Chocolate: Real or Fake?
Before you buy that box of fun size chocolate bars for Halloween that you’ll probably consume well before, read this first!
Do you know the difference between real chocolate and fake chocolate? We all know that the big chocolate companies make bars that taste good, but are they using real chocolate? Are they using good-for-you chocolate?
Well, real chocolate is called couverture chocolate, and what makes it real is that it contains cocoa butter; it's the key thing that makes chocolate so mouth-watering. Since cocoa butter melts at a lower temperature than your body, it gives you that melt-in-your-mouth feel as soon as it hits your tongue.
Which is why, to find good chocolate, you should always check the cocoa butter content before anything else. How does one check the cocoa butter content you ask? Look at the underside of that bar and check its ingredients list. Cocoa butter should be the second or third ingredient on the list (cocoa mass being the first). The largest quantities are listed first and move in a descending order. Real chocolate needs rich cocoa butter on its ingredients list to produce that melt-in-your mouth texture chocolate lovers crave.
Real chocolate also uses cocoa mass as an important component. Cocoa mass is the stuff that gives your chocolate that chocolatey taste and the brown colour. Some producers use cocoa powder to substitute cocoa mass in order to reduce its price. Cocoa powder isn’t a bad ingredient, but nothing will ever beat the taste you get from chocolate that uses cocoa mass.
And because of the nature of cocoa butter, true chocolate requires a special procedure during the melting process called tempering, which re-establishes the cocoa butter crystals, giving the cooled and finished chocolate the proper sheen, snap and taste. Also, tempering prevents bloom, which happens when the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa solids and comes to the surface, leaving the chocolate white or gray in colour.
Good for you???
Can you believe that real chocolate has antioxidant potential and may have a range of health benefits? Eating real chocolate may lower cholesterol levels, prevent cognitive decline, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of cocoa, and so, in theory, the higher the level of antioxidants there will be in the bar. Amazing!
Now, let’s talk about that fun size chocolate bar. We’re not going to discuss how they get the caramel into that bar, or how fun it is to feel those bubbles of chocolate on your tongue, but we are going to talk about what kind of chocolate the big chocolate companies use.
They use something called compound chocolate. Compound chocolate contains vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter and tempering is not required. It can still use cocoa powder as the chocolate flavouring, but the fat comes from a source other than cocoa butter – typically vegetable oil. You might see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils such as palm, soybean or cottonseed oil listed on the packaging. These ingredients should send up red flags about the quality of the product. Compound chocolate also has a 45c degree melting point, which means it will never melt in your body, making it harder to digest and can raise your cholesterol.
So why do chocolate makers use vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter? It usually comes down to price and how easy it is to work with. Vegetable oil is much more cost-effective than cocoa butter and is much less temperamental during the manufacturing process.
So go ahead, purchase your fourth box of fun size chocolate bars, but don’t say we didn’t warn you!
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