What Exactly IS Compound Chocolate?

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Don’t Be Fooled!

Compound chocolate, also known as chocolate coating is made from a combination of cocoa, vegetable fats and sugar.  It is NOT chocolate.  Real chocolate contains cocoa butter, the naturally occurring fat in chocolate plus cocoa solids, sugar, vanilla and sometimes soy lecithin.   Often containing hydrogenated tropical fats such as coconut oil or palm kernel oil, compound chocolate it is used as a coating for many popular best-selling candy bars because it is less expensive and mimics chocolate in its coating properties.

Real chocolate has to be tempered to achieve its glossy, crisp texture.  The tempering process requires a deliberate cooling of warm melted chocolate to allow the fat and sugar in the chocolate to crystallize while cooling. This crystallization creates the sheen and snap we associate with high-quality chocolate.  Specific temperatures must be achieved and that varies from white chocolate to milk chocolate to dark chocolate and can even vary within any category of chocolate.

The most well-known example of a coating chocolate is almond bark which is sometimes confused with white chocolate.   The difference is that true white chocolate contains cocoa butter, not vegetable fats.  This is an important difference.

Don’t Mess with our Chocolate

In 2007, the FDA was petitioned by the major chocolate manufacturers to allow the reformulation of chocolate to allow for using any vegetable oil rather than the cocoa butter naturally found in chocolate. “By specific language in this Petition document, it would allow for the unlimited use of vegetable fats from any source and at any level to replace the cocoa butter in chocolate and still allow the product to be called chocolate,” said Don’t Mess With Our Chocolate, an organization founded by Guittard Chocolate to combat the petition.

The petition was acknowledged and the change to the definition of chocolate was buried in an appendix of a 35-page petition signed by a diverse group of food manufacturers—including juice producers, meat canners and the chocolate lobby.  A heated grassroots campaign of letter-writing to the FDA ensued.  An interesting fact is that hundreds of comments were added to the petition—an epic Washington battle.

FDA is analyzing comments submitted on these proposals. To date, the FDA has not revised the definition of chocolate—it continues to specify that cocoa butter and only cocoa butter is the acceptable fat in chocolate.  But chocolate lovers need not be alarmed about the future of their favorite product: As has been the case since the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, FDA’s food standards will continue meeting their statutory purpose, which is “to promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.”  Cacao fat, as one of the signature characteristics of the product, will remain a principal component of standardized chocolate.

A victory for chocolate lovers everywhere!

photo courtesy of cafezupasblogspot.com

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