Do you ever think about what is inside your chocolate bar? Not many people do. I think we all try to avoid looking at the labels so we don't feel guilty scarfing down a whole bar five minutes after you bought it (well that's how I feel anyways.) But there is one ingredient isn't so scary and that I recommend you look into for before buying your next chocolate bar, and that would be cacao.
Cacao is the simplest ingredient to chocolate, and without it, there would be no chocolate bar in the first place. It's what makes your bar chocolatey. The parts of the cacao plant contribute create the 3 different types of chocolate we have: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate.
So what is the cacao? Well the cacao tree originates from South America. Dangling off the tree are these cacao pods that have all the goods to making chocolate inside. The pod is made of up of a thick rind, sweet white pulp, and seeds. The rind is typically discarded to keep what you really need to make chocolate, the pulp and cacao seeds. While the pulp is not necessary, it is seriously sweet. Therefore most cacao farmers lay the pulp and cacao seeds out to dry so that the pulp ferments and is absorbed into the seeds. This fermentation process can take up to a week. After this, the seeds are dried for another two weeks.
At this point, the cacao beans are shipped to all of your favorite chocolate factories all over the world to be made into delicious chocolate. Factories first roast the beans. Then they are sent through a "winnower" to be cracked and de-shelled. The pieces that result are called cacao nibs. To develop flavor, many chocolatiers roast their cacao nibs which can make give the chocolate a more intense and somewhat bitter taste.
Once this nibs are obtained or roasted to the chocolatier's liking, they are ground into a paste or as most call it, a chocolate liquor. This chocolate liquor can be separated through the "Broma process" into cocoa powder or cocoa butter. What is cocoa butter? Well it is the theobroma oil , a pure and edible vegetable fat, that can be extracted from the cacao seeds.
Interesting fact: There is actually a legal definition of chocolate related to the percentage of dry cocoa solids and the percentage of cocoa butter with in it. They are not the same for every country. This results in the several different grades of chocolate.
Dark chocolate is made by adding cocoa butter and sugar to the cacao. It typically has no, or very little, milk as compared to milk chocolate. The U.S. has no real definition of dark chocolate, but European countries state it must have at least 35% cacao solids.
Milk Chocolate is made with solid chocolate (like the dark chocolate) and milk, in the forms of milk powder, condensed milk, or liquid milk. In the U.S., milk chocolate must contain 10% of the chocolate liquor or paste as I mentioned previously. In Europe, they require at least 25% cacao solids.
White Chocolate requires no cacao solids. It is made up of milk, sugar, butter, and cocoa butter. So now, when you go to pick up your favorite chocolate bar, look at how much cacao is in it.. then you'll truly how chocolatey your chocolate really is! Happy chocolate eating!