Halloween will be upon us before we know it and chances are you've already seen the rows of Halloween candy filling up your grocery store shelves.
We won't go into all the various ingredients in your typical Halloween chocolate bars, but suffice it to say, the list can be long! As you consider your own favourite chocolate treat, and if you're reading this blog post, it's more than likely you look for specific indicators of quality, particularly that pertaining to the percentage of dark chocolate making up each bar.
But What does that Cocoa Percentage Really Mean?
As a handy point of reference, consider that most of the standard, conventional chocolate confections found en masse lining grocery check stands is milk chocolate. This means they are made with only about 10 per cent cacao and 12 per cent milk solids, giving it a rich, creamy taste but with the help of a lot of milk and sugar. Rarely, if ever, is the cacao percentage ever identified on milk chocolate products.
This is important to note when you are shopping for a quality chocolate. Cacao percentage is vital in indicating the quality and taste than simple descriptors such as milk, semisweet, or bittersweet.
As you ponder the options for Halloween treating this year, here's a bit of a guide to help you make healthier choices for all those ghosts and goblins who'll be visiting.
So, What is Cocoa Percentage?
This number identifies how much of a chocolate bar is made of the actual cacao bean. This typically means that the bar contains no dairy product, as compared to milk chocolate, and includes in the list of ingredients cacao beans or chocolate liquor (pure cocoa mass in solid or semi-solid form, produced from cacao beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted, and separated from their skins) and the cacao butter (the naturally occurring fat in the cacao bean).
What will be left beyond the percentage identified on the label is whatever fillers or flavours the chocolate maker has added. Often some degree of sweetener as well as potentially vanilla, dairy, soy lecithin, vegetable oil, etc.
In the case of a Wild Mountain Chocolate bar, outside of our flavoured bars such as Mint, Orange, and Caffe Mocha which contain only natural flavours, we limit our additional ingredients to simply organic cane sugar.
What is the Cacao Percentage of Dark Chocolate?
Essentially, the higher the cacao percentage in chocolate the closer to the source and the more bitter it is. This explains why unsweetened chocolate, that containing 100 per cent cacao is called bitter, or bakers, chocolate and typically used primarily for baking.
Semisweet chocolate contains at least 35 per cent cacao, though more likely around 55 per cent, with some added sugar but no dairy.
Cacao contains nutritious flavonoids, antioxidants that are known to provide heart-protecting, anti-inflammatory, brain-boosting, mood-lifting properties. The more cacao a bar contains, the more flavonoids it has, with less room for additives.
The higher the cacao content the lower the sugar content. If you buy a dark chocolate that is “70% cacao” it has 70 per cent cacao solids and cacao butter and approximately 30% sugar. Our Caffe Mocha bar, for instance, with the delicious addition of organic coffee beans brings the cacao content down to 56%.
We know that a high cacao content chocolate doesn't necessarily mean a better tasting bar than that with a low percentage. After all, chocolate, like wine and other fine foods, varies by the individual palate.
This is especially true when it comes to kids. But, with more exposure to the healthier cacao alternative, it doesn't take long for the appreciation for flavourful, bold ever darker chocolate to take hold!
Introduce your trick-or-treaters to the healthier alternative of a high cacao content chocolate like Wild Mountain Chocolate this year... they'll be coming back for more!