaked in an alkali solution to neutralize the acidity. This process was created by a dutch scientist, hence the name! After this is completed, we’re left with a deeper, chocolatey flavor. If using a small amount, it can be used interchangeably with 100% natural.

I could go on for days about chocolate, but I think we’ve covered enough. After reading this, I hope you can confidently shop for baking chocolate and make some incredible food! If there are any questions I didn’t cover, leave them in the comments below and I will answer those for you!

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1 Comment

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