Dark and velvety, chocolate can’t help being a little mysterious. For most of us, we’ve never seen where it actually comes from or how it is made. We all love its rich, bittersweet flavor, but how much do we actually know about CHOCOLATE? There are a lot of misconceptions about it floating around, so I’m here to dispel some common myths surrounding chocolate and chocolate-making. Let me know in the comments if there is anything I missed.
#1. White chocolate isn’t “real” chocolate
In the United States, in order to legally be marketed as white chocolate, a product must contain at least 20 percent cocoa butter, at least 14 percent total milk solids, and at least 35 percent milkfat. It cannot consist of more than 55 percent nutritive carbohydrate sweetener. However, there are A LOT of products on the market that look like (and taste similar to) white chocolate that contain no cocoa butter (or anything originating from the cacao plant) at all. These will typically be labeled as “coatings” or “melting wafers” or some other term that doesn’t contain the word chocolate. When I read the ingredients on the back of the Ghirardelli white chips that I had been using for many years, I was shocked to find that there was nothing even resembling chocolate in them. I typically regard Ghirardelli chocolate reasonably highly, but when I discovered that their white chips weren’t, in fact CHOCOLATE I knew it was time to make the switch. So now that I use a white chocolate that is actually chocolate, I make sure to tell people and educate them on the difference.
#2. Higher cocoa percentage = higher quality chocolate
Not true at all! There are companies all over the world that are creating excellent milk and white chocolates, just like there are companies creating inferior high-percentage bars. Just like anything, it's the quality of the ingredients and process that translate to a quality product.
The Chocolate Journalist says, "More specifically, believing that a chocolate bar is high-quality just because it surpasses 80% cacao doesn't make you a finer palate. It's like judging a bottle of wine based on its alcoholic percentage. 'I am a wine lover because I drink only wine with an alcohol percentage of 13% and above.' Doesn't it sound silly? Just as you calling yourself a chocolate lover because you only eat chocolate that contains 80% cacao and above. Keep your mind open to different cacao percentages. It's the quality of cacao that matters, not the quantity. "
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#3. Chocolate and water should NEVER mix
While it’s true that when tempering chocolate, even a tiny bit of water can cause it to seize, thus ruining it, when enough water is added and fully incorporated, you end up with ganache. “Water ganache” is actually a very legitimate category of ganache. Technically, ganache is any emulsification of chocolate and a liquid. Most commonly, cream and a little butter are used to make ganache; however, you can make ganache with any liquid: cream, all butter, plant-based milks or creams, jam, liquor, juice, and yes, even water.
#4. Tempering is hard
Tempering is just the process of heating your chocolate to melt out all the existing crystal structures and cooling it, in a controlled way, to form stable crystals. When you don’t understand what is happening within your chocolate, sure, tempering can seem mysterious and fickle, but it is a skill, like any other, that can be learned over time. And one of the great things about tempering is, if you mess up, you can just redo it. Chocolate is infinitely reusable, so long as it doesn’t get burnt or contaminated. Read my post All About Tempering for more information.
#5. Chocolate is "Junk Food"
This one’s a bit complicated because it depends on how you frame it. Chocolate comes from a bean, which grows on a plant, so it’s basically a salad, right? Ok, maybe not, but there’s a good chance that its healthier for you than you are giving it credit for.
Since chocolate contains a high percentage of fat, from cocoa butter, it will never be a low-calorie food; however, it also contains a lot of really nutritious things like magnesium, calcium, iron, copper and antioxidants.
A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains (1):
It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
The things that could potentially cause chocolate to be classified as “junk food” are all the extra oils and fillers that are added to mainstream, supermarket candy. Just like with anything you put in your body, read the ingredients. High-quality chocolate and truffles won’t contain any of that stuff.
There are a lot of stories in the media these days about all the amazing health benefits of chocolate. There are claims of diabetes prevention, stroke risk reduction, and even higher intelligence. All these claims should, however, be taken with a grain of salt. Many of these claims don’t provide links to scientific studies or are based on studies that have far too many variables (like not specifying what kind of chocolate participants are eating.)
Is white chocolate really "chocolate?" Depends on the ingredients. Some white confections don't contain any cocoa butter at all! So make sure to check your ingredients list.
Chocolate is made from the fermented and roasted beans from inside the cacao pod.
#6. Making professional quality truffles takes years to master
NO WAY! All it takes is a few foundational skills and a little bit of scientific understanding, you can be on your way to creating the mouthwatering truffles of your dreams. That’s exactly how I got started in my business. It started as just a hobby but grew into a career that I love! Now I’m getting ready to launch a class to teach YOU just how it’s done.
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Chocolate truffles are a great intro to working with chocolate. I've created a FREE step-by-step guide to getting started with truffle-making. It'll give you the exact steps that I used to learn to make incredible truffles and some common mistakes to avoid along the way.
Owner - Pyroclastic Chocolate
Becca Larson has been handcrafting chocolate truffles for her family for nearly a decade and launched her first seasonal flavor collection in the Spring of 2019. Dedicated to using high quality ingredients, Pyroclastic Chocolate crafts a rotating, limited menu, made up of seasonally inspired flavors and perennial classics.