Chocolate—you know you love it, but do you know the difference between all the different types of bars, chips, and powders that line the grocery store aisle? We’re here to help you decode what all of the different names, percentages, and forms mean for your baking needs and taste buds. And once we’ve sorted out the milk and dark from the Dutch, we’ll jump-start your chocolatey dreams with a few recipe ideas for each chocolate variety. So stock up on your chocolate bars (this shouldn’t take much convincing) and let’s get baking (or, you know, eating)!
Believe it or not, whether a chocolate is deemed to be “milk” or “dark” isn’t up to individual chocolate makers—it’s a strict standard set by the FDA. All chocolate contains a mix of chocolate liquor (pure cocoa in solid form, containing both cocoa solids and cocoa butter) and milk fat solids. The proportion of each of these determines how the chocolate is classified. Milk chocolate, for example, must be at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk solids. This higher proportion of milk solids (plus the addition of cream and sugar that’s usually part of the milk chocolate making process) makes it sweeter and creamier than its darker counterparts.
One place we absolutely love milk chocolate? In our homemade peanut butter cups. There’s just something about milk chocolate and creamy peanut butter that makes everything right in the world.
According to the FDA, dark chocolate must be at least 15% chocolate liquor and less than 12% milk solids. A higher percentage of cacao (often listed right on the label), means a lower percentage of milk solids and thus a darker, more bitter chocolate flavor. While 65% cacao bars may taste like a slightly less sweet version of milk chocolate, 85% cacao bars are going to lean more towards the flavor of bittersweet or baking chocolate.
The sharp, bittersweet flavors of dark chocolate perfectly complement the sweet coconut flakes and tart goji berries in this homemade chocolate bark recipe—you have to try it.
There’s a dispute over whether white chocolate can really be considered chocolate, given that it contains none of the cocoa solids that give milk and dark chocolate its brown hue and rich, signature chocolatey flavor. Instead, white chocolate is made with cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar, which makes it a sweet, milky blank canvas—decadent on its own, but also mild enough to pair well with fruits, nuts, and even other types of chocolate.
Whether it’s chocolate or not, we think it’s delicious—and it definitely deserves a place in your kitchen (and snacking) arsenal. If you agree, this No Bake Mocha Cheesecake is calling your name.
While most chocolate preparations involve heating the various solid and liquid components before cooling to form the final product, most raw chocolate is made using unroasted cacao beans and cold pressed cacao butter and is never exposed to heat. Additionally, raw chocolate does not include any added dairy, as milk and dark chocolates do in varying degrees. Raw chocolate is often found in specialty markets and stores rather than larger grocery stores, but keep your eyes pealed—its deep, hearty flavor may just convert you to the dark side (we had to go there).
While you can really use any chocolate you like in your baking, there is a specific kind of chocolate out there that calls itself baking chocolate and wants to make its way into all of your cookies, cakes, and confections.
Bars or chips labeled as “baking chocolate” are typically unsweetened or bittersweet (minimally sweetened), which allows bakers to use additional forms of sweetener (sugar, honey, syrup) in their confections without making the final product overly sweet. We don’t recommend eating this one straight off the bar—it won’t taste like chocolate as you know it.
Just as there are variations among chocolate bars, you’ll find that there are different varieties of cocoa powder, too! Cocoa powder is the core of a chocolate’s flavor before any extra fat, sugar, or milk is added to alter the flavor or texture—and there are two types: natural, and Dutch process. While natural cocoa powder has an inherent acidity, Dutch-process cocoa powder (which can also be referred to as alkalized or European-style) gets washed with a potassium carbonate solution that gives it a smoother, milder flavor.
While they’re both derived from the same ingredients, you’ll want to double check your recipe before interchanging one for the other—the differing acidity levels between the two means that they interact differently with leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder, which could affect the way your baked good cooks and rises. Once you’ve got the difference down, hop to the kitchen and start baking! We have a few ideas for you.
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