All About Chocolate

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All About Chocolate

By Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Whatever the type of chocolate – semisweet, bittersweet, unsweetened, or milk – it all comes from the cacao bean. Cacao pods are fermented, the shells removed, and the beans are roasted and ground into a fine mass (paste) that can be separated into two components: cocoa solids (commonly called cocoa powder) and cocoa butter.  Each chocolate maker, called a chocolatier, combines these in different proportions but generally blends cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar with other ingredients – emulsifiers, flavors, and milk solids if making milk chocolate – and forms his mixture into blocks and bars of chocolate.

To make unsweetened chocolate, the ground chocolate mass is not separated; it is melted into chocolate liquor, then cooled and molded into blocks of unsweetened chocolate.  Most often used for baking, it adds rich chocolate flavor without loading the brownies, cookies, cakes, or breads with additional fat. Brownies, such as Crème de Menthe Brownies, and cakes, such as Boston Fudge Cake with Fudge Sauce, are good examples.

The cacao content marked on the package will indicate how sweet the other varieties of chocolate will taste. For example, “60% Cacao” on a bittersweet chocolate label tells that the chocolate consists of 60% cocoa butter and chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate mass), and the remaining 40% is made up of sugar and those optional ingredients.

Bars labeled with a higher percentage of cacao will taste more intensely chocolate and less sweet. Bittersweet chocolate can contain from 35 to 99 percent cacao (cocoa butter and chocolate liquor); semisweet chocolate varies from 35 to 45 percent cacao.  The two chocolates can be used interchangeably if the cacao percentages are comparable; those found in the baking section of grocery stores have similar profiles. Bittersweet chocolate chips typically contain more cacao than semisweet chocolate chips and therefore will taste a little more intensely chocolate. Old-Fashioned Fudge Pie and Peanut Butter Cups in the Basket call for semisweet chocolate, but you could safely substitute bittersweet.

Milk chocolate contains at least 10 percent chocolate liquor and the rest is milk solids, milk fat, sugar, and other ingredients. The chocolate will be lighter in color and chocolate flavor, making it perfect for blending with other flavors like you find in Chocolaty-Peanut Butter Encrusted Rum Cake and Sweet Dreams Chocolate Fudge Candy.

White chocolate has no cocoa solids, but it contains 20 percent cocoa butter along with milk solids, milk fat, and other ingredients determined by the manufacturer. Its creamy texture and mild vanilla flavor is dreamy in Malted Marshmallow White Chocolate Royale and White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies.

The quality of the chocolate does not relate to the percentage of cacao, but rather it is dependent on the origin of the chocolate.  Behind good quality, out-of-hand eating chocolate bars, there is a huge investment of time, money, and effort to find the beans and produce the chocolate. To distinguish quality, smell it.  If it is of poor quality, you will immediately smell sugar and artificial vanilla or metallic nuances. Tasting it will confirm what you smell.  If the chocolate is of high quality, the smell and taste will be more complex; nothing like sugar or vanilla will scream at your senses. The nuances of taste and smell will be complex and of the land—earthy, fruity, flowery, exactly the same as wine. 

Chocolate liquor and cocoa powder give chocolate its taste, but the cocoa butter is responsible for texture.  It is a naturally occurring vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature but melts when it comes in contact with your body temperature.  Chocolatiers who make premium quality eating chocolate pride themselves on how their chocolate melts in your mouth; the chocolate is crafted for you to savor as it melts smoothly and slowly.

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Reader Comments:


Love to watch your t.v. cook shows enjoy them all the time. What i would really like to have is a good simply fudge recipe and also a goo simply fruit cake cookie recipe . I f you could send that to me i would be so grateful . You can send it to my email address . Thank you so much Brenda Coleman

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By pandora jewelry sale on November 22, 2011

Where can I find Chunk chocolate?

By debi on December 02, 2010

Your Chocolate/Velvetta Cheese Fudge has become a favorite of mine. I make it for Christmas to add to my goody bags that my husband and I give as gifts. I make the sweets and hubby makes a his “Oldav8r Salsa”. Everyone loves our goody bags and expects the home made items. Thanks for your recipes that I have added to my favorites.

By Janice Walsh on October 04, 2010

Hi Paula, My mother use to make a scratch coconut cake. the icing was fluffy but she didn,t use the seven minute frosting . I can;t find an fluffy icing receipe

By caeol king on April 16, 2010

Margaret Hanna of Wilmington, Sorry, I forgot the link! Here it is:

By Libbie Summers on February 19, 2010

Hey Margaret Hanna of Wilmington! I have used this recipe for a smores pie in the past and it was good! Super sweet, but aren’t smores supposed to be?
Have fun with it!

By Libbie Summers on February 19, 2010

paula -
Is there ny recipes you could share with a diabetic and someone that has high cholesterol.I would really appreciate it
thank you .

By wendy on February 18, 2010

  you made a choclate dessert for valentine’s day three kinds of cholate in phyllo dough into purses ,I lost the receipe can it be sent thru an e-mail to me please, thank you a thacker

By ann thacker on February 18, 2010

Today, Feb 17, 2010, I watched but did not copy your simple, but not heavy recipe for Barbecued Ribs while recuperating from UTI. . . Cannot find it among your list of recipes.
Would appreciate if you could send to “”, or direct me to correct page.
Many thanks. . . .
Enjoy your show AND recipes. . .
GOOD downhome cooking. . . wink

By Letti Hanlin on February 17, 2010

looking for a receipe for a S’More pie. can you help?

By margaret hanna on February 12, 2010


Your Chocolate Valentine’s Day recipes are absolutely awesome!  I make gift baskets and the orders I took this year had some added treats ... homemade goodies thanks to you and these easy and inexpensive to make recipes.

Love saving money and making goodies for my honey! Your the best; God Bless !!!

By Jill M. Johnson on February 12, 2010

Paula i love everything about you, i have your cook books, watch all your shows, Would love to be in your kitchen with you cooking.
Adelle Scott
Rocky Mount Va.

By Adelle Scott on February 12, 2010

Paula thanks for the information your just the best, hope some day to meet you and your family, iam always to late to get good tickets for your shows.Happy Valentines day and God Bless!

By Rosie Church on February 11, 2010

hi paula i´m in the hospital and i saw ( sorry my english please)for first time your program |awesome¡ i dont see the tv never because i have an orfanage with 20 babys is exausting but beatifull, the last thursday (jueves) you show me meet with nuts, i see the fish, the jello but in the desert with chocolats with nut the nurse take mi for the laboratory, y i last the recipe, can you tell me where i can find this recipe, i want make for my kids. thank you and lord bless you. gina

By gina morales on February 11, 2010

Hi Paula I just love your show. The recipes and most of all your bubbly personality . I pray every day that God will keep you safe and your family .Keep the recipes coming. But I ask that you throw in some more sugar free recipes too cause I am diabetic Ok Thank you God bless.

By Bea Chiasson on February 11, 2010

Paula, thanks for a great read. You are simply amazing. I am going to try your strawberry cake and compare it to my husbands nana. Love all your cookbooks and magazines. Love LT

By Lauren Turner on February 11, 2010

i love watching you cook, your show is one my husband will set and watch with me.hope to some day catch you on tour . love jan

By jan howes on February 10, 2010


By kirten marzka on February 10, 2010

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