So you want to pick out some fine chocolate, for a gift or perhaps self-indulgence. The problem is so many bars claim to be “fine,” but these can be misleading. How can you distinguish between quality chocolate bars and lower quality chocolates and chocolate bars? The key is the ingredients, but sifting through the ingredients list can be a difficult task. We at Sulpice Chocolat will give you the tools to pick out high quality chocolate for yourself and your loved ones.
Quality chocolate bars and chocolates are made with few, simple ingredients: real cocoa butter, sugar, and (if the bar is milk chocolate) real milk. Lower quality chocolate bars use oils, emulsifiers, artificial flavoring, and powdered milk to cut production costs. A quality chocolate bar should never contain substitutes for cocoa butter (oils) or any artificial ingredients.
Chocolate companies are required to list all ingredients used in the manufacturing of their chocolate bars; however, they are not required to list the amount of each ingredient used. Quality chocolate bars contain at least 40-70% cocoa and will list the cocoa percentage on the package. Sugar composes 30% or less in quality chocolate bars. Lower quality chocolate bars will contain around 10% cocoa, the legal amount of cocoa required for the bar to be called chocolate in the United States.
Many quality chocolate bars infuse oils and spices into their bars. The spices and oil should be natural extracts and spices. Companies are required to list if their oils are artificial or natural extracts and spices and higher quality chocolate bars will want to specify the quality of their flavorings.
Some bars contain fillings instead of oil flavorings. The inclusion of these fillings may make it difficult to distinguish quality fillings from cheaper fillings. The fillings should be as natural as the chocolate bar, so I will list the natural ingredients that should be used in a quality chocolate bar and the substitutes lower quality chocolate bar companies may use to cut costs:
Praline (e.g. Peanut Butter, Hazelnut): nuts (sugar and salt may be added). Many inexpensive nut butters are made with partially or fully hydrogenated oils,
Caramel: sugar, butter, cream, (possibly corn syrup*). Oils, especially hydrogenated oils, are used to replace butter and cream.
*Note: corn syrup should not be mistaken with high fructose corn syrup used as a sugar replacement. Corn syrup is used to help prevent sugar from crystallizing as the caramel cools. Not all companies use corn syrup, but do not dismiss the quality of the bar on this ingredient alone.
Buttercream: This one applies more to chocolates than chocolate bars, but for your information, buttercream is made of butter and sugar and is off-white in color. Cheaper buttercream is made with hydrogenated oils or shortening (also trans fat laden) to replace the butter and is bright white.
Fondant: Fondant is that smooth creamy flavored center inside bars and candies. Fondant, at its most basic, fondant is made with sugar and water. Flavorings and colorings may be added. Fondant may contain corn syrup
Ganache: Ganache is made by combining melted chocolate with cream until it reaches the softball stage. The quality of the ganache is based on the quality of chocolate used. Real cream is a must. Low quality ganache may be made with oils or shortening.
Now, with the knowledge of the components of quality chocolate and their fillings you should have no problem picking high quality delicious chocolate bars!