Selecting Chocolate

Charles Niedermyer II, chef instructor at Pennsylvania College of Technology, shares valuable ideas for cake decorators wanting to elevate their creations with gourmet chocolate. “Selecting chocolate is critical to success,” he says. “In terms of purchasing chocolate, there are important factors to consider.”

First, you want a versatile chip or chunk that is lower in cocoa fat and higher in solid content. These types are designed not to melt and hold shape well, he advises.

You also want to purchase a European-style chocolate blend, with a higher percentage of cocoa butter. This is often referred to as couverture chocolate.

“61 percent — that’s the new dark chocolate,” Niedermyer says of the hottest new chocolate trends.

The percentage on the package only represents the amount of cocoa mass. It doesn’t tell you how much cocoa butter is inside. The one thing that is consistent when looking at the percentages is sweetness.

“38 percent is a spectacular milk chocolate,” Niedermyer says. “What’s emerging now is dark milk chocolate.”

How to Taste Chocolate

Tasting is not the same as eating. It’s all about focusing and paying attention. Barry Callebaut recommends using all of your five senses to experience the chocolate:

  1. Look – Put the chocolate on a well -lit white paper or tablecloth to look at its appearance. Pay attention to color, the intensity (strong or weak), and the hue (shade of red/mahogany, yellow, grey, violet)
  2. Touch – How does it feel in your hand? Close your eyes and rub the chocolate in between your fingers, checking for finger-sensitivity (soft or hard), melt-in-hand (slow or fast), and the hardness
  3. Listen – Once again, close your eyes. Snap the chocolate to check for a clear or dull sound
  4. Smell – Rub the chocolate in your hand and bring it to your nose for several sniffs. Discover the aromatic notes, the complexity (low, medium, or high), and the intensity (strong or weak) of it
  5. Taste – Finally, the best part. Barry Callebaut suggests pinching your nose while you bite and let it melt, in order to discover the basic tastes. Next, release your nose and take a deep breath. Finally, move the chocolate against your palate and chew, to explore the mouthfeel. In between chocolate, drink water to cleanse the palate
     

 
 
Earlier this year, Barry Callebaut introduced a tasting guide to help chocolate professionals and consumers to understand and express the richness of chocolate taste. 
 
“Hidden Persuaders in Cocoa and Chocolate: A Flavor Lexicon for Cocoa and Chocolate Sensory Professionals” was developed through extensive research by scientists from Barry Callebaut and leading global flavor house Givaudan. The inspiration for the book came from what has been previously created for wine, coffee. and craft beer categories.

Additionally, Barry Callebaut has developed the Consumer Chocolate Sensory Wheel. With 87 descriptors covering the flavor, texture, and aroma of chocolate, it enables professionals and consumers to discover new dimensions of chocolate experience through the five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste.