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Friday, February 25, 2011

Chocolatey color

On a posting on industrially made champorado (Filipino chocolate rice porridge) at the Houston Press, I was struck by this comment:

"I would have enjoyed my bowl of champorado more had it not come from that pouch, however, as it was mostly quite bland despite its dark, rich color."

A lot of folks judge chocolate by its color; the necessary thought being that the darker it is, the richer the flavor should be. Well, not really. Chocolate is a naturally acidic product (perhaps as a part of the fermentation of the beans), which is why raw chocolate has a bit of an astringent edge to it. You may notice that the next time you taste very high percentage artisinal dark chocolates. Much of industrially made cocoa, however, has been through a Dutching process, where an alkali is used to neutralize the acids. This results in a mellowing of the flavor, improved solubility, and a darkening of the color. The more heavily a cocoa is Dutched, the darker it gets, but it also tends to diminish the flavor. 

Pictured above are two grades of chocolate, one a highly regarded brand, and the other more industrial. Despite the darker color of the industrial brand, it is actually less "chocolatey" than the lighter brand. When cooked, though, it confers an almost coal black darkness. 

I suspect that the pouched champorado chose to use a cheaper grade cocoa, which, upon heavy Dutching, will provide a deep color, while actually using less chocolate. I wonder if this trick is also used in other industrial chocolate products. 

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