Chocolate comes in all shapes and forms. For baking, you can buy unsweetened cocoa powder; bars of unsweetened, semisweet, and sweet chocolate; and, chocolate chips or pieces.
In the candy aisle, you’ll find “designer” chocolates, which have a higher percentage of cocoa butter, as well as the everyday chocolate bar. These days chocolate bars are flavored with everything from nuts to fruits, and even with bacon or salt.
Here are the most common types of chocolate you can buy:
Unsweetened chocolate: Primarily used in baking, unsweetened chocolate is just cocoa powder and cocoa butter with no sugar at all.
Dark chocolate: There are several types of dark chocolate—bittersweet, semisweet, and sweet—whose names suggest a range of sweetness, but there are no established rules for labeling based on sugar content. Bittersweet and semisweet can be quite similar. Sweet chocolate is the sweetest of the three. Dark chocolates can be eaten on their own or used in cooking and baking. Depending upon the manufacturer, sweet chocolate is generally molded into bars. Semisweet and bittersweet chocolates are also available in bar form, but the bulk of commercially available semisweet chocolate is in the form of chips and pieces.
Milk chocolate: This type of chocolate contains cocoa, varying amounts of sugar, milk powder, and flavorings such as vanilla, which are all blended with cocoa butter to give it its creamy texture and sweetness.
White chocolate: This chocolate contains no cocoa solids and is made from cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and added flavorings. Because it contains no cocoa powder, the FDA states it is not real chocolate.
Coating chocolate (dipping chocolate, couverture): Sold in bars, this chocolate usually contains a minimum of 32 percent cocoa butter, which enables it to form a thin shell when used as a coating for candies. Unlike regular chocolate, which requires tempering (a melting and cooling process by which chocolate is stabilized), coating chocolate can just be melted and used as is for making and coating candies.
Liquid chocolate: These packages of pre-melted chocolate are a mixture of cocoa powder and vegetable oil. Because liquid chocolate is made with vegetable oil rather than cocoa butter, it doesn’t taste strongly of chocolate and according to the FDA is not considered real chocolate.
Cocoa powder: This is the general term for the portion of chocolate liquor that remains after most of the cocoa butter has been removed by a process that presses the chocolate liquor to extract the butter. The paste that results from this pressing is then cooled, ground, and sifted. Cocoa powder is sold unsweetened. Dutch process cocoa is cocoa powder that is treated with alkaline compounds to neutralize the natural acids. It is slightly darker in color and milder in flavor than natural cocoa.
Cocoa mixes: Cocoa mixes that you make into hot chocolate contain sugar and sometimes other ingredients.