A friend of mine is a bit of a food snob. Very nice guy, but tends to have pretty strong opinions about anything culinary. I’ll refer to him as Count Snobula (he’d find that funny rather than insulting, believe me) In a recent conversation he scoffed (yes, a genuine scoff – he’s British), at my preference for milk chocolate over dark chocolate. After I helped him up off the pavement, we started talking about whether there is a clear dividing line between darkness and light, chocolate-ly speaking.
So I looked it up on the Internet, where everything you read is guaranteed to be true. And here is what I found.
The Dark Side
To be officially dark, chocolate must satisfy two main conditions: Firstly, it contains no milk. Simple and clear enough. The second condition seems to be a little less clear, but basically dark chocolate has to contain a lot of cocoa. As far as I can find out, the “official” minimum percentage of cocoa solids in dark chocolate is 35%, of which 18% must be cocoa butter. 35% seems kind of low to me. I’m sure I’ve seen and tasted up to 88%. Which, frankly was a bit of a chore to eat. Because, of course, the high cocoa content makes it bitter. Count Snobula would say that I don’t appreciate the high-cocoa dark chocolate, “because you’re a philistine from a place that culture has never even heard of, much less visited. Which is no doubt true, but it still tasteslike a dried mud pie to me.
Into the Light
On to light, or milk chocolate. With milk chocolate, there’s a bit less of the cocoa solids, and they are replaced by milk solids. Chocolatiers usually use dried or condensed milk for this. In Europe, there are two competing standards regarding what can officially be sold as milk chocolate. On the continent, milk chocolate needs to have at least 24% cocoa solids and 14% milk solids. The milk part has to have at least 3.5% milk fats – you’ll find no skimmed milk in your Belgian chocolate.
In Britain the standards are a bit more slack on the cocoa. I’ve read somewhere that the lower standards were introduced after World War II, when there were restrictions on food imports (i.e. cocoa). There, the minimum cocoa content is 20%. On the other hand milk chocolate in Britain must have 20% milk solids containing at least 5% dairy fat. So you end up with a more milky milk chocolate in jolly old England.
So, to summarize it simply, milk chocolate has some of its cocoa replaced by milk.
The official chocolate powers that be appear to agree with my friend that white chocolate isn’t “really” chocolate at all. So the question is, “Then why is it called white chocolate?” First, the reason that white chocolate is technically not chocolate: no cocoa solids. Second, the reason why this non-chocolate is called chocolate: it contains lots of cocoa butter. To pass official muster, white chocolate needs to contain a minimum of 14% milk solids with said milk solids containing 3.5% or more dairy fat.
Does that settle it? Not really. Now I need to find out exactly what “cocoa solids” and “cocoa butter” are, and what the difference is. I can guess one thing though – it must be the cocoa solids that give chocolate its chocolaty color.