What Defines Dark Chocolate?

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When You Choose the Dark Side of Chocolate, What Does that Really Mean?

Dark chocolate is often referred to as “plain chocolate.”  It is the type of chocolate that most people associate with the visual appearance and familiarity of aroma and taste that is chocolate.  Produced by using cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sugar, it is also characterized by the absence of milk products.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no official definition for dark chocolate, but most experts consider dark chocolate to begin at 55% cocoa solids or chocolate liquor. U.S. requirements for labeling chocolates set the definitions for what chocolate can be called based on the amount of cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. Cocoa liquor is the brown paste created when cacao beans are fermented, dried, roasted and then ground. If you remove the natural fat from the paste, that’s cocoa butter.

Those standards are different in Europe where rules specify dark chocolate must contain a minimum of 35% cocoa solids.Dark chocolate can be eaten as is, or used in cooking, for which thicker, more expensive baking bars with higher cocoa percentages of up to 85%, or sometimes 99%, are sold.,

Semisweet chocolate

Semisweet chocolate is frequently a key ingredient in recipes.  It is a dark chocolate with (by definition in Swiss usage) half as much sugar as cocoa.  Dark chocolate is synonymous with semisweet.  As the amount of sugar is reduced in chocolate, its designation moves from semi-sweet to bittersweet.

Bittersweet chocolate

Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor (or unsweetened chocolate) to which some sugar (less than a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla and sometimes soy lecithin has been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable when baking.

Bittersweet and semisweet chocolates are sometimes referred to as ‘couverture’ (chocolate that contains at least 32 percent cocoa butter); many brands now print on the package the percentage of cocoa (as chocolate liquor and added cocoa butter) contained. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sweet the chocolate is. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows chocolate containing at least 35% cacao (either cacao solids or butter from the cacao beans) to be classified as “bittersweet” or “semisweet”.

Sweet Chocolate

Samuel German developed this brand of dark baking chocolate in 1852.  Often thought to originate in Germany, it was the Baker’s Chocolate Company that first introduced the brand, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, in honor of Samuel German.  Sweet chocolate by definition requires only a 15% concentration of chocolate liquor or cocoa solids.

In 1957, the original recipe for “German’s Chocolate Cake” was sent by a Dallas, Texas homemaker to a local newspaper. This recipe called for Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.  General Food, which owned the Baker’s brand at the time, took notice and distributed the cake recipe to other newspapers in the country. Sales of Baker’s Chocolate are said to have increased by as much as 73% and the cake would become a national staple. The possessive form (German’s) was dropped in subsequent publications, forming the “German Chocolate Cake” identity we know today and giving the false impression of a German origin.

Unsweetened Chocolate

Unsweetened chocolate is also called baking or bitter chocolate. U.S. standards require that unsweetened chocolate contain between 50 and 58 percent cocoa butter.  Unsweetened chocolate is used for baking and cooking rather than snacking as it contains no sugar.

photo courtesy of chocolate-world.net

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