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Chocolate Glossary

Bittersweet Chocolate:  (“Also called Semisweet”)  Chocolate with less sugar and more chocolate liquor than semisweet chocolate.  Bittersweet can be used in cooking just as semisweet chocolate can be used.  These two products can be referred to as “couvertures” which have high cocoa butter content with at least 35% cocoa butter.  Bittersweet chocolate generally has one-third sugar (as opposed to semisweet chocolate with half sugar) and cocoa butter, vanilla and possibly lecithin.

Bloom:  The white discoloration or gray film seen on the surface of chocolate when the cocoa butter crystallizes and separates from the rest of the chocolate.  It does no effect taste and is nothing more than a cosmetic flaw.  The bloom will disappear if the chocolate is melted and blended once more.

Cacahuatl:  Drink made by the Aztec and Mayan civilizations using the cocoa bean so prized by that civilization.  This drink was a favorite of Montezuma, who consumed more than 50 golden goblets daily of this drink.

Cacao plant: This refers to the Theobroma cacao plant from which seeds are harvested for cocoa/chocolate.

Cocoa Content:  The percentage of the finished chocolate product made up of dry material.  This number includes the cocoa paste, cocoa butter and any cocoa powder.  This number is used to legally define dark and milk chocolate categories and is expressed as a percentage often placed on the label by the chocolate maker.  It was created in the 1980s to differentiate between the chocolate products on the market.  Be careful to understand that a high cocoa content does not always signify quality or strong flavor.  For instance, cocoa powder adds to the cocoa content but is usually only added to lower quality products and results in a powdery texture.  The factors to consider when looking for quality and flavor are the type and processing of the cacao beans, the quality of any additives used during manufacture and the expertise of the chocolatier.

Cocoa:  This is the solid of the cacao bean grown on cacao trees. After some or nearly all of the fat has been removed using a press, the cocoa remains.

Cocoa Butter:  The natural cream-colored fat component of cacao. It adds flavor and the smooth texture to finished products. (There is no dairy in this butter!)

Cocoa Powder:  This is produced after nearly all of the cocoa butter is extracted from the ground nibs and the resulting chocolate liquor is dried and ground into unsweetened cocoa powder.  There are 2 processes:  the natural process (without alkaline) and the Dutch process (with alkaline).  The powder is used in both chocolate drinks (including hot chocolate) and baking.

Cocoa Solids:  Both the cocoa butter and the chocolate liquor.

Chocolate Liquor (Liqueur):  This is the unsweetened liquid/paste residual remaining after the cocoa beans have been fermented, dried, roasted and cracked.  It is removed from the bean by grinding.  It contains only the cocoa butter (fat) and cocoa (solids) and does not have any alcohol.  The chocolate liquor can be directly cooled to form blocks of unsweetened baking chocolate or used to produce other products. (Also called unsweetened chocolate)

Chocolate:  This is the combination of the solids from the cacao bean (chocolate liquor) and the fat (Cocoa butter.)

Chocolatier:  This is the person with technical expertise in making chocolate.  The title can be used to describe a person who hand-makes chocolates or to refer to an expert charged with overseeing the blending and roasting of cacao beans.

Conching:  This is one of the later parts of the refining processing….conching is the part of the process responsible for the development of the flavor and texture of the cocoa.  The process removes odors, acidity and moisture.   Modern machines have greatly reduced the time needed for this process but it may still take up to 4 days.

Couvetures:  Chocolates with high levels of cocoa butter.  They generally have 70% or higher cocoa content and fat content of 30-40%.

Dark Chocolate:  This is chocolate that does not have milk additives.  European regulations require dark chocolate to have a minimum of 35% cocoa solids while the U.S. requires only 15% concentration of chocolate liquor and less than 12% milk solids.

Flight of Chocolates:  An assembled group of chocolates compiled for tasting based on one characteristic. For instance, chocolates made from beans produced in a particular geographic region, single cru chocolates, chocolates of similar cacao.

Fondant Chocolate:  Extremely smooth chocolate.

Ganache:  Used as a filling for truffles, cakes, tarts or can be poured over cakes and/or pastries in a liquefied form as a glaze.  It is a mixture of chocolate and cream.  The more chocolate used, the firmer the ganache.

Milk Chocolate:  Chocolate with milk added to the product (either in the form of powdered milk or condensed milk.) The U.S. requires that it contain at least 12% whole milk and 10% chocolate liquor.

Mocha:  The blended flavor of coffee and chocolate.

Nibs:  The kernel of the cacao bean inside the cherelles (pods.)  The nibs are separated from the pods and processed into chocolate liquor, the basis for the finished products.

Semisweet Chocolate:  (“Also called Bittersweet”)  Often used for baking, this is a dark chocolate with lots of sugar added.  It most often has a 50% sugar content.  Both Semisweet and Bittersweet can be referred to as “couvetures,” which have high cocoa butter content with at least 35% cocoa butter.

Single Source (Origin) (Cru) Chocolate:  A chocolate product that contains solids from cacao beans grown on a single plantation.

Truffle:  Ganache formed into balls and dusted with cocoa (either cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts or chocolate pieces).

Winnowing:  The act of separating the outer cacao pods (cherelles) from the nibs (seeds.)

White Chocolate:  Surprisingly, white chocolate does not contain any chocolate solids at all.  It is made using cocoa butter (the fat component of the cacao bean) and adding sugar and flavoring. White chocolate contains at least 20% cocoa butter/14% milk solids/3.5 milk fat.)

Xocolatl:  (pronounced Choco-la’tl) Nahuatl (Aztec language) word for “bitter water” and the root of the word for chocolate.