Chocolate lovers, it is time once again to celebrate as January 10th annually recognizes National Bittersweet Chocolate Day … not to be confused with National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day which is celebrated on November 7th.
Chocolate is a range of foods derived from cocoa, mixed with fat and finely powdered sugar to produce a solid confectionery. There are several types of chocolate, classified according to the proportion of cocoa used in a particular formulation.
Sweet and semisweet contain 15% to 35% chocolate liquor and have more sugar than bittersweet chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate has 35% or higher chocolate liquor. Unsweetened chocolate, as its name indicates, contains absolutely no added sugar, while bittersweet chocolate has anywhere from about 10% to 50% sugar. Semisweet chocolate tends to be higher in sugar than bittersweet or dark chocolate, but there can be overlap.
Chocolate comes from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao, which has been cultivated for at least three millennia, is grown in Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America. The earliest known documentation of the use of cacao seeds is around 1100 BC. The cacao tree seed has an intensely bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor.
Once the seeds have been fermented, the beans are then dried, cleaned, and roasted. After roasting, the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The cacao nibs are then ground into a cocoa mass which is pure chocolate in rough form. Usually, the cocoa mass is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients. This is called chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor may then be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor to which sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla have been added. It does have less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate. However, the two of them may be interchangeable when baking. Studies have revealed that there are certain health benefits from eating bittersweet chocolate in moderation, such as lowering blood pressure and helping to protect the heart.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the naming and ingredients of cocoa products:
|Product||Chocolate liquor||Milk solids||Sugar||Cocoa fat||Milk fat|
|Buttermilk chocolate||≥ 10%||≥ 12%||< 3.39%|
|Milk chocolate||≥ 10%||≥ 12%||≥ 3.39%|
|Mixed dairy product chocolates||≥ 10%||≥ 12%|
|Skim milk chocolate||≥ 10%||≥ 12%||< 3.39%|
|Sweet chocolate||≥ 15%||< 12%|
|Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate||≥ 35%||< 12%|
|White chocolate||≥ 14%||≤ 55%||≥ 20%||≥ 3.5%|