I considered writing my own explanation about chocolate, but I happened upon a really great company called Chocoley.
They have a the best explanation I have seen regarding demystifying chocolate for baking and covering vs. regular chocolate we buy for eating like Hershey’s candy bars or Hershey’s Kisses!
Also my friend Wendy over at Cinnamon Sweet Shoppe shows us the difference in this video here!
Chocolate is divided into two distinct categories:
real chocolate and compound chocolate.
Both real chocolate and compound chocolate are chocolate – the difference is the type of lipid (fat) or oil used in the production of the product.
Real chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is extracted from the cocoa or cacao bean. Cocoa butter is an expensive ingredient which has some unusual characteristics or quirks. Because of the nature of cocoa butter, real chocolate requires going through a special procedure during the melting process called tempering, which re-establishes the cocoa butter crystals, giving the cooled and finished chocolate the proper sheen, snap and taste. Additionally, and of vital importance, tempering prevents bloom, where the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa solids and comes to the surface, turning the chocolate whitish or grayish in color. If you are making candy or dipping items that won’t be consumed within a day or so, tempering is absolutely mandatory for all real chocolate.
- Real chocolate is subdivided into three categories based on the quality of the product (quality of the cocoa beans) and most importantly, the cocoa butter content: regular chocolate, couverture chocolate, and ultra couverture chocolate.
- Regular Chocolate – typically in chocolate chip form, regular chocolate is sweetened with sugar, is generally made from moderate quality cocoa beans, and has a very low cocoa butter content and a high viscosity (thickness when in a melted state). Generally used in baking (i.e. chocolate chip cookies), regular chocolate holds its shape and is not the best choice when molding, dipping or enrobing. Another form of regular chocolate is unsweetened blocks or bars of baking chocolate (also called plain chocolate), which generally has a relatively low cocoa butter content and doesn’t require tempering when used in normal baking applications.
- Couverture Chocolate – the term couverture translates to “covering” and refers to the finest professional quality chocolate. It is produced with a high percentage of cocoa butter and uses premium cacao beans. It melts smoothly, making it ideal for specialty candy making and molding. When tempered and cooled, it forms an elegant glossy finish.
- Ultra Couverture Chocolate – is equal in quality to couverture chocolate, but with an even higher cocoa butter content. Due to the higher cocoa butter content and very low viscosity, it is the perfect chocolate for dipping and enrobing. Few manufacturers are able to successfully produce this type of chocolate because of the difficulty in balancing the higher cocoa butter content while retaining superb taste and texture. When tempered and cooled, it forms a thin and elegant glossy shell.
- Compound Chocolate – contains vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter and tempering is not required. Home hobbyists and professionals alike have utilized compound chocolate due to its ease of use and lower price.
You MUST temper the couverture ONLY if you are using it for dipping and enrobing truffles, making chocolate decorations or when you need an attractive, shiny coating for candies that will sit at room temperature, NOT if you are using it in a recipe.
I will add this though, as a sort of Summary:
When you see “% cacao” printed on a label, it refers to the total percentage of ingredients by weight that come from the chocolate liquor and the cocoa butter.
For example Unsweetened Bitter Chocolate has about 50% chocolate liquor and 50% cocoa butter. Nothing else! No sugar added or anything else. (note:the percentages vary from brand to brand)
But for the other chocolates like Semi Sweet Chocolate or when I say things like be sure to use “good baking chocolate” (couverture) the lower the percentage, the lower the amount of chocolate liquor and cocoa butter present.
US standards require that Semi Sweet chocolates be minimum of 35% chocolate liquor.
In general, a higher “% cacao” lends a more intense chocolate flavor.
A higher “% cacao” means less added sugar
TYPES OF CHOCOLATES USED IN BAKING RECIPES
- Unsweetened Baking Chocolate or BITTER BAKING CHOCOLATE
Unsweetened baking chocolate is 100 percent cacao with no added sugar, and it is very bitter.
- Bittersweet Chocolate
Chocolate in this category contains at least 35% chocolate liquor. The higher the percentage, the darker and more bitter the chocolate.
- Semi-Sweet Chocolate
This general category usually contains 15% to 35% chocolate liquor. The US requires that all Semi Sweet Labeled chocolates have a minimum of 35%
- Milk Chocolate
Milk and/or milk solids replace some of the chocolate liquor, generally less than 15%, making for chocolate that is smooth, creamy, sweet and mild.
- White Chocolate
White chocolate contains no chocolate liquor and therefore isn’t really chocolate at all.
It is simply a blend of cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar and vanilla which resembles chocolate and works like all other chocolates in recipes. I suppose since it utilizes the precious cocoa butter which is derived from the cacao bean, it is considered chocolate, but it just is NOT. Poor white chocolate, tries so hard!!
Cacao pods are harvested by hand from the trees when they are about six months old. The beans (or seeds) and pulp are fermented, this enhances the deep natural flavors of the cacao bean and it will also soften the naturally occurring bitterness. The beans are then dried and roasted.
Cacao nibs are separated and finely ground to make chocolate liquor, which contrary to its name is actually a thick, non-alcoholic liquid of cocoa butter and cocoa solids.
Sugar, vanilla and additional cocoa butter are added to the liquor during a process called conching.
See a Conche Machine HERE and from there all the wonderful types of chocolate are produced.
To make cocoa powder, the cocoa solids are removed from chocolate liquor, pressed into a cake, then pulverized into a powder.
Dutch-process cocoa is treated with alkali to neutralize the acidity.
Courtesy of Whole Foods Market Website~ A lovely guide for
How to Melt Chocolate
Ever wonder why chocolate “melts in your mouth?” The melting point of cocoa butter is just below 98.6°F, the body’s average temperature.
In order to melt chocolate properly, outside of your mouth that is, use gentle heat (115°F or less) to avoid scorching it. Here are two simples way to get the job done:
- Double Boiler Method: Put chopped chocolate into a double boiler or heatproof mixing bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water and stir gently until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. (Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the boiling water or the chocolate may burn.)
- Microwave Method: Heat chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl at half power, stopping to stir it gently every 30 seconds, until completely melted and smooth.
Chocolate tip: As you melt chocolate, watch for signs that it may be “seizing” or turning grainy. This happens when moisture — say a splash of water or a bit of steam — gets into the chocolate after it’s already begun to melt. (Note that some recipes call for melting chocolate along with liquid. This is OK, as long as the liquid is added at the beginning.)
TO INTERCHANGE CHOCOLATE & COCOA POWDER IN A RECIPE:
Sometimes you have one, but not the other and your recipe may call for the one you DON’T HAVE! Never fear, click this link—–> CLICK HERE to see how to make the proper conversions!