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What makes a good chocolate?

The key things to look for are cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The more cocoa solids a chocolate contains, the deeper and more intense the chocolate flavor will be. The wrapping must list the quantity of cocoa solids; any containing less than 50 per cent has little real chocolate taste; one with 70 per cent or more will have a much stronger, finer chocolate flavor.

The amount of cocoa butter listed on the packet will also help you to determine the quality of the chocolate. The more cocoa butter the chocolate contains, the softer it is, melting more easily and having a unique, mouth-feel quality.

But there is a huge demand for cocoa butter for use in cosmetics, which makes it very expensive, and so vegetable oils are substituted for the real thing in cheaper chocolate, reducing the flavor. Cocoa butter does not have to be listed on the packet by percentage, but you can work out how much is present by its position in the ingredients list, since these are shown in order of volume. If vegetable oil comes higher on the list than cocoa butter, it is an inferior chocolate. However, this is just a general guide and it is not necessarily has to be that way.

As a general rule, the thinner and smaller the pieces of chocolate, the finer the chocolate will be. Another way of identifying good chocolate is how smooth it feels on the tongue. This is because high quality chocolate undergoes a longer period of conching, or stirring, while it is being made. Very fine chocolate with a superior flavor is expensive, but you do not have to use as much to get an intense chocolate taste, so it is a good idea to pay a little more for the best.

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