What is the difference between milk, white and dark chocolate?

Different types of chocolates come from different combinations of cocoa solids and cocoa butter with other ingredients. Milk chocolate contains milk powder, sugar, a small percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The addition of milk powder and reduced amounts of cocoa gives it a sweeter, creamier taste.

White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids at all. It contains only sugar, milk and cocoa butter. Dark chocolate has the highest percentage of cocoa solids. In addition to cocoa butter, the other added ingredients are sugar and cocoa powder.

How does real chocolate differ from compound chocolate?

Real chocolate comprises of one main ingredient: cocoa butter. The resultant chocolate is of higher quality that requires the chocolatier to adopt the process of tempering before making chocolate products. Tempering is the process of altering the crystal structure of the chocolate so it keeps a shiny texture. If couverture chocolate is not properly tempered, a bloom will form on the chocolate leaving it with white streaks and a dull look. Unlike chocolate, compound chocolate uses other vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter. This means compound chocolate can be moulded without tempering. Compound chocolate is definitely easier and quicker to work with; however, it doesn’t have the shine, rich taste or snap that is offered by real chocolate.

What is cocoa butter? How does the amount of cocoa butter affect the quality of chocolate?

Also known as Theobroma oil, Cocoa butter is the pale yellow, edible vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean. It has a distinctive cocoa aroma and flavour, apart from being an important element in chocolate making, it is also used in ointments, toiletries and pharmaceuticals.

Unlike many vegetable oils, cocoa butter remains solid at 20 degrees Celsius. It softens and melts once it nears body temperature. Its crystallisation and melting ranges help create that amazing melt in the mouth feel, which is the USP of every real, high quality chocolate.

How can I identify a good chocolate?

Your senses play a key role in identifying good chocolate. First your sense of sight. The chocolate has to have a lovely sheen and look glossy. Milk chocolate should not look too light or dark in colour. In the case of dark chocolate, the more the shades of mahogany, the finer it shall be. Next comes the sense of smell. When you take in a whiff of the chocolate, you need to get only the smell of rich cocoa unadulterated by any other scent. The richer the chocolate the more intense the smell of cocoa. The sense of hearing…how does that help you wonder? Good quality chocolate is crisp and firm and should break with a snap that is clear and sharp. If the chocolate appears pliable, it is of poor quality.

The sense of touch plays a key role in determining quality. Good quality chocolate should feel satiny. If kept in the palm of your hand, it will melt in less than 20 seconds. If the chocolate has not melted, it is of bad quality. The sense of taste is the grand finale. Good chocolate melts in the mouth and shall never be gritty. A high cocoa butter content ensures a texture that’s smooth and silky.

Are there a variety of cocoa beans?

A fully grown cocoa pod differs in shape, texture and size. A ripe fruit contains approximately 20 to 75 cocoa beans embedded in a white pulp. Apart from fat and carbohydrates, cocoa beans contain proteins, theobromine, niacin, minerals, vitamins and they are quite nutritious. There are three main varieties of cocoa pods popular amongst chocolatiers: Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. Criollo, native to Central, South America, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean islands, it forms 5% of the world’s cocoa production. They are difficult to grow as they are vulnerable to environmental threats. With white to pale pinkish beans, they are described as tasting delicate, yet complex. Criollos are used in making the very finest of chocolates.

Forastero is the most commonly grown cocoa. Mainly grown in Africa, Ecuador and Brazil, it accounts for 80% of the world’s cocoa production. These trees are sturdier and less prone to diseases. Its purplish colour beans are mainly used to give chocolate its full bodied flavour.

Trinitario is a natural biological hybrid. Grown in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and parts of Southeast Asia, it combines the strength and yield of Forastero with the fine taste of Criollo.

Is dark chocolate actually healthy?

Good quality dark chocolate with high cocoa content is quite nutritious. It contains antioxidants, soluble fibre and minerals. It contains biologically active organic compounds like polyphenols, flavanols and catechins that function as antioxidants. One study showed that unprocessed cocoa and dark chocolate have more antioxidant activity than blueberries.

Certain studies have shown that the bioactive compounds in cocoa can improve blood flow and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure. However, a 100 gms of dark chocolate contains almost 600 calories and some sugar, so it is best consumed in moderation.

What is the difference between truffles and bonbons?

A chocolate truffle is traditionally made with a chocolate ganache centre coated in chocolate, icing sugar, cocoa powder or toasted nuts. They are usually come in spherical, conical or curved in shape. Other fillings used by chocolatiers are cream, caramel, fudge, toffee or liqueur.

Bonbon simply refers to any type of candy or small confection coated in chocolate. They are not typically chocolates to begin with but are stand-alone sweet confections that are dipped in chocolate at the very end of the candy making process. This produces a thin layer of chocolate around the candy unlike the thicker shells associated with truffles.

What is the difference between eating, cooking and drinking chocolate?

Eating chocolate, like candy bars and boxed chocolates contain chocolate with a variety of additives such as sugar, milk solids and vanilla to make it sweeter and melt in the mouth. These stabilisers enhance the chocolate eating experience but they cannot be used for cooking or baking as it doesn’t melt evenly and separates when heat is applied.

Baking or cooking chocolate is chocolate in its most basic form. Made from chocolate liquor, it contains between 50% to 55% cocoa butter. Typically, baking chocolate contains no sugar and has a bitter taste. Some baking chocolates are lightly sweetened, for eg: semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Drinking chocolate is made from actual chocolate in the form of disks, pellet or shavings. It contains a lot of rich cocoa butter and adding it to hot milk causes the chocolate to melt, leaving you with delicious hot chocolate.

What are those white streaks that comes on chocolate? Is it safe to eat?

The whitish coating sometimes appears on the surface of chocolate is called a chocolate bloom. There are two types of bloom: fat bloom, arising from changes in the fat in the chocolate; and sugar bloom, formed by the action of moisture on the sugar ingredients. Blooming affects the shelf life of chocolate. A chocolate that has "bloomed" is still safe to eat, but may have an unappetizing appearance and surface texture. A chocolate bloom can be 'repaired' by melting the chocolate down, stirring it, then pouring it into a mould and allowing it to cool, bringing the sugar or fat back into the solution.

How do I store my chocolate?

Keep chocolates sealed in an airtight container in a cool dry place away from light, preferably a temperature zone of 18-20 degree Celsius and humidity less than 55%

We live in a hot country. What do I do during summers?

Chocolates can be stored in the fridge, but not in the freezer.

Can I just keep my chocolate in the fridge as it is?

You need to tightly wrap and seal the chocolate in an airtight container to avoid other food smells latching on to it.

How do I eat chocolate from the fridge?

It is always best to eat chocolate at room temperature after taking it out of the fridge. If it was kept in the fridge, it will need 2 hours outside wrapped in plastic.

Can I keep my chocolate in the freezer?

During especially hot months, yes you can. If kept in the freezer, keep it outside before consuming.

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