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Bittersweet Chocolate

Asked by shimmer60. Answered on 4th July 2012

Full question

Hi, I am from Australia and I had thought that I could use dark chocolate for recipes using bittersweet chocolate. However today I saw Nigella use both! Please tell me what the Australian equivalent to bittersweet is? Thank you!

Hello, what is a semisweet chocolate? Do I have to find "semisweet chocolate" written on the pack or is it a dark chocolate with 60% cocoa? Thank you, Tavolla

Our answer

Dark or plain chocolate is chocolate made with cocoa solids, sugar and cocoa butter (or vegetable oils in cheaper chocolates). The quality of the chocolate is judged by the percentage of cocoa solids in the chocolate - the higher the better. Under the UK and Australian terms of "plain" or "dark" chocolate the proportion of cocoa solids varies quite a lot, though generally the minimum is 35% cocoa solids. In the US dark chocolate is usually divided into 2 categories - semisweet and bitterswet. Bittersweet has a higher proportion of cocoa solids (and hence a lower proportion of sugar) than semisweet so it tastes slightly more bitter.

Nigella, and may other cooks, prefers to cook with chocolate with a high proportion of cocoa solids as this chocolate tends to have a deeper flavour. Conveniently many of the better quality chocolates now have the percentage of cocoa solids printed on the packging (if it is not on the front of the packaging then look in the ingredients list). We would suggest looking for a dark/plain or bittersweet chocolate with a minimum of 62% cocoa solids and preferably with 70% cocoa solids.

It is possible to buy chocolates with higher percentage of cocoa solids (anything up to 99%), these are often labelled as "unsweetened" or "baking" chocolate. However we would avoid these for Nigella's recipes as they are quite bitter and could leave the finished dish tasting too bitter.

Dreamy, Creamy Peanut Butter Pasta

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