It's another Taste-Test Thursday, and today we're exploring the world of semisweet chocolate chips. In order for chocolate to be considered dark (which includes semisweet, bittersweet, and bitter), the U. S. Food and Drug Administration states that it must be at least 35% cacao. What does that mean anyway? All chocolate, chips and bars alike, are made up of three main ingredients: cocoa butter, cocoa solids, and sugar. The cocoa butter and cocoa solids must make up at least 35% of the total. There's a little bit of vanilla and salt (generally) and in the case of chips, soy lecithin which is an emulsifier. The soy lecithin helps keep the cocoa butter and the cocoa solids together so the chips hold up and don't melt in baked goods.
Three different brands, ranging in cacao percentage from 43 to 49, were sniffed, melted on the roof of the mouth for texture, and tasted.
We tried them on their own and then in muffins. Here are our conclusions:
We began by tasting just the chips. As far as taste and texture go, our tasters preferred number 2 which was a national brand with 43% cacao. The chips were sweet, but not too much, and had real chocolate flavor. Number 1, a store brand at 49% cacao, came in second. and a fairly upscale brand came in third.
And in chocolate chip muffins (we used a recipe from my pal and colleague Nick Malgieri's latest book, "Bake!"), the conclusion was the same. Number 2 was the favorite, and it shined in the muffin, neither overpowering nor fading into the woodwork. All in all, very interesting.