Chocolate Really Is Amazing
Really Is Amazing
Discover its surprising origins, learn what you need to know to stock your pantry, and find recipes you'll make over and over.
It comes from a fruit tree. It takes 400 seeds from that tree to make one pound. It was once used as currency and was sold by Benjamin Franklin in his print shop.
Across the globe, everyone loves it, so much so that yearly consumption is estimated at over 7 million metric tons.
Welcome To The Wide, Wonderful World Of Chocolate
How Is It Made?
Wander down a row of cacao trees and you'll notice a vaguely tropical vibe with oversize leaves and a relatively low growth pattern (just up to about 15 feet tall). The fruits are ample and oblong; once cut open, they reveal a cache of cacao seeds, which resemble coffee beans. Inside those beans are nibs, which are eventually ground up, roasted, and liquefied to create chocolate.
What's On Grocery Store Shelves?
If you've spent any time looking at chocolate product packaging, you've noticed percentages or mentions of semisweet and dark. Those terms and numbers refer to how much liquefied chocolate is in the final product and how much sugar, dairy, and flavorings are used. A higher percentage of chocolate equals fewer sweeteners.
- % Chocolate: up to 40%, but at least 10%
- Other Ingredients: sugar, vanilla, emulsifiers
- Taste: sweeter, less bitter; great for eating
- Baking Use: softer, melts easily, but can be overly sweet for some desserts
- Try This Recipe: Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chocolate Fondue Drizzle (a wow mix of milk, semisweet, and white chocolate chips)
- % Chocolate: generally around 35% but can be more
- Other Ingredients: sugar (not more than 50%), vanilla, emulsifier
- Taste: generally smooth and palatable but much less sweet than milk; sweetness levels vary
- Baking Use: tremendously versatile
- % Chocolate: 35% but dark chocolate can go as high as 80%; European brands tend to label their products as dark or bittersweet
- Other Ingredients: sugar, vanilla, emulsifier
- Taste: a higher cacao percentage equals a more bitter and brittle product
- Baking Use: generally semisweet, bittersweet, and dark can be used interchangeably with little noticeable difference to the average person
- Try This Recipe: No-Bake Chocolate Pie
- % Chocolate: 100%—nothing's added
- Other Ingredients: none
- Taste: bitter and not for solo eating
- Baking Use: not an easy swap for other chocolate types; usually the sugar must be adjusted or a combo of vegetable oil and cocoa powder must be used
- Try This Recipe: Perfect Chocolate Cake
Chips or bars
Chocolate chips and chocolate bars are not exactly the same thing. Chips contain stabilizers, so they may not give the same results in all types of recipes.
When there's no liquefaction and just roasted, pulverized cacao beans, you get natural cocoa powder. In contrast to Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which is darker, the most widely available cocoa powder is lighter and has all of its acids.
In general …
- You can use natural cocoa powder for Dutch-processed cocoa powder.
- You cannot use Dutch-processed cocoa powder for natural cocoa powder.
Try out Dutch-processed cocoa powder in Chocolate Shortbread.
Is it really chocolate? No — even though it shares a similar ingredient. White chocolate does have cocoa butter, which is part of what makes up liquefied chocolate. But it doesn't have chocolate solids, so technically doesn't qualify as chocolate.