Dark chocolate is a form of chocolate containing cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sugar. In the past it has been classified as bittersweet and semi-sweet, amongst other terms.
Interestingly enough, there are more regulations surrounding both white and milk chocolate. The FDA does not have a standard identity of dark chocolate.
White Chocolate (left), Milk Chocolate (middle), Dark Chocolate (right)
White chocolate is made without cocoa solids (think cocoa powder). It is best known for its distinct pale ivory colour. It is typically the sweetest chocolate available, as the sugar is not balanced by the solids found both in milk and dark chocolate.
Milk chocolate is made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar. It is known for being sweet and creamy. More recently, dark milk chocolate has hit the mainstream, bringing the creamy quality to a darker chocolate (cacao content above 60%).
Dark chocolate is made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. It does not typically have the presence of milk solids. Dark chocolate is known to have less sugar than both milk chocolate and white chocolate. Although dark chocolate has a reputation as a healthier alternative versus other types of chocolate, there is no quality evidence to prove this (although we'd like to think it's better!).
An assortment of our dark chocolate bars
As mentioned earlier, there are many classifications of dark chocolate. Here is a quick rundown of the more common terms you may have seen:
Semisweet Chocolate is found mainly in grocery stores across North America. It can be found supplied by brands such as Ghirardelli and Nestle, amongst others. The cacao used for such a product is a lower grade, and is roasted darker to remove any off flavours, resulting in a more bitter profile.
Bittersweet Chocolate is also found in grocery stores across North America. Most brands using this term offer a chocolate with cocoa content above 60%. It is also known to have less sugar than semisweet dark chocolate.
When looking for a quality chocolate, have a quick scan of the ingredients listed. Most quality dark chocolate will have as little as two ingredients: cacao and cane sugar.
Soy lecithin is a common ingredient in commercial dark chocolate, as it aids in extending shelf life and lowers the viscosity of the chocolate itself (needing less additional cocoa butter, saving costs). This allows the manufacturer to fill their moulds easier.
Vanilla can round out harsh flavours and is also found in most low grade dark chocolates. There are exceptions, however it is less common to see in specialty dark chocolate.
A good rule of thumb: The less ingredients the better when it comes to pure, dark chocolate. But sometimes sprinkling on some salt or hazelnuts or even adding in a touch of spice can hit the spot.
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