When you're choosing a chocolate to bake with, sometimes it's just about your favorite flavor. But for some recipes, the ingredients and proportions in that chocolate matter even more. Take a closer look, and discover more about the different types of chocolate.
When you buy quality chocolate, you'll typically find it advertises a percentage on the label. That percentage represents the amount of cacao (pronounced kuh-KAY-oh) in the chocolate. Cacao is composed of cacao solids and cacao butter (fat). The higher the amount of cacao, the less room there is for sugar, so a higher percentage represents a less-sweet chocolate.
While having the same percentage of cacao doesn't mean two bars are the same (the cooking process, cacao butter to cacao solids and more can be different), it does tell you exactly how sweet it will be, which can be all important when deciding what chocolate to pair with the other ingredients in your favorite recipes.
There are also small amounts of other ingredients that may or may not be included — like lecithin (an emulsifier to enhance smoothness) and vanilla or vanillin (usually synthetic) — but those are typically less than 1 percent of the makeup of the chocolate. Some chocolates may contain dairy (though European chocolatiers eschew this American practice outside milk chocolate), and the rest is sugar.
For most of us, melting chocolate chips to cover strawberries or dip truffles is good enough. But professional — and aspiring — pastry chefs use chocolate made with a higher percentage of cocoa butter called couverture. It's more expensive and typically found in specialty stores, but it melts and coats more smoothly, giving your creations a more polished look and feel.
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