|Image by EverJean|
There is a lot of chocolate out there masquerading as “dark”. If I see a chocolate labeled as “dark”, all it means to me is that I have to check the cacao percentage. If it doesn’t list it, I don’t buy it. Why? Because “dark” doesn’t really mean anything. There is no regulation in North America as to what constitutes “dark” chocolate. Consumers seek out dark chocolate because it’s healthier, and makes for a more guilt-free treat. And so companies label their chocolates as dark, wanting to sell more. Of course, since dark chocolate is higher quality (more cocoa liquor and butter and less sugar), it costs more. But if companies can label their regular chocolates as dark, and still charge more – Ka-Ching! What a great business plan. Win-win for the company, lose-lose for the consumer.
% Cacao = Chocolate Liquor + Cocoa Butter + Cocoa Powder
Cocoa nibs consist of fatty cocoa butter (typically 50-60% of the bean) and non-fatty cocoa solids. The cocoa solids can be ground into cocoa powder. Grinding the entire cocoa nib to a liquid makes chocolate liquor (also known as cocoa mass and cocoa liquor).
Chocolate = cocoa (liquor, extra butter, powder) + sugar (optional) + milk or cream (optional)
So in a 60% cacoa chocolate, 60% of the ingredients are cocoa (liquor, butter, and powder), and the remaining 40% consist of sugar, flavorings, and potentially milk ingredients.
Types of Chocolate by % Chocolate Liquor
The percentage of cocoa liquor determines the type of chocolate, except in the case of white chocolate where it’s the cocoa butter content:
Milk chocolate: Minimum 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk ingredients.
White Chocolate: Minimum 20% cocoa butter and 14% milk ingredients. Doesn’t contain any nonfat cocoa solids which create the chocolatey colour.
Semisweet or Bittersweet Chocolate : Minimum 35% chocolate liquor. This is the chocolate that most companies try to sell as “dark”. Keep in mind that the 35% refers to the chocolate liquor only, meaning the cacao % is actually higher since it also accounts for the cocoa butter.
Brute / Bitter / Unsweetened / Baking Chocolate: Typically minimum 85% chocolate liquor (but not necessarily an FDA requirement).
So, let’s take a look at my favourite chocolate, Green & Black’s Organic 85% as an example.
Ingredients: Organic Cocoa Liquor, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder, Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Vanilla Extract, Organic Whole Milk Powder, Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin.
Its cacao percentage is listed as 85%. So, the cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, and fat-reduced cocoa powder make up 85% of the total ingredients. Which means that the chocolate liquor percentage is less than 85%. The remaining 15% of the ingredients are made up of sugar, vanilla, milk powder, and soya lecithin.
I’ve seen many chocolates that claim to be “dark”, but only have a cacao percentage of 50-something. As always, it’s best to do a little homework and read ingredient labels rather than relying on marketing claims. The FDA might not have standards for “dark” chocolate, but I sure do.
Do you indulge in dark chocolate? How dark?
Shared with Real Food Wednesdays.