Chocolate: Types, Selection and Storage

Here is a general overview of chocolate types (such as milk, unsweetened, bittersweet, and semisweet chocolates) how to select chocolate and how to store chocolate.


Unsweetened Chocolate
Enlarge Image Unsweetened Chocolate

Pure chocolate without added sugar.

Also known as: bitter chocolate, baking chocolate, chocolate liquor, and pure chocolate.

Uses: Used almost exclusively for baking.

Bittersweet Chocolate
Enlarge Image Bittersweet Chocolate

Legally, at least 35 percent pure chocolate with some small amount of sugar added.

Also known as: dark chocolate, when it is a European brand.

Characteristics: Usually darker and less sweet than semisweet.

No legal specifications for the term so not always darker and less sweet.

Semisweet and bittersweet can be used in baking interchangeably, depending on personal preferences.

Specific sweetness and color intensity varies by manufacturer's recipes and cacao bean sources.

Uses: Baking and eating.

Semisweet Chocolate
Enlarge Image Semisweet Chocolate

Legally, at least 35 percent pure chocolate with added cocoa butter and sugar.

Characteristics: The most versatile chocolate.

Available in many forms (block, discs, squares, chips).

Uses: Baking and eating.

Milk Chocolate
Enlarge Image Milk Chocolate

Legally, milk chocolate is at least 10 percent pure chocolate with added cocoa butter and sugar.

Characteristics: Most milk chocolates contain less pure chocolate than semisweet or bittersweet chocolates.

Milder flavor than darker chocolates.

Sweet Baking Chocolate
Enlarge Image Sweet Baking Chocolate

Legally, sweet chocolate is at least 15 percent pure chocolate with added cocoa butter and sugar.

Taste: Sweeter than semisweet chocolate.

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Enlarge Image Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Unsweetened cocoa powder is pure chocolate with most of the cocoa butter removed.

Characteristics: Cocoa powders labeled "Dutch-process" or "European-style" have been treated to neutralize the naturally occurring acids, giving them a mellower flavor and redder color.

White Chocolate
Enlarge Image White Chocolate

White chocolate is made by combining cocoa butter with sugar, milk solids, and flavoring, usually vanilla.

Commonly called a chocolate, it's not a true one -- legally.

Premelted Chocolate
Enlarge Image Premelted Chocolate

Premelted chocolate is a semiliquid, unsweetened product made of cocoa powder and vegetable oil.

Uses: Exclusively used for baking.

Candy Coating

Also known as: Compound chocolate coating, chocolate summer coating, confectioners' coating chocolate, and chocolate-flavored coating.

A chocolate-like product with most of the cocoa butter removed and replaced with vegetable fat.

It is easier to work with than chocolate for dipping and molding since there is no need to take special steps with it to get a shine to it and it melts at a higher temperature.

Comes in assorted colors and flavors.

Can be found in craft stores' baking sections.

Mexican Chocolate

Mexican sweet chocolate has cinnamon and sugar added to the pure chocolate. Sometimes ground almonds may also be added.

It can be found in Mexican grocery stores, on the Web, and in specialty food stores.

Ibarra brand is one of the most popular brands in Mexico (and its packaging is gorgeous).

Characteristics of Quality Chocolate

Determining whether chocolate is of high quality involves all the senses.

  • Glossy shine indicates that it has been properly stored, around 65 degrees F. When chocolate melts and resolidifies, the cocoa butter rises to the top, causing "bloom." It may look off, but changes the taste and texture only slightly.
  • Snap
  • Aroma
  • Texture: When talking about food in your mouth, texture is referred to as "mouth feel." The mouth feel of good chocolate should be smooth, not grainy, not waxy. It should melt in your mouth, literally. Cocoa butter has a melting point lower than 98.6 degrees F, body temperature. Chocolate with vegetable fat will hold its shape in your mouth longer. Solid shortening has a melting temperature that is above body temperature and has a waxy mouth feel.
  • Taste: In the end, this is what will determine for you which chocolate is right. Every manufacturers' chocolate is different based on a combination of many factors including where the cacao beans come from, how they are roasted, and the balance of cocoa butter, sugar, and pure chocolate.
Chocolate
  • Store in a tightly covered container or sealed plastic bag. Chocolate's porous nature allows it to pick up flavor from other items.
  • Temperature should be around 65 degrees F.
  • Humidity should be no more than 50 percent.
  • Stored as stated above, it will keep one year.
White Chocolate
  • Store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Cocoa Powder
  • Keep in tightly covered container.
  • Keep in a cool place.
  • Keep in a dry area.
  • Stored in conditions stated above, it will keep almost indefinitely. High temperature and high humidity tend to cause cocoa powder to lump and lose its rich color.

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