The finest chocolate will have extra cocoa butter added to make the chocolate even smoother and quicker to melt in the mouth. Normally, sugar is added to the chocolate, the quantity depends on the type of chocolate. Good dark chocolate will have around 30 per cent sugar, while fast chocolate may have up to 80 per cent. Milk chocolate will have milk added, in the form of milk ‘crumb’ or condensed milk. The milk crumb gives a slightly cheesy or farmyard flavour to the chocolate. British and American chocolate are made with crumb, whereas Swiss and other European chocolate is made from the condensed milk (invented by Henri Nestle), which gives a much smoother, creamier texture. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk and sugar, but doesn’t contain any dry cocoa matter.
Cocoa butter substitutes are used widely in ‘fast’ chocolates. These are made from hydrogenated vegetable fats, such as palm, rape or soya oil, karite or mahua (illipe) butter, all of which are less expensive than cocoa butter. The effect of hydrogenation is to turn oils into solid fats by changing their molecular structure. In the process, normally quite healthy fatty acids are changed into trans fatty acids which can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb good fatty acids. They are sometimes called fractionated oils on labels, to disguise them.
These fats also have a higher melting point than cocoa butter, which helps to stabilize the chocolate in warm conditions. In my opinion, there can never be any justification for the addition of these fats to replace cocoa butter. Non-cocoa butter fats do not melt at blood temperature, and these solid particles leave a greasy residue that sticks to the palate, the effect is cloying.
Cocoa butter is a unique fat. It is saturated, and yet behaves like an unsaturated fat. It contains oleic acid and, like olive oil, has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels. It also melts at just below blood temperature, as you’ll know if you’ve ever held chocolate in your hand. The melting point is one of the most remarkable things about cocoa butter, as it melts on the tongue, it feels cool, it transforms the chocolate into a liquid which penetrates the taste buds and releases the volatile aromas up into the nose.
© 2003 Chantal Coady. All rights reserved.