It is important to remember that different types of chocolate have been made in very different ways, and so they have very different tastes and uses. While some of them are interchangeable, others aren't, so it pays to take the time to get to know them and how they are made.
Once the cocoa beans have been roasted, dehusked and refined - creating a rich, dark river of chocolate - different things happen.
As a rule of thumb, the higher the cocoa solid, the less sweet it will taste.
Creamy Milk chocolate
To make Creamy Milk chocolate, Whittaker's adds milk powder and sugar to the chocolate liquor, but 33 per cent of the final product is still cocoa solids. This gives the chocolate a rich, sweet cocoa flavour with a creamy aftertaste. It's milder, gentler, and for this reason you shouldn't substitute milk chocolate for dark chocolate in recipes. In general, milk chocolate is intended to be eaten on its own, or is good for putting in recipes like chocolate-chunk cookies, when you want the chunks to retain their shape and their sweetness.
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All Whittaker's milk chocolate bars are made from Ghanaian cocoa beans, except for Milk Madagascar, which is a little different. It is made from beans sourced from Madagascar, which give the milk chocolate flavour notes of biscuit, honey and light citrus.
Dark chocolate has no milk powder: all you'll find in Whittaker's dark chocolate is cocoa solids, and varying amounts of sugar. The sweetest of them is the 50% Dark, which is bittersweet or semi-sweet - it has a good, robust, dark chocolate flavour. It is ideal for cooking: an all-round dark baking chocolate suitable for cakes, biscuits and slices. It will provide a fluffy texture, as well as a sweet, chocolate flavour.
In recent years, dark chocolate has become very popular, partly because it's healthier - higher cocoa solids have a higher level of antioxidants, and dark chocolate has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. Cocoa beans are actually a dark vegetable, which is a very good excuse to eat a bit of chocolate every now and then. But people also want variety and new flavours, so Whittaker's now produces a 62 per cent Dark Cacao and a 72 per cent Dark Ghana.
You can eat them, of course, and they're both excellent for baking as well. The 62 per cent Dark Cacao has a semi-sweet flavour and will give you a rich chocolate flavour; the 72 per cent Dark Ghana is the darkest and least sweet of all Whittaker's chocolates, and will give you a similar, yet slightly richer chocolate flavour. Use both for chocolate mud pies, mousses - anything where you want an intense chocolate flavour and are adding sugar separately to give you the sweetness.
But ultimately it's up to you. The 50 per cent, 62 per cent and 72 per cent chocolates all have a similar fat content, and so can be interchanged in the recipes you'll find in this book. It's all a matter of taste.
* Extract taken from the new Whittakers cookbook, A Passion for Chocolate, published by Random House. Available now, RRP $36.99.