The US Food and Drug Administration has spelled out the standards necessary to distinguish the many different types of chocolate, defining key ingredients that must be found in each batch for it to qualify as one type or another.
Milk Chocolate: The Favorite Choice for Eating Chocolate
This sweet mixture must contain at least 10 percent chocolate liquor and 12 percent milk solids to be identified officially as “milk” chocolate. Other ingredients include sweeteners and cocoa butter.
The only fats found in milk chocolate should come from the cocoa butter and milk. Despite its popularity with consumers, this type of chocolate is seldom used for baking except in a few cookie recipes.
Milk chocolate is commonly used in different beverages as well. Chocolate milk is often made with milk chocolate, as well as certain alcoholic beverages and, of course, the famous New York Egg Cream.
Dark Chocolate: A Collection of Varieties of Chocolate
Chocolate deemed “dark” is often semi-sweet or sweet chocolate. Dark chocolate isn’t officially defined by FDA standards, but semi-sweet and sweet versions are, and both are referred to as dark chocolate.
Semi-sweet, or bittersweet chocolate, contains cocoa butter, sugar and chocolate liquor. At least 35 percent of the mixture must be chocolate liquor, while the fat content can vary between 30 and 35 percent.
Sweet chocolate gets its name because it has less chocolate but more sweeteners than semi-sweet chocolate. This variety must be at least 15 percent chocolate liquor.
White Chocolate: Lacking Chocolate Liquor
White chocolate is made in a similar fashion to milk chocolate, with cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and emulsifier. No non-fat ingredients from the cocoa bean are including, leading to the treat’s off-white color.
This chocolate is delicious in making desserts like chocolate mousse and panna cotta.
Baking Chocolate: A Confusing Title
Many chocolates are labeled for baking, but what exactly are they? The FDA does not have guidelines for what varieties can be labeled baking chocolate, so you may find baking chocolate on the shelf that’s unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet, and baking-resistant chocolate—meaning, less cocoa butter is added to slow the melting process.
If you get confused in the baking aisle of your supermarket, go back to the specific recipe you are recreating. A recipe for baked chocolate goods that calls for melting chocolate may be better with a chocolate with more cocoa butter.