A Chocolate-Tasting Party

Host a chocolate-tasting party...it's just like a wine- or cheese-tasting party, only sweeter!


+ enlarge image An invitation to your chocolate- tasting party will be coveted.

Experience the lighter and darker sides of chocolate by hosting a tasting party. Serve desserts and samples of the chocolate that went into each recipe. As with any tasting, start with the mildest flavor. Taste progressively assertive chocolates, finishing off with the darkest, richest ones.

"Taste" Chocolate with All Your Senses

Here's how to get the most out of your chocolate-tasting experience.

+ enlarge image Get closer to your chocolate.

Appearance: Examine the color, but don't let it be your sole guide; darkness varies by the type of beans used and how they're processed.

Chocolate should be shiny, but don't be put off it there is a slight grayish cast. It's called "bloom" and means that the chocolate has experienced temperature fluctuations. Any effect it has on the taste and texture is minor.

Aroma: Break off a small piece and rub gently until the chocolate just begins to soften. Then take tiny sniffs; in addition to chocolate, you'll discover such scents as apple pie, flowers, caramel, citrus, berries, grass, and cedar.

+ enlarge image Describe the flavor in a word.

Flavor: Pop the piece in your mouth, but don't chew! Let it melt on your tongue for 20 seconds. Some of the flavors you'll encounter include vanilla, fruit, and nuts. Other words that might come to mind: fudgy, smoky, malty, earthy, and tart. Be sure to savor the balance of nuttiness, acidity, sweetness, and bitterness.

Texture: The texture is a result of the manufacturing process. The longer it is processed during the "conching" process, the smoother the resulting chocolate will be.

Is it smooth, velvety, creamy, soft? Or is it a little gritty? All these textures can be wonderful in chocolate because of the way they interact with the flavors. Some people think that smooth chocolates emphasize the fruity, flowery flavors, while gritty chocolates bring out the earthy and nutty tastes.

+ enlarge image At some point, give your guests a little "Chocolate 101" course.

Take time to give an overview about what your partygoers are tasting. Here's a short course: Artisanal, or small-scale, chocolate makers still follow the milk, semisweet, and bittersweet labeling that larger chocolate manufacturers use, but artisans also denote the percentage of cocoa and cocoa butter (or as they often label it, cacao) in the bar. The higher the number, the less sweet and the more bitter and intense the chocolate.

  • Milk chocolate's cocoa percentage ranges from about 30 to 40 percent
  • Semisweet chocolate's percentage ranges from 55 to 60 percent
  • Bittersweet is above 60 percent cocoa and generally ranges from 65 to 80 percent
  • Unsweetened chocolate is 99 percent cocoa

Begin by Tasting Milk Chocolate

+ enlarge image This milk chocolate is 38 percent cocoa.

Offer two or three samples of milk chocolate from different makers, such as a 38- and 41-percent cocoa milk chocolate. Alongside, set out a tempting dessert.

Milk chocolate is notable partnering brilliantly with great flavors such as caramel, cream, soda-fountain chocolate malt, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Semisweet Party Segment

+ enlarge image This semisweet chocolate is 60 percent cocoa.

When your tasting gets to midpoint, set up small plates with two or three varieties of medium chocolate. These are woodsy, nuttier, darker chocolates.

Finish Dark

+ enlarge image This dark chocolate is 85 percent cocoa.

Now for the tasting finale. Bring out the stoutest chocolates of all -- the really dark chocolates. Offer samples of two varieties for tasting, followed by one last dessert.

Measuring Chocolate

+ enlarge image Soon you'll be creating chocolate delights.

Recipes work equally well with either standard 1-ounce squares or 3.5-ounce (100 gram) bars. If you buy 250-gram (8.75-oz.) bars or 275-gram (9.7-oz. bars), fear not. They're usually scored in convenient measurements that will allow you to break off what you need.

More chocolate tips and information

Recipes Starring Chocolate

+ enlarge image Chocolate Lava Cakes

To see 1,000+ recipes starring chocolate, just enter "chocolate" in the Food and Recipes search box on the left and click "go".

See Lava Cakes recipe

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