All About Chocolate: What do those percentages mean?

March 8, 2020

Hello foodies and bakers,


Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! It is a key ingredient and component in the pastry kitchen. From lining melted chocolate to tart shells to drizzling it over buttery shortbread to making ganache, you will use a chocolate in your baking journey. 




If you are simply started to bake, you will realize there is a lot of chocolate bars, chips, and powders out there in the grocery store, online retailers, and fine gourmet shops. It can be overwhelming! The key is see what chocolate your recipe you are using calls for and buying the correct one. 





Frequently asked questions about chocolate:


What does the percentage mean?

The percentage is cocoa butter + cocoa solids, also called cacao (pronounced 'cah-cow'). Basically, the percentage is what comes directly from the cocoa beans. The remaining percentage will be other ingredients and flavors. Example: 70% chocolate bar will have 30% remaining ingredients, like sugar, vanilla, milk solids, spices, etc. 


What percentage is unsweetened chocolate?

Unsweetened chocolate has little or no extra ingredients, thus it is labeled 100%.  The higher the percentage, the less sweet the chocolate it will be.


How do you define milk chocolate versus dark chocolate?

There really is no definition. There are no strict rules when it comes to labeling chocolate what type it is. BUT! Most milk chocolate has a 40% (think, candy chocolate bars) and most dark chocolate has a 70%.


What about bittersweet, semisweet, and white chocolate?

Here is a brief chocolate percentage breakdown:

Unsweetened chocolate: 90%-100% (Little or no added ingredients)

Bittersweet chocolate: 70%-85% (30%-15% added ingredients; most bakers perfer bittersweet to bake with)

Semisweet chocolate: 50%-60% (50%-40% added ingredients; most chocolate candy bars)

Sweet chocolate: 30% (70% added ingredients)

White chocolate: 20% (Little cacao is in white chocolate; It is mainly composed of fats, milk, and sugar)


What is couverture chocolate?

Couverture chocolate is a high quality choclate, composed of the same ingredients. It is ground to a finer texture during the production process and has a higher precentage of cocoa butter. Couverture chocolate is used when tempering chocolate for molding, dipping, or truffle shells. Couverture chocolate must contain a minimum of 35% cocoa solids and 31% cocoa butter.


Can you bake with couverture chocolate?

Yea, you can, the final product will have a slightly different texture because it is more finely ground versus regular chocolate. 


Can you temper regular chocolate?

No, it does not contain enough cocoa butter. It may dry, but it will not have the shine and snap a properly tempered chocolate piece have. 






Happy baking,


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