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D to G of Chocolate terminology

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Also known as sweet, semi-sweet, or bittersweet chocolate depending on the chocolate liquor: sugar ratio. An eating chocolate that contains 15% to 35% chocolate liquor plus cocoa butter, vanilla, lecithin as an emulsifier, and sugar or other sweetener.  When expressed as a percentage of cacao on a bar, dark chocolate has 50% or more cacao content.  Common percentages for semisweet are 54%, 60%, 63%, 68%. Percentages are based on the manufacturer’s preference and “recipe.” Percentages of 70% or higher are classified as bittersweet chocolate.

Criollo pods. Photograph courtesy of Amedei.Slitti LatteneroDARK MILK CHOCOLATE

A new category of chocolate which is milk chocolate with a higher than normal percentage of cacao, which gives these chocolates the deep flavor of a semisweet bar with the extra milkiness of a milk chocolate bar. Slitti, an Italian producer, makes a magnificent line called Lattenero (“dark milk”) in 45%, 51%, 62% and 70% cacao. The 70% bar, shown at right, looks as dark as any 70% cacao bar, but contains 2% milk solids so is actually milk chocolate. It has the milky flavor and smoothness without the sugary sweetness, because it is still 70% cacao, 27% sugar and 1% vanilla; whereas the 45% bar is a more traditional milk chocolate recipe with more sugar than cacao.


The finishing stage of creating a bonbon or praline, where special patterns, halved walnuts or other nut embellishment, piped gianduja, etc. are added to the tops of the chocolates.


A manufacturing process where the cocoa butter’s characteristic chocolate flavors are removed. While quality companies deodorize their cocoa butter to manufacture characteristic white chocolate, this process enables lesser companies to use poor quality and alkali-treated beans, which would produce unpleasant cocoa butter if not deodorized.


Chocolate made from beans from a specific locale. Also called origin chocolate and single origin chocolate.


The French word for diamond, refers to diamond-shaped chocolates.


Dragées (drah-ZHAY) are sugar-coated almonds, but technically they are almonds encapsulated in a hard-shell coating, which we call Jordan almonds. The almonds can also have a chocolate coating under the sugar. They are a popular wedding favor, representing good luck. The term is also used to describe (2) tiny, round balls of sugar, often coated with edible silver or gold, and used to decorate baked goods; (3) sweet medicated lozenges. The commonality is sugar-coated or sugared. In French, the word also refers to nonpareils and is slang for bullets (small shot). Dragée à la gelée de sucre is a jelly bean.


A sweetened cocoa powder used with milk to make hot beverages. It can take the form of shaved chocolate, tablets or discs rather instead of cocoa powder.

One of our favorite drinking chocolates is this Dulce de Leche-flavored cocoa from Schokinag. Click here for more information.


Dutching was invented by Coenrad Johannes Van Houten, a chemist in The Netherlands (hence the name, Dutching). In 1828, he patented an inexpensive process for pressing the cocoa butter from roasted beans, creating the press cake that is pulverized into cocoa.

Schokinag Dulce de Leche

Van Houten treated the nibs with alkaline salts (now potassium or sodium bicarbonate, a.k.a. baking soda—originally alkali potash) before they were roasted, to neutralize the natural acidity and bitterness of the typical cacao bean (today, the liquor can be treated prior to pressing). This creates a darker colored cocoa and leads most people to think that Dutched cocoa is more chocolaty. In fact, the alkali are a processing agent, not a flavor ingredient: The alkali changes the pH of the cocoa, neutralizing cacao’s natural acidity and making it milder in flavor than non-Dutched, natural cocoa (after Dutching, the pH may rise from 5.5 to 7 or 8). Dutched cocoa is also more soluble, which was the original intent of the process: Natural cocoa does not mix well with water. Because the pH is changed, you should not substitute these two types of cocoas without making some corrections. Especially in baking, leavening reactions may vary because of the change in the acidity. Note, however, that Dutched cocoa does not mean “the best cocoa.” Cocoa made from superior beans does not have the high acid and bitterness of typical Forastero beans used to make cocoa, and thus does not need to be Dutched. As a result, the inherent fruitiness and full flavor of the cacao bean can emerge. Fine bakers may choose un-Dutched cocoa from top manufacturers to bring out the best chocolate flavors in their baked goods. Scharffen Berger is one producer of top-quality un-Dutched cocoa. If you’re drinking cocoa for the flavanols (anti-oxidants), choose an un-Dutched product: Dutching destroys the phytochemicals.


Chocolate in bar or chip form—whether bitter or sweetened—that is made by adding cocoa butter to chocolate liquor.


Covering a chocolate, or the intended center of a chocolate like a ganache interior, with a thin layer of tempered (liquid) chocolate. This can be done by hand or by an enrober, a machine on which the centers (caramels, creams, ganaches, etc.) travel on a conveyer belt, are showered in liquid chocolate, and then pass through a cooling tunnel so the chocolate can set. Chocolates that are not enrobed are molded in metal or plastic molds.


Beans from a single plantation or hacienda.


Fair Trade ensures that farmers are paid fair value for their beans. This affords money for adult (instead of child) labor, sound agricultural practices and a minimum standard of living. It is a trademarked term authorized by TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization that audits transactions between U.S. companies offering Fair Trade Certified™ products and the international suppliers from whom they source. TransFair is one of twenty members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S. In the case of the greatest chocolatiers, Fair Trade is a moot point, because they are already paying top dollar to secure the limited supply of the world’s finest cacao beans.


See bloom.


It is during fermentation that the cacao beans start developing their flavors. Fermentation is a natural, post-harvest process that converts the sugars in raw cacao beans to alcohol, kills the germ, and develops the necessary elements that modify the composition of the beans so they will yield the characteristic flavor and aroma of chocolate during roasting. Depending on the country, fermentation takes place in baskets, wooden boxes or cylinders stored away from light. The beans need to be turned to ensure an even fermentation. Depending on the varietal, the fermentation process lasts from three days to seven days.


(Foy-yuh-TAY) Alternating layers of cooked sugar and praline.


(Foy-yuh-TEEN) A bonbon that that includes crisp layers of thin pastry (crepes dentelles).


The French words for cocoa bean.


Another term for bonbons. Filled chocolates have centers that are enrobed in chocolate (or filled using other techniques). Popular centers include candied fruit, caramels, creams (buttercream and whipped cream in a variety of flavors, liqueur creams), fondants, ganaches, gianduja, marzipan, nougat, and pralines.


The measurement of the average particle size of the cocoa solids in the chocolate. Finesse is expressed in ten-thousandths of an inch, or in microns.


Chocolate that tastes less lively. This happens when producers omit vanilla with the intent of enabling the cacao nuances to shine through.  Similar to adding salt when cooking, vanilla perks up the overall flavor of the chocolate mix.  Its absence can be noticed when the chocolate appears flat.


Flavanols are the antioxidants in cacao. There is a perception that the higher the cacao percentage, the higher the flavanol content; but actual levels of flavanol content may fluctuate widely depending upon the species and subspecies of bean, recipe, processing practices, and storage and handling conditions. Thus, “% cacao” does not necessarily indicate a similar flavanol content among chocolates of like cacao content. In addition, while scientists agree that cacao percentages higher than 75% are important to gain a beneficial concentration of flavanols, there has been no scientific determination of how much chocolate should be consumed to achieve health benefits.


A Criollo or Trinitario cacao—called a flavor cacao because it provides delicate flavor and finesse.


Couverture can be enhanced with flavor essences—e.g. anise, chile, cinnamon, coffee, lemon, liqueur, mint, orange, raspberry—have been added to the chocolate. This category also covers bars with inclusions such as dried fruit, nuts and cacao nibs.


There are several definitions for fondant: (1) The creamy, white crystalline filling for bonbons. Made of a sugar and water base, it can be flavored with anything that complements the chocolate bonbon shell—fruits, liqueurs, spices. e.g. the “liquid” of a chocolate-covered cherry is actually fondant. It is firm when wrapped around the cherry, but the juice from the cherry, when encased in the chocolate shell, causes the sugar in the fondant to liquefy. (2) Rolled fondant is a smooth covering paste for fine cakes that serves as both an elegant decor and seals in freshness. (3) A chocolate spread for bread and crackers is called fondant. (4) In France, fondant means dark or “pure” chocolate (milk chocolate is lait). When the smooth, velvety chocolate we know today was made possible by the invention of the conching machine in 1879, it was called fondant chocolate to distinguish it from what was then the norm.


The Forastero cacao varietal accounts for approximately 75% to 90% of the world cacao yield and is often referred to as “bulk beans.” An estimated 70% of the crop comes from West Africa, with Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Cameroon the predominant suppliers.  Forastero means “foreign” in Spanish. The species originated in the Amazon basin. The tree is much heartier, more adaptable, and more resistant to disease than the Criollo, but the flavor produced by the beans is not at the same level. The thick-skinned, pods yield flat, violet-colored beans, with high astringency. Forastero beans are much more bitter and require a longer fermentation period to remove the astringency. The flavor is strong and non-complex: the cacao is used to make most generic chocolate bars. However, there are some varieties known for their aromatic properties, such the Amelonado cacao of the lower Amazon region and the Nacional cacao of Ecuador. In fact, Nacional cacao is sometimes regarded as an entirely different subgroup and is considered a flavor cacao which is widely sought after for its unique subtlety. (See Trinitario for a photo of a Forastero cabosse.) Forastero trees grow in all chocolate growing regions: Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Pacific Rim. See Theobroma cacao for more information.


Beans that are cultivated among a diverse ecosystem of indigenous rainforest plants, rather than clearing the land, so that that some of the world’s most vulnerable and biodiverse environments are preserved.


The French word for raspberry, it also refers to a bonbon with a raspberry filling—crème, ganache or raspberry liqueur.


Of the three styles of bonbons—Belgian, French and Swiss—French chocolates have a thinner shell of chocolate. While some are molded into shapes, the original style was hand-dipping (enrobing) rather than molding, which originally accounted for the thinner style. (All chocolates were hand-dipped until Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented molding in 1912.) French chocolates focus on ganache enters—chocolate and cream either plain, infused with another flavor (coffee, orange, raspberry, Cognac) or praliné, with a nut (generally hazelnut, pistachio or walnut).


Information from The Nibble

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D To G Of Chocolate Terminology