Chocolate is a worldwide favorite, but the term “chocolate” actually means quite a few different things. One look at a grocery store chocolate aisle confirms this fact. With so many options, it’s overwhelming. The word “chocolate” can refer to everything from sweet milk chocolate to super dark chocolate with 80 percent cocoa, and a whole host of other options in between. So what exactly are all of these chocolate varieties?
Interesting Facts About Chocolate
Making chocolate is a long process that begins far before the local chocolate shop or grocery store. It actually begins with the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree, also known as cacao beans. The beans from the tree are dried and roasted. Then, the roasted beans are ground, resulting in two products: cocoa butter, a smooth, solid, white fat; and chocolate liquor, or ground cocoa beans.
The different types of chocolate all come down to the percentage of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor the chocolate contains, as compared to the percentage of sugar, milk solids, and other ingredients.
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Ten Types of Chocolate
So, what’s the difference between semisweet chocolate and bittersweet chocolate? Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of chocolate.
1. Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate is perhaps the most popular type of chocolate. It actually contains only ten to 40 percent cacao mixed with sugar and milk (either condensed milk or milk solids). Milk chocolate is much, much sweeter than dark or bitttersweet chocolate and has a lighter color and less-pronounced chocolate taste. However, milk chocolate isn’t great for baking because it’s prone to overheating.
2. White Chocolate
White chocolate does not contain chocolate liquor or any other cocoa products besides cocoa butter. It doesn’t have a very chocolatey taste, but resembles smooth vanilla. White chocolate contains a minimum 20 percent cocoa butter, a maximum of 55 percent sugar, and about 15 percent milk solids.
3. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains chocolate liquor, sugar, and cocoa butter. It also commonly includes lecithin as an emulsifier and vanilla for flavor. Dark chocolate does not contain any milk solids. The amount of cocoa in dark chocolate bars ranges from 30 percent all the way up to 80 percent. Bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate are also technically “dark chocolate,” but are used for baking purposes.
4. Semisweeet Chocolate
Semisweet chocolate contains at least 35 percent cocoa solids, but there are no official guidelines that govern what can be called “semisweet.” Semisweet chocolate falls somewhere between bittersweet chocolate and sweet dark chocolate. This type of chocolate is most commonly used for baking, but it’s important to follow the recipe to determine whether it calls for semisweet, bittersweet, or baking chocolate.
5. Bittersweet Chocolate
Bittersweet chocolate must contain at least 35 percent cocoa according to the FDA, but most bittersweet bars contain 50 percent, with others having as much as 80 percent cocoa. This type of chocolate often has a deeper, more bitter flavor than other types of chocolate.
6. Unsweetened Chocolate (or Baking Chocolate)
Unsweetened chocolate is just like its name implies. It’s pure chocolate liquor, made of simply of ground cocoa beans. It’s also known as baking chocolate, because it’s not meant for consumption on its own. Instead, it’s best when used in baking or cooking and combined with other ingredients to make it taste better. Contrary to popular belief, pure chocolate doesn’t taste very good. However, it lends a deep, rich chocolate flavor to recipes and is the base of most of the other types of chocolate.
7. Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder is also comprised of 100 percent cacao with no sugar, but has had the cocoa butter extracted out. Cocoa powder is also very bitter, but is commonly used in recipes. It’s a helpful ingredient because it easily mixes in with doughs and batters without having to melt and monitor the chocolate.
8. Sweet German Chocolate
Sweet German chocolate is a dark baking chocolate created by a man named Samuel German, who gave it it’s name. He created this chocolate to be convenient for bakers and added sugar directly to it. Therefore, it’s sweeter than semisweet chocolate. This type of chocolate is most commonly used in German Chocolate Cake, a rich cake with three layers of chocolate cake with sweet, gooey frosting in the middle and topped with coconut and pecans.
9. Couverture Chocolate
Couverture chocolate is an expensive type of chocolate that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter than other varieties. The high cocoa butter content helps it melt quickly and evenly, making it perfect for tempering and making candies. You can find milk, white, and dark couverture chocolates.
10. Ruby Chocolate
Ruby chocolate is the newest variety around and was first formulated in China in September 2017. It is made from ruby cocoa beans naturally found in Ecuador, Brazil, which give the chocolate its rosy hue. It is said to taste a combination of white chocolate and berries, even though there aren’t any berries in the recipe.
It’s always fun to try new varieties of chocolate to expand your palette. If you’re looking to give some semisweet chocolate a try (or already know and love it), grab up our Chocolate Dipped Strawberries Box for some out-of-this-world chocolate covered strawberries.