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All About Chocolate


For many of us, one of life’s pleasures is chocolate!

Much of the New Year focuses on the things we can do to improve our lives, from finding a gentler form of exercise, to sleeping better, to making room for ‘me time’…But for a balanced life, there also needs to be pleasure and small indulgences here and there. A little bit of what you fancy, can go a long way.

The chocolate market has been expanding, and the flavour combinations now available in bar form are far and wide, from chilli and dark chocolate, to salted caramel to cocoa raspberry.

But for cooking and eating, we go back to the basics:

Cacao – this is raw unprocessed cocoa, often available in nib form (these are tiny cocoa bean chips).

Cocoa Powder – As it sounds this is ground cocoa beans, for use in baking, cooking and for making hot chocolate. Cocoa Powder can make hot chocolate, but you should not substitute ‘drinking chocolate’ in recipes. You may sometimes read or hear cocoa powder referred to as ‘Dutch processed’.

Dark – You can cook, bake or eat dark chocolate, generally dark chocolate is classified as 70% cocoa solids and above. The higher cocoa solids produce a richer flavour. You might add it to a savoury chilli, or use in a chocolate brownie recipe. For recipes like cookies or muffins, you may like to use a mix of dark and milk chocolate. Chocolate is now available in percentages higher than 70%, but can be a bit bitter as less sugar is present – try it and see if it suits your taste. Generally it is not advisable to use a higher percentage chocolate than a recipe calls for – it may impact the end result.

Milk – As you expect, milk chocolate has fewer cocoa solids, and has more sugar and milk solids. You still might find some chocolate that has a higher percentage, around the 50-65% mark, but many milk chocolate products will be closer to the 20-25% range. Milk chocolate in baking is helpful when you want a sweet taste, but are not looking for something to be overly chocolatey. It can be used to make icing for cakes and muffins and to match alongside other ingredients like fruit and nuts.

White – Whilst we refer to white chocolate, there really isn’t cocoa solids in many white chocolate products, it will be a mix of cocoa butter and sugar. It can be used in many recipes where milk chocolate is called for, you can use it to coat fruit like strawberries, or as an accent on cookie decorating. Or just for eating!