A quick introduction

Chocolate has been treasured for centuries. Cocoa beans were even used as a currency by ancient civilisations. The Aztecs revered the cocoa bean to the extreme – their belief was that they would find heaven through the cocoa tree.

Not that much has changed since then. Chocolate is still loved by most.

The fact that chocolate was invented is a stroke of genius in itself. Making chocolate isn’t easy and involves multiple steps to make it taste as good as the product you buy in stores. Before we look at how chocolate is made, let’s look at the different types of chocolate as it’s a good starting point.

The main types of chocolate

The different types of chocolate available in stores contain varying levels of cocoa fat, cocoa solids, milk powder and sugar. Adjusting the ratios of these ingredients can produce any type of chocolate, from the super intense 100% cocoa down to sweet, milky white chocolate.

Raw chocolate

Cocoa Mass: 100%.  Sugar: 0%.  Milk Powder: 0%.

Get ready for a storm of bitterness. The vast majority won’t enjoy this eaten as a snack – it’s intense.

100% chocolate is only made from cocoa beans without the addition of sugar. This is a bitter chocolate that is best used with other ingredients to help balance out the bitter flavor. However, the lack of sugar makes it an appealing option for those after a healthier snack than regular chocolate.

Uses: Smoothies, truffles, stews, pot roasts, or eaten on its own.

Raw Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Cocoa Mass: 35-99%.  Sugar: 1-65%.  Milk Powder: <12%. 

Sugar is added to dark chocolate to take that bitter edge off. If you enjoy an intense flavored dark chocolate then choose a bar with a higher ratio of cocoa solids.

Not an ideal eating chocolate for the masses. A chocolate that’s suited to desserts and as a snack for those with a palate enjoys intense bitterness.

Uses: Brownies, mousses, cakes, cookies, ganache.

Dark Milk Chocolate

Cocoa Mass: 35-60%.  Sugar: 20-45%.  Milk Powder: 20-25%. 

The perfect compromise between the sweetness of milk chocolate and bitterness of dark chocolate.

By adding more milk solids, the melting point of the chocolate reduces and results in a creamier chocolate.

Uses: A confectionery snack or for grating over hot beverages and desserts.

Dark Milk Chocolate

Milk Chocolate

Milk Chocolate

Cocoa Mass: 20-35%.  Sugar: 25-55%.  Milk Powder: 25-35%.

Milk chocolate is the most popular type thanks to a milder, less intense flavor. It’s often flavored with nuts, fruit, candy and other ingredients.

In some cases, the cocoa butter is left out and cheaper vegetable oils are used instead. This produces a lower quality chocolate.

Uses: A sneaky snack, baking, sauces, icing, chocolate fountains, dipping fruit.

White Chocolate

Cocoa Mass: 30%.  Sugar: 40%.  Milk Powder: 30%. 

Kids can’t get enough of this stuff.

White chocolate contains no cocoa solids, just cocoa butter. The flavor in milk chocolate mostly comes from the added milk powder, vanilla and sugar.

Uses: Confectionery snacks, baking, icing, ganache, candy coatings.

White Chocolate

How is chocolate made?

Making chocolate isn’t a quick, easy process. Check out the video to get a good understanding of how chocolate is made.

To start with, the cacao beans are removed from their pod and fermented before being dried. The beans are then roasted and then cracked to remove the unwanted shells. What remains are cocoa nibs which can be ground into cocoa butter. Sugar and other ingredients are added before finally being tempered into the final product.

How to temper chocolate

If you’re going to use chocolate in baked items like chocolate chip cookies or molten lava cakes then simply melting the chocolate is all that’s necessary. However, if you plan on making homemade chocolates, shards of chocolate to garnish a cake or any other chocolate that is served at room temperature then you should temper the chocolate. No ifs or buts.

Tempering chocolate is magical to look at. Shiny. Glossy. Almost too good to eat.

Many cooks shy away from tempering because it sounds too hard. In fact, tempering is a simple process of heating, cooling, then reheating the chocolate. It’s not hard and the best part is, if you get it wrong and the chocolate doesn’t temper, repeat the process. Chocolate is quite resilient, it just needs a little coaxing to achieve that perfect temper.

Step 1

Use a bain marie to heat your chocolate to the required temperature. See the table below to check the required temperature for the chocolate you’re using.

Step 2

Once the temperature is reached, remove bowl from the heat and place in an ice bath until it reduces to 82°F (28°C).

Step 3

After cooling, return the bowl to the bain marie and continue to gently reheat back up to 88°F (31°C). Your chocolate should now be tempered.

Temperature guide for tempering chocolate

Type of chocolateMelt toCool toReheat to
Raw or Dark120F82F90F
Milk chocolate115F80F86F
White chocolate110F78F82F

Chocolate tempering tips

  • Tempering a larger quantity of chocolate makes life a lot easier. Small amounts of chocolate fluctuate in temperature quickly which makes tempering a challenge.
  • Couverture chocolate is an excellent option for tempering. Whichever chocolate you choose, make sure it’s at least 60%, or preferably 70%.
  • A candy thermometer is an essential piece of equipment. Without it, the only thing that’ll end up tempered is your mood.
  • Tempering chocolate on a very humid day should be avoided.
  • Water is the enemy of chocolate. It causes it to seize so don’t even allow a few drops to find their way into your bowl of delicious chocolate.

Did you know? Chocolate combines cocoa, sugar, caffeine and theobromine to create the perfect chocolate high.

Your questions answered

Is chocolate okay to eat once it’s turned white?

The white dusty coating that occasionally develops on chocolate is called bloom and is considered harmless. The bloom is the result of ineffective tempering or chocolate that’s been stored in very warm or humid conditions.

How can I fix lumpy melted chocolate?

Water and melting chocolate are a bad combination. Even a few drops of water can cause the chocolate to seize and turn lumpy. To get rid of the lumps either add more chocolate to dilute the water or add cream which will also help remove the lumps.

Where does chocolate come from?

The origins of cacao

  • Ivory Coast
  • Ghana
  • Indonesia
  • Ecuador
  • Rest of World

The main building block of chocolate is the cacao bean. These pods come in a range of flavors depending on the strain and region of origin.

The Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Ecuador and Brazil are all major producers of cacao beans. Madagascar well known for producing distinctive chocolate from cacao beans that impart a lovely sweet, citrus flavor with berry undertones.

The cacao producing giants supply to large companies like Nestle and Mars who then blend the beans from different regions. There are various reason for this blending including efficient sourcing and flavor consistency.

Chocolate suggestions for every occasion

To temper chocolate…

Couverture reigns supreme if you want to temper chocolate that looks shiny and snaps when broken. A quality Belgian Dark Semisweet will cost a little more than your everyday chocolate at the supermarket but it is worth the investment.

For decadent desserts…

For quick melting chocolate that’s smooth flowing and delicious, your best bet is Wilton Chocolate Pro. Perfect for cookies, desserts, dipped strawberries and even chocolate fountains.

Need a snack…

For quality milk chocolate that everyone loves you can’t beat Lindt Milk Chocolate. Smooth, creamy chocolate that’s totally delicious. Try caramel with sea salt or milk hazelnut if you’re looking for something more. 

Final words

The beauty of chocolate is that it comes in such a wide range of types that there’s a flavor for everyone. Kids tend to gravitate towards white or milk chocolate because it isn’t too bitter. As we age and our taste buds mature, dark chocolate that was previously unthinkable gains appeal.

Eating chocolate straight from the wrapper is delicious. But if you want to raise the bar then try your hand at tempering chocolate. It isn’t difficult, you just need to be precise with measuring the temperature.

Chocolate has been around for centuries and it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon. What’s your favorite chocolate for using in the kitchen? Have you successfully tempered chocolate before? Let me know on Facebook or Instagram.

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