DEFINITION OF “PERCENTAGE” IN CHOCOLATE
Because researchers have determined that cacao products actually have health benefits, our chocolatiers at Capital Confections are often asked about the “percentage” of cacao in our chocolates. The “percentage” listed on the wrapper indicates the fraction (by weight) of the product that comes from the cacao bean. When a one-ounce chocolate bar is marked 75 percent cacao content, 3/4 of the bar actually comes from the cacao bean. Therefore, the higher percentage listed, the higher amount of the natural cacao products in the chocolate bar.
The two components of the cacao nib (the part of the bean that is used in making chocolate) are the fat free cacao solids (approx. 46% of the nib) which give the chocolate its color and flavor, and the tasteless, pure fat cacao butter (approx. 54% of the nib). Unsweetened chocolate (100%) is a combination of these two components. Most manufacturers will add more cacao butter to improve the way the chocolate melts and flows.
The other main ingredient in eating chocolate is sugar and will make up most of the remaining bar. (There is usually lecithin as an emulsifier and vanilla for added flavor, but these two ingredients make up less than one percent of total weight.) A dark chocolate bar that is marked 75 percent cacao is 25 percent sugar and other ingredients. Milk chocolate will contain milk solids which reduces the percentage of cacao.
Although the percentage of cacao butter versus cacao solids is seldom listed on the packaging, it is possible to calculate these percentages by using the nutritional information listed on the wrapper. By dividing the total fat in one serving (usually listed in grams) by the serving size (also listed in grams) you get the percentage of fat in the product. For example, if a serving size is 40 grams and the total fat is 12 grams, you divide the 12 grams by 40 grams and get a result of 30 percent. If the product is 75 percent cacao, the percentage of fat free cacao solids is found by subtracting the 30 percent from the 75 percent which results in 45 percent. These calculations are helpful to bakers who need to know the fat content when they are using a new chocolate.
THE DARK CHOCOLATE CHALLENGE
The higher the cacao percentage, the more cacao content and less sugar, the less sweet the chocolate will taste. When customers come into Capital Confections they are offered a taste of the darker variety of chocolates. After years of eating milk chocolate, white chocolate, semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate, our chocolatiers want to share how delicious fine chocolate products are with lower amounts of sugar. For milk-chocolate-loving Americans, the bittersweet chocolate we use for some of our products is too strong and not sweet enough. The challenge is to acquire a taste for the finer, richer, less-sweet chocolates – the smooth texture (cacao ground more finely) is what fine chocolatiers use to replace the sugar. Capital Confections will always offer milk and white chocolates, but encourage you to try the semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolates. Bittersweet chocolate is a wonderful compliment to red wine and port and has a smooth rich texture.
Visit Capital Confections for fine all your fine chocolates, but don’t be afraid to take the “Dark Chocolate Challenge.”