by Mark Tarses

Milk vs. Dark Chocolate. Under U.S. law, milk chocolate is any chocolate that contains milk or milk solids, and dark chocolate is any chocolate that does not contain milk. However, many brands of dark chocolate contain some ingredients derived from milk.

Semisweet Chocolate vs. Bittersweet Chocolate. What's the difference? Under U.S. law, bittersweet chocolate contains at least 35% chocolate liquor. Semisweet chocolate can have up to 35%, so sometimes, they can be virtually identical. The quality of the chocolate you use is far more important than whether its labeled semisweet or bittersweet.

70% Chocolate. 70% chocolate had become very popular in the U.S. over the past few years, but this is a term that is widely misunderstood. The 70% refers to the total amount of cocoa-derived ingredients, by weight, in the finished product. In other words, a 70% chocolate bar weighing 10 ounces must contain 7 ounces of ingredients that came out of cocoa beans. These cocoa-derived ingredients include cocoa liquor, cocoa solids (also known as cocoa mass), and cocoa butter. However, most major chocolate manufacturers do not label the cocoa-derived ingredients by percentage, which is important. For example, if you are buying chocolate bars for eating, you would want chocolate with more cocoa solids than cocoa butter, but if you wanted to use the chocolate for couverture, you would want chocolate with more cocoa butter and less solids. The Guittard Chocolate Co. of Burlingame, California, is providing some much-needed leadership in better labeling of chocolate for use by professionals. Guittard labels its bulk chocolate by listing percentages of cocoa solids, naturally occurring cocoa butter, and the percentage of cocoa butter added during conching. This is important information for candy makers and serious bakers. (I use Guittard chocolate exclusively.)

is 70% Chocolate Better Than 60%? Not necessarily. The flavor and texture of chocolate is determined by many factors, such as : the quality of the cocoa beans, the blending, and roasting. Each of these factors is more important than the cocoa percentage. The way cocoa beans are processed up to roasting stage is very similar to the way coffee beans are processed. Poor quality coffee beans that are overroasted and ground the wrong way will produce a lousy cup of coffee, no matter how much or little cream and sugar you add. Its the same with chocolate.

White Chocolate. White chocolate is a misnomer. In the United States, in order to legally call something "chocolate", the product must contain cocoa solids. White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids, which are brown. Nobody has yet figured out a way to take the brown color out of cocoa solids. The best quality white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla. There are many products on the market that call themselves white chocolate, but are made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter. White chocolate made with cocoa butter usually has to be tempered, but white chocolate made with vegetable oil usually does not.

Couverture Chocolate. "Couverture" is French for "covering". Couverture chocolate is any kind of chocolate that is designed to be used as a coating for things, like truffles. Couverture has more cocoa butter than most other chocolates, anywhere from 33% to 38% for a good quality one. Couverture can be either milk or dark.

Artisan Chocolate. In upscale grocery stores, you can find artisan bread, artisan wine, artisan cheese, artisan sausages, and artisan chocolates. But just what does the word 'artisan' mean? 'Artisan' means that a product was made by an artist, but the words 'artist' and 'artisan' have no legal definition. Many occupational titles are regulated by law. In order to call yourself a CPA, a lawyer, or a doctor; you have to have to pass examinations and have a license, but anyone can say: "I'm an artist." Some artisan chocolates actually are made by artists, but some 'artisan chocolates' are mass produced in factories on fully automated production lines with ingredients that no self-respecting pig would eat. The word 'artisan' can mean anything. It usually means nothing. When you see the word 'artisan' on a box of chocolates, the only thing you can be sure of is that it will cost more, and probably a lot more, than other chocolates in the store that don't have the word 'artisan' on them.

German Chocolate. German chocolate has nothing to do with Germans or Germany. Ach du lieber! In 1852, an Englishman named Samuel German who was living in the United States and employed by Baker's Chocolate Company invented the first practical sweetened chocolate bar, which he named after himself. If you look at the package closely, you will see that the label doesn't say "German Chocolate." It says "German's Chocolate." Note the apostrophe and 's' after "German." German Chocolate Cake isn't German either. The recipe for this popular cake was invented by a Texas housewife and first appeared in print in a Dallas newspaper in 1957. The cake was originally called "German's Chocolate Cake" because German's Chocolate is a principal ingredient, but over time, nearly all magazines and cookbooks dropped the apostrophe and "s" after "German" when reprinting the recipe. It is now widely believed all over the world that German chocolate cake is a traditional German dessert. In July, 2008; Republican presidential candidate John McCain had dinner at Schmidts' Sausage Haus in Columbus, Ohio. According to a local newspaper, McCain was served "an old-fashioned German meal consisting of Sauerkraut-Bratwurst Balls, Hoffbrau-Schnitzel, and German Chocolate Cake."

Baker's Chocolate Baker's chocolate has nothing to do with bakers. America's oldest chocolate company is Baker's Chocolate Company, which was established in 1780 in Dorchester, Massachusetts by Dr. James Baker. James Baker was the first person to mass produce chocolate in America, which he sold in cake form. Dr. Baker didn't market his product for baking, but for making making hot chocolate beverages.

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