Cocoa Solids. Cocoa Butter. What’s the diff?
In an earlier post I mentioned the amounts of cocoa solids and cocoa butter contained in different types of chocolate (dark, milk, white). In that post, I was going on about this stuff as if I had any idea what the hell I was talking about. I didn’t then, but now I do, because I looked it all up in order to write this post. So that you too can be an expert and look down on the lesser person who doesn’t know his cocoa solids from his BUTTer, I will share this new knowledge with you now:
Basically, this is plain cocoa. No sugar. No fat. Tastes very bitter on its own. Most of the chocolate flavor, as well as the stuff in chocolate that’s good for you – i.e. antioxidants – is in the cocoa solids. So if you’re interested in chocolate as a health food, best get the kind with high cocoa (cocoa solids) density. Just because this is too simple, there’s a variant of this called “Dutch Process Chocolate” which was developed by the van Houten family – they who make that delicious cocoa you buy in a tin. Their process makes the cocoa milder, less bitter, and easier to dissolve (good for making hot chocolate).
Cocoa butter is the fat extracted directly from the coca bean or from chocolate liquor (more about that in a sec). Add some milk, sugar, and a bit of vanilla and you’ve got white chocolate. It’s what gives dark and milk chocolates their richness. It also has the magical property of melting at around 35 degrees C, which means it doesn’t melt at room temperature, but does melt in your mouth. Another convenient truth about cocoa butter is that it takes a ling time rancid. This not only helps give chocolate its long shelf life; it also means that cocoa butter is used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals like creams and soaps (and some other less appetizing medicine delivery vehicles.)
Not an alcoholic beverage in this, sorry. Chocolate liquor is what you (well not you - chocolate makers) get when you process raw cocoa beans. By process we mean ferment, roast, shell, grind, then melt. Baking chocolate is made directly from the chocolate liquor. For eating chocolate, the stuff gets mixed with other ingredients or else separated into cocoa solids and cocoa butter, then re-combined in varied proportions.
So now we know. Feel smarter? I do.