Chocolate 101

Chocolate 101

Not all chocolate is created equal. Yes, it can differ in quality, due to additives and artificial ingredients. But even among premium chocolate products, chocolatiers may tinker with ingredient proportions and cooking methods to achieve different flavor and texture profiles. Sink your teeth into these chocolate facts.

Types of chocolate

Do you prefer the creamy sweetness of milk chocolate or revel in the bittersweet richness of dark chocolate? Perhaps you’d rather cocoa stayed out of the equation, as is the case with white chocolate. Here’s what’s in your favorite types of chocolate.

  • Dark chocolate contains a greater percentage of chocolate liquor than the other types. Chocolate liquor — which is totally non-alcoholic — is created from grinding cocoa nibs (the center of cocoa beans) into a smooth paste. Chocolate liquor itself is composed of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. The cocoa solids contain the essence of the chocolaty flavor, while the cocoa butter is the naturally present fat that gives chocolate its indulgent mouthfeel. Sugar provides sweetness and soy lecithin (an emulsifier) aids smoothness. 
    • Bittersweet chocolate is dark chocolate that is typically at least 50 percent cacao — that is, it’s at least half cocoa bean-derived ingredients by weight.
    • Semi-sweet chocolate is a bit less intense than the bittersweet variety, containing 35 to 45 percent cacao. 

  • Milk chocolate contains all the essential ingredients of dark chocolate, but with dry milk solids. By definition, it must be at least 10 percent chocolate liquor and 12 percent milk solids by weight.

  • White chocolate is absent of cocoa solids, instead relying on cocoa butter, milk solids, and a higher percentage of sugar (but no more than 55 percent) for its flavor and mouthfeel.

Chocolate texture

You don’t have to be a master chocolatier to detect the difference between high quality and lesser quality chocolate, and it really comes down to texture. Cocoa butter, chocolate’s naturally occurring fat, is the key here. Molecules called triglycerides in the cocoa butter form crystals that either arrange themselves very loosely or very tightly depending on how the chocolate is heated. The less stable molecules break apart at lower temperatures, while the more stable ones can withstand higher ones. 

When we temper chocolate, we are playing up or playing down the textural qualities we want by increasing or reducing temperatures. Fully tempered chocolate — containing mostly smaller crystals — is shiny and snappy and can be handled without melting immediately in your hands, and is ideal for most products. Imagine if your chocolate bark crumbled apart when you tried to share it (or not)! However, sometimes slightly softer chocolate is preferable, as is the case with our Melt-a-Ways and their fudgier mouthfeel. 

There’s one thing we can all agree on though — dry, chalky chocolate is a major no-no! That is why Stefanelli's Candies takes their time to get it right, for luxurious consistency and mouthfeel every time.