All of your chocolate questions, answered.
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit
On a stroll down the baking aisle, you’re most likely to see the following chocolate products. But the labeling system (white, milk, dark, “Kisses”) is confusing and vague. What you really need to understand is the cocoa percentage: how much of the chocolate is made up of cocoa solids—that is, roasted cocoa beans that’ve been ground into a liquid—and parts thereof (such as cocoa butter). So a 60% bar is 60% cocoa product, 40% other stuff (usually sugar, vanilla, and soy lecithin, to hold it all together). The other thing to know? That it’s okay to love milk chocolate more than dark.
Dark chocolate: A big umbrella category with no meaningful standards, it includes bittersweet, semisweet, unsweetened, and all of that pretty-packaged chocolate we think of as “adult.”
Milk chocolate: Lots of milk and sugar, and then a small percentage of cocoa solids, usually around 32% (though 10% is the legal minimum). Soft and creamy. Eat at the movies and in bed.
Semisweet and bittersweet: Interchangeable terms. It has to be a minimum of 35% cocoa (which is, ironically, very sweet), but in the test kitchen, we like to bake with and snack on 60%–70%.
White chocolate: Haters will say it’s not “real” chocolate since it’s made from cocoa butter (the fat extracted from cocoa beans), milk, and sugar. If you’re looking for cocoa solids, you won’t find ’em.
Cocoa powder: Big chocolate flavor with less fatty cocoa butter. The powder should be unsweetened and 100% cocoa. Anything else is hot chocolate mix.
Cacao nibs: 100% pure cocoa, these tiny pieces of roasted cocoa beans are cute but potent. Use as an ice cream garnish or mix into brownie batter for crunch. May even be healthy?
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