What is Dark Chocolate?
Chocolate lovers will know what kind of chocolate they have on their plates with just one quick look. Dark chocolate is one of the most popular variants of our favorite sweet delicacy. However, it separates itself from other chocolates with its distinct flavor, aroma, and lack of sweetness. Because of that, dark chocolate tends to be one of the popular choices on the list among those who seek bitterness, but for those that like sweeter options, it is not the first pick.
However, dark chocolate is considered the original in the lineup of chocolate options. The bitter taste of dark chocolate is one of the most treasured foods made popular by the Mayans in Central America during the heights of their civilization back in 2000 BC.
They found an ingenious way to process cacao fruits and ferment them to become their staple beverages. The Mayans achieved this with the help of mixing spices, and their unique technique paved the way to the chocolate we know today. Fast forward to modern times, chocolate has become one of the most popular bitter-sweets in the market.
The dark chocolate that we know today still follows almost the same process as the Mayans did back in the day. With that in mind, we can say the dark chocolate we enjoy today is what bitter-sweet or simply bitter chocolate is supposed to taste like. However, not all people like the dark bitterness it has. That’s why sweetened dark chocolate became popular. We’ll get into how you can make them sweeter but let’s first discuss how chocolate is made.
How is Dark Chocolate Made?
Chocolate’s journey starts with a humble cacao pod. These hand-size pods contain cacao seeds extracted and processed through a series of fermentation, drying, and roasting. After this lengthy procedure, chocolate makers extract the cocoa nibs (cocoa meat aka cacao) from their shells.
The ground nibs become chocolate liquor that can be further processed. The fatty portion is usually called cocoa butter, while other parts of the liquor are further refined to get the smooth cocoa solids used in bittersweet-chocolate production. These cocoa solids are the main components of the chocolates that we usually see on the market shelves.
Dark chocolate has that distinct strong flavor thanks to its high concentration of cocoa solids. It usually contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. On the other hand, the sweet and creamy taste of milk chocolate directly results from less concentrated cocoa solids and the addition of milk to the equation. Milk chocolate usually has 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk, and sugar.
Luckily, you can find a lot of chocolate ingredients in the market today. Just make sure you get your cocoa components from respectable and reputable stores. If you’re looking for a wide selection of cocoa ingredients for your dark chocolate mix, Santa Barbara Chocolate offers fresh and quality dark chocolate products made from pure cacao.
What are the Properties of Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate separates itself with its strong bitter flavor. Thanks to its high concentration of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, health experts suggest that it might offer more health benefits compared to its counterparts.
Cocoa components are a rich source of healthy plant chemicals such as flavanol, which is known as a chemical that helps protect the heart. Fortunately, dark chocolate has higher cocoa butter and cocoa solid contents. Thus, it can provide up to 2-3 times flavanol content when compared to milk and other types of chocolate in the market.
Flavanols may also support the endolethium with the production of nitric oxide (NO), which may help improve blood flow and control blood pressure. Aside from flavanols, dark chocolate is also a good source of Iron, Copper, Magnesium, and other helpful minerals.
Aside from the potential health benefits dark chocolate offers to the heart; other advantages may occur when consuming it.
- It may reduce the risk of diabetes
- It may lower blood pressure
- It may improve vision
Reduce the Risk of Diabetes
Flavanols in dark chocolates may have significant effects that might potentially reduce the risk factors of diabetes. Flavanols in dark chocolate may increase insulin sensitivity, which may significantly help minimize the risks of certain forms of diabetes in the long run.
Lower Blood Pressure
Experts found a stunning discovery about dark chocolate and its possible health-promoting contents. Along with a healthy lifestyle, flavanols found in dark chocolate may help control blood pressure thanks to the positive effects they had on our blood vessels. Flavanol also shows a huge potential for improving our body’s vascular system.
Improved vision is another interesting research involving the potential health benefits of dark chocolate. Experts suggest that diets with dark chocolate may positively affect one’s vision. The temporary boost in vision may last for up to 2 hours, but further tests need to be made before we draw a concrete line in any real-world application of its vision-enhancing benefit.
Can You Make Dark Chocolate Taste Sweet?
Some people steer away from dark chocolate because of its bitterness. However, chocolate makers have accepted the challenge and made dark chocolate more appealing to the masses by making it sweeter. And in some very positive situations, sweeter tasting perception while not increasing the actual caloric aspect of sweetness, but this is another story on innovation in chocolate making.
Dark chocolate has a high concentration of cocoa components, which increases the bitterness in its flavor. To tone down the bitterness in your dark chocolate, you’ll first have to answer the question, “how sweet do I want my dark chocolate to be?” The answer all depends on your taste preference and how you will prepare your dark chocolate.
Cocoa solids are the main driving force why your chocolate has that distinct bitterness. To give you a perspective, white chocolates usually have a minimum percentage of cocoa solids. On the other hand, milk chocolate ranges from 25% to 38% typically. Everything above the 45% mark is considered in the dark chocolate territory. However, there are still some considerations regarding the sweetness and bitterness factors in dark chocolates.
Chocolate makers consider dark chocolate with 50% to 60% of cocoa solids as semisweet dark chocolate. 61% to 69% is ranked as bittersweet dark chocolate, and anything above 70% is classed as bitter dark chocolate.
How To Make Dark Chocolate Sweeter
There are various ways to increase dark chocolate sweetness. You can enhance its sweetness factor by adding sweeteners. Another route is to reduce its individual flavor profile.
Mixing Dark Chocolates
One of the most common ways to minimize the bitter taste profile of dark chocolate is to blend it with other sweetened chocolates. As you know, cocoa solids are the main reason your dark chocolate is bitter. Adding cocoa butter to the percentage equation can significantly reduce the bitterness you’ll get from dark chocolate.
Changing the ratio of cocoa solids and cocoa butter significantly affects the overall taste profile of dark chocolate. Alternatively, you can mix white chocolate with your dark chocolate mixture. White chocolate has a rich concentration of cocoa butter thus, making the job perfect for replacing cocoa butter.
Adding sweeteners to a dark chocolate mix might be the most obvious way to enrich and satisfy your sweet palette. However, choosing the right one for the job might be one of the roadblocks you’ll experience when it comes to this approach.
It may sound daunting at first, but all chocolate sweeteners on the market do their job well. What you need to keep in mind is the process of how you mix these sweeteners to your dark chocolate properly.
First, you need to gently melt down your dark chocolate using a conventional double boiler. You can also use your microwave or the trusted pot or pan on the stove. These methods are all viable. Only make sure not to overheat your chocolate mix.
Once the dark chocolate is fully melted, you can now add your preferred sweetener to the mix. Periodically taste the mixture and slowly add the sweetener until you get your desired sweetness.
If you want an all-organic approach in your dark chocolate mix, you might want to look for dark chocolate sweeteners made from organic sugar such as coconut palm. Coconut palm sugar is known as one of the best alternatives to refined cane sugar. Order a set of organic dark chocolate sweeteners made from coconut palm sugar at Santa Barbara Chocolates.
Using granulated sugar as a dark chocolate sweetener might be the most logical approach in a typical household that wants to enjoy sweet-flavored dark chocolate. It is commonly used in any home, and it is relatively cheap compared to other options. However, you might see a couple of downsides when using granulated sugars.
Granulated sugars may change your melted chocolate mix's overall structure and texture. Your recipe might end up a bit grainy. Depending on how you would use your dark chocolate mixture, you may want to consider it before going down this route.
Sugar syrup is an easy alternative to granulated sugar. Thanks to its liquid form, it has minimal effects on the overall texture of your chocolate mix. You’ll also have the luxury of using sugar syrup in delicate dark chocolate mixes.
A medium consistency of sugar syrup, which is made with equal parts of water and sugar, will be the best approach to melted dark chocolate recipes. The result will tend to be a semi-plastic state ganache.
Honey is another popular sweetener you’ll often see inside a typical kitchen. Luckily, it is also one of the best alternatives for your dark chocolate mix.
Because of the unique sweetness of honey, it might drastically change the flavor profile of your dark chocolate mixture. You may also see a thicker blend if you add honey to your melted dark chocolate. But this mix works perfectly as a fondue.
Dark Chocolate Pairing: Additional Ingredients to Make it Sweeter
Controlling the bitterness and adding sweeter flavors to your dark chocolate mix will significantly improve its overall sweetness profile. A proper portion of chili pepper, fruits, wine, cheese, and sea salt flakes, will add depth to the strong bitter taste of dark chocolates.
A mix of dark chocolate paired with sweet fruits is a popular choice for platters. You have the freedom to choose to coat sweet fruits or simply serve melted dark chocolate on the side. This pairing adds a surprising depth of sweetness and bitterness to the mix.
Oranges, berries, peaches, and bananas are the perfect examples of fruits that blend well with dark chocolate. You can also try other sweet fruits and see how they pair with your dark chocolate mix.
Wine is always considered a fun choice when it comes to pairing with other food, and that includes dark chocolates. The key for proper wine-dark chocolate pairing is matching the bitterness of your chocolate mix to the intensity of your wine.
Sweeter dark chocolates will go well with light-bodied red wine. On the other end of the spectrum, the bitter your chocolate tastes, the bolder the wine you’ll need.
Cheeses like Ricotta
Cheese might not offer the sweetness you think but paired it with dark chocolate, and you’ll see the natural sweetness it provides to the overall mix—a higher concentration of dark chocolate mix pairs well with ricotta and gets a slight boost in sweetness while maintaining its intense flavor.
So, if you are looking for a natural way to make your dark chocolate sweeter, give some of these ideas a try. Experiment with different combinations and find what works best for you.