Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chocolate: Ingredient Part 1

So, what is in a chocolate bar?

Contrary to popular believe, there are more than just chocolate in a chocolate bar.  Some cheap chocolate bars don't even actually contain chocolate.  (Check for the cocoa butter content in your favorite childhood candy bars to see if they were made using real chocolate or confectioners coating (i.e. hydrogenated vegetable oil).

This is a chart from my course material.

There was very little effort put into manufacturing supermarket chocolate bars. The cocoa was probably not well tempered, and they use vegetable oil to give the chocolate the glossy look.  You are eating mostly corn or cane sugar and milk with some cocoa flavourings.

Dark Chocolate, on the other hand, contains just cocoa liquor (cocoa solid + cocoa butter), sugar, and spices.  The percentage (ex. 60%, 70% etc) you see on the package specifies the amount of cocoa liquor in the bar.  However, the percentage of cocoa butter is not indicated on the packaging.  For all we know, the chocolate bar could contain mostly cocoa butter and very little solid, which are the actual flavour component. 
  • Single origin, vintage, or Grand Cru: these are dark chocolates whose origins are specific to a region or plantation. However, this does not equate to quality.  It offers a sense of traceability for fair trade and some effort of quality control. 
  • Semisweet or Bittersweet: Describes chocolate that has more than 35% cocoa liquor.  Unfortunately there is a big difference in the flavor between chocolate with 35% and 84% cocoa liquor. Percentage does not indicate quality either.  It is a matter of personal preference.
  • Unsweetened or Brute: This indicates chocolate that is more than 85%.  Unsweetened chocolate are very fashionable amongst foodies.  When you ask them "why", they would mostly say "it's more pure."  Pure of what?  Indeed, manufacturers like to hid the bitter and pungent flavours of poor quality chocolate behind copious of additives.  However, amongst high quality chocolate, percentage is not indicative of quality.  White chocolate, like dark chocolate, is just as artisanal.
  • Sweet Chocolate: Most junk food with chocolate would belong in this category.  Sweet chocolates have less than 15% cocoa and often contains various carbohydrate sweeteners. 

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