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Archive for Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Tips on flavors, uses of chocolate

December 3, 2003

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Is there really such a thing as white chocolate or is there only almond bark and white coating?

There really is a white chocolate on the market. White chocolate was first introduced in Switzerland in the 1940s, and since then its popularity has grown worldwide.

White chocolate is made from sugar, cocoa butter, dry milk solids and flavorings such as vanilla and emulsifiers. Real white chocolate does not contain other vegetable oils -- only cocoa butter.

The process of making white chocolate is almost the same as making dark chocolate, except white chocolate uses only cocoa butter and does not contain chocolate liquor. Cocoa beans are harvested, fermented and dried, then brushed, cleaned and roasted. The beans are then crushed, ground into a paste and put through presses to extract the cocoa butter. The fat free solids or "chocolate liquor" that remain can be processed with other ingredients to make dark chocolate. To make white chocolate, it's the cocoa butter, not the chocolate liquor, that is combined with sugar, milk solids and flavoring to make the sweet taste and creamy texture.

Can you tell me the differences between the various forms of chocolate?

Chocolate and cocoa are products of the hulled bean of the Theobroma cacao, a tropical tree native to the New World, though now also commercially cultivated in Africa and Southeast Asia. The term "Theobroma" means literally, "food of the gods." The bean itself contains 49 percent oil, 18 percent protein, 10 percent starch and 7 percent other carbohydrates.

The words chocolate and cocoa come from the Aztec word "cacahuatl" meaning "bitter juice". There are many forms of chocolate on the supermarket shelf. Here are the various types of dark (or brown) chocolate and the ingredients that make them unique:

  • Cocoa. The cocoa liquor is pressed hydraulically to remove a determined amount of cocoa butter. It is then pulverized and sifted. Cocoa has a medium fat content, from 10 to 21 percent cocoa fat. Breakfast cocoa is a high-fat cocoa which must contain at least 22 percent cocoa fat. Sometimes the cocoa liquor is "dutched," that is, treated with an alkali solution to reduce natural acidity, mellow the flavor and darken the color.
  • Instant cocoa. A mixture of cocoa, sugar, and an emulsifier. It can be prepared as a beverage by adding hot liquid.
  • Unsweetened chocolate. A blend of fine cocoa beans that are roasted, crushed and ground between large heated rollers into a ruddy-brown liquor, satin smooth and rich in cocoa butter. Nothing is removed from this cocoa liquor.
  • Semisweet chocolate. It is made from the same cocoa liquor as unsweetened chocolate, with just enough sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla added to give it a rich sweet taste.
  • German's sweet chocolate. It was created by Samuel German in 1852 as a quality snack-type chocolate bar. It's a special blend of chocolate, enriched with cocoa butters and sugar. It has a higher sugar content than semisweet chocolate.
  • Milk chocolate. It is a chocolate liquor infused and made milder with extra cocoa butter, milk or milk solids and a sweetener such as sugar.
  • Chocolate chips. They are made from cocoa butter, sugar and flavorings. They are usually made from semisweet chocolate.
  • Chocolate flavored baking chips. They are made from a blend of cocoa and vegetable oil, instead of cocoa butter, that has sweetening added.

Can I substitute unsweetened chocolate for semisweet?

Yes. One ounce of semisweet chocolate is equivalent to 1/2 ounce unsweetened (or baking) chocolate plus 1 tablespoon sugar. Just for your information, you also may substitute powdered cocoa for unsweetened chocolate. One ounce of unsweetened chocolate equals 3 tablespoons cocoa plus 1 tablespoon fat.

What are the white spots that sometimes form on the top of chocolate?

The white or gray spots or streaks, which is called "bloom" in the world of candy-making, are caused by separation of sugar or fat particles from the chocolate. The bloom is not harmful but the appearance is not desirable.

Can I add paraffin to chocolate chips to make dipping chocolate?

Although some recipes for chocolate coating on candies call for melting chocolate with paraffin wax, it is not a recommended practice.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, paraffin is not a permitted food additive. Since paraffin may not be used in the commercial manufacture of chocolates, the FDA does not recommend using paraffin in homemade chocolates.

Instead of adding paraffin to chocolate for dipping, try melting 12 ounces (2 cups) of semisweet chocolate with 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of solid vegetable shortening. Even though this is an acceptable method, the success of it depends greatly on temperature control, avoidance of humid conditions, and thorough stirring of the chocolate while it is melting, cooling and while dipping.

A simpler, and nearly fail-proof, way of dipping candies, is to use summer coating instead of dipping chocolate. Summer coatings contain no cocoa butter. Because of their ingredients, summer coatings do not need the same careful attention to temperature and humidity as chocolates. The main point to keep in mind is -- do not overheat. Summer coatings melt at about 100 degrees.

It's simple to melt coatings in a double boiler (without the lid) over hot tap water only. It is not necessary to heat the water underneath the coating, the hot tap water will melt it perfectly. It takes about 15 minutes to melt a pound of summer coating.

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