Well, this is daunting. Where do you ever start with chocolate? It is one of the most beloved sweets the world over and can be found in so many different forms and varieties that it will makes your head spin.
In the most basic of terms, chocolate is the product of roasted and ground cacao seeds. These seeds come from the cacao plant and have an intense and bitter flavor. To make things a bit more palatable, the seeds are fermented before being dried, cleaned and roasted.
Fun fact: Sometimes you see the label “raw chocolate” at the store. That means the beans have gone through the normal steps of chocolate making only they have not been roasted. Or at least not roasted above a specific, designated temp. (Yes, the world of chocolate is confusing.)
Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most popular foods in the world and it has been around in one form or another for a long time. The earliest signs that it was being consumed was in Mexico around 19 century BCE. That’s a long, long time ago.
The flavor and texture of chocolate can vary greatly by the type as well as the producer, the types of beans they are using, the method they are using to grind it, and about 1000 other small factors that we don’t have to go into here.
What we can go into is the three main types of chocolate you see on the shelves:
This glorious form of includes the cocoa solids (the roasted beans) and cocoa butter. What it does not have is the milk solids found in other varieties.
You will often see percentages on the package in this category. The higher the number on the package the more intense and deeper the flavor. Typically, less sugar is used the higher the percentage goes. Anything over 70% is considered to be of high quality.
Common uses: glazes, ganache, mousse, cakes, confections, snacking (duh,) and much more
This variety gets its more mild and velvety taste from the addition of milk. These can come in the form of powdered milk, liquid milk, and even condensed milk.
A perfect example of milk chocolate is the classic Hershey bar or the classic version of M&M’s. The first known variation of this type of hard chocolate is thought to be some time in the 1800s.
Common Uses: candies, s’ mores, pudding, glazes, baking, sauces, snacking (again, duh,) and a whole lot more
Some people think that white chocolate isn’t “true” chocolate, but I think that is hooey. Does it contain cacao powder? No. Does it still have cocoa butter? Sure does. It also has sugar and milk solids as well. The taste of white chocolate is much sweeter and it is ivory in color.
Common Uses: confections, baking, you guessed it – snacking, and more
In most cases, this will be a visual cue. Chocolate with white spots or mold on it is not good to eat. If it smells or okay and tastes okay, you should be good to go.
How do you store chocolate?
You really have three options for storage. A dark cupboard or a shelf at room temperature or cooler is great. You can choose to put it in the fridge as well. If you choose to do this, be sure to put it in something airtight as it can absorb “fridge” smells. Last but not least, you can do like I do and put it in the freezer. This helps it hold its shape and it has a nice cool snap to it. Talk about a treat!