While all chocolate begins with the same base ingredients, different chocolates' flavor profiles make them better suited for various purposes. All chocolate starts as chocolate liquor, a thick, dark brown paste formed from ground-up cacao nibs. What ingredients get added to that chocolate liquor determines the type of chocolate it produces.
Understanding the various tastes, textures and qualities of different types of chocolate will help you know which kind of chocolate to use when and how they can affect your recipes. This ultimate chocolate guide will explain the main types of chocolate you have to choose from, what sets each category apart from one another and how to best use each type. Keep reading to become a chocolate expert.
3 Different Types of Chocolate
When differentiating pieces of chocolate, there is one primary quality to pay attention to — its percentage of cacao. This feature is essential to defining chocolate because a chocolate bar's cacao percentage determines its taste and impacts its nutritional content.
The cacao percentage refers to the amount of cacao beans and any extra parts of cacao beans within the chocolate. In general, the higher the cacao percentage, the more intense and less sweet the chocolate will be. However, two chocolates with identical cacao percentages can still taste different from each other because cacao bean varieties differ in flavor and sweetness.
The cacao percentage can also affect the chocolate's nutritional value because it indicates how much sugar is in the chocolate. For example, a chocolate bar that's 50% cacao is about half sugar. While cacao offers a range of health benefits, adding too much sugar can offset the advantages of eating chocolate. Sticking to chocolate with a cacao percentage of 70% or higher is generally the best way to ensure you get all the benefits of eating chocolate with minimal drawbacks.
Now that you know the importance of cacao percentage, you will be able to easily recognize the difference among the three most popular types of chocolate — dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. Check out what sets the three chocolates apart from each other below.
1. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has the highest range of cacao percentages among the three main chocolates, making it the most intensely flavorful and bitter. Some dark chocolates have a strong fruity taste, while others have a smooth, mellow taste depending on the cacao beans' source and processing methods.
Dark chocolate's composition is relatively simple. Most dark chocolates consist of only two ingredients — chocolate liquor and sugar. To create some dark chocolates, a manufacturer will mix in small amounts of vanilla and an emulsifier called soy lecithin.
Under the umbrella of dark chocolate, there are two main categories of chocolate — bittersweet and semisweet. Any chocolate with a cacao percentage of at least 35% is either semisweet or bittersweet dark chocolate.
Typically, semisweet contains slightly more sugar than bittersweet chocolate. However, there is technically no difference between the two terms, and cooks can use them interchangeably in recipes.
Dark chocolate's cacao percentage can reach 80% or higher, which usually means the chocolate will be very bitter and brittle. While many people find that much cacao mass unpleasant to eat, some enjoy its earthy taste and health benefits. When in doubt, a dark chocolate bar within the 65 to 70% cacao range is usually intense enough in flavor to casually snack on without overpowering your senses.
2. Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate is a childhood favorite because it tastes much sweeter than dark chocolate varieties. As its name suggests, milk chocolate contains milk, making this type of chocolate a light brown color while giving it a creamy texture and sweet flavor. Thanks to its sweetness and creaminess, milk chocolate is the most popular chocolate variety.
When compared with dark chocolate, milk chocolate's recipe is a bit more complicated. Making milk chocolate involves combining chocolate liquor, milk, sugar, vanilla and emulsifiers like soy lecithin. To qualify as milk chocolate, the chocolate must contain at least 12% milk and 10% chocolate liquor, though some milk chocolates can be more than 30% cacao.
Due to the added dairy, milk chocolate has a softer texture than dark chocolate and tends to melt quickly. It is also less bitter, which makes it a great type of chocolate for eating plain. A quality piece of milk chocolate will offer hints of caramelized sugar and cooked milk with a slight vanilla aftertaste.
While you can use milk chocolate for baking, its sweetness can sometimes be a bit much for an already sugar-loaded dessert recipe. However, using a mix of milk chocolate and dark chocolate for baking can produce the perfectly balanced taste of smooth milk chocolate and intense dark chocolate.
3. White Chocolate
Naturally, white chocolate is easy to identify thanks to its light ivory color. Many purists claim that white chocolate does not qualify as chocolate. This statement has some merit, considering that white chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids. Instead, white chocolate consists of cocoa butter — a byproduct of chocolate liquor — sugar, milk, soy lecithin and a bit of vanilla.
Despite its critics, white chocolate is still technically chocolate because it includes ingredients from the cacao bean. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires a product to contain a minimum of 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk and no more than 55% sugar to meet the criteria for white chocolate. A white chocolate that meets these standards qualifies as chocolate.
The lack of cacao in white chocolate makes it incredibly smooth and sugary without the usual complex fruity, bitter taste of regular chocolate. The flavor profile of white chocolate is predominantly sweet, featuring strong notes of vanilla and sweetened condensed milk. Because of its cocoa butter base and high sugar and dairy content, white chocolate's texture is rich, velvety and soft.
While white chocolate won't give desserts that classic chocolatey flavor, its dairy-centered flavor will add a subtle richness to any recipe while allowing the other ingredients' flavors to shine through. White chocolate is also excellent for decorating baked goods or chocolate truffles because its white color contrasts with darker chocolate tones. You can also opt to dye it another color.
Order Chocolate From Bedford Candies Today!
If all this talk of chocolate has you craving a sweet treat, get your chocolate fix from Bedford Candies. We offer a wide range of delicious chocolatey products, from decadent chocolate truffles to chocolate-covered pretzels. Our hand-dipped chocolates are gourmet, customizable and guaranteed to be fresh.
Bedford Candies ships anywhere in the United States, making them the perfect gift for a loved one. Whether your gift recipient prefers the rich, intense taste of dark chocolate truffles or the light and creamy texture of milk chocolate delicacies, Bedford Candies has a chocolate assortment to satisfy any sweet tooth.
To find out more about choosing the right kind of chocolate before placing your order, contact Bedford Candies today!