Dark chocolate romance

Treat your sweetie (or yourself) to one of our four bittersweet desserts

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All about chocolate

Bean variety and origin: Most chocolate is made from a blend of cocoa beans from all over the world. Forastero, the base bean of most blends, is grown in Africa, Brazil, and Asia; it makes up 90 percent of the world's cocoa supply. Now, however, some premium chocolates specify bean variety and origin. Two prestigious tree and bean varieties: Criollo, a prized bean from South and Central America and Southeast Asia; and Trinitario (a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero), originally from Trinidad but now grown in other regions too, such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia.

Percentage of cacao: Indicates the amount of cocoa mass (or chocolate liquor) plus cocoa butter (the natural fat in the cocoa bean). The cocoa mass itself is naturally made up of about half cocoa butter and half dry cocoa solids, but since the ratio varies among beans, two brands labeled 70 percent cacao may not have the same percentage of cocoa butter. One factor that is consistent, however, is that most of the remaining content is sugar, so the higher the cacao percentage, the less sugar in the chocolate.

Bittersweet chocolate: Often called dark chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate must contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor, and many brands now far exceed that. These chocolates (mostly in the 60- to 75-percent range) have intense flavor and, as the name implies, are not very sweet.

Semisweet chocolate: Often labeled dark, sweet chocolate. FDA identification standards don't distinguish between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate, but generally semisweet is slightly sweeter and has a little less intense chocolate flavor.

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