The Ultimate Chocolate Glossary: B


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A solid chocolate, without sweetening, made from 100% cocoa liquor. Historically, this type of chocolate was used solely in cooking and baking. With the more recent interest in darker and darker chocolate, however, some manufacturers, especially small-scale producers, are offering this type of product as an eating chocolate.

“Baker’s chocolate” seems like a generic term, but it is a brand. Around 1764 or 1765, John Hannon (alternatively spelled as Hannan) and Dr. James Baker began importing cacao beans and producing the first chocolate in the American colonies, in Massachusetts. After Hannon’s death, his widow sold the company to Dr. Baker, and it was renamed Baker Chocolate Company. That company remains in existence to this day, though it is now owned by the food giant Mondelez International. Baker’s Chocolate is the oldest trademarked brand in the United States.

Baking chocolate purchased in grocery stores is typically made with the poorest quality cocoa beans. There is an assumption by the chocolate companies that the chocolate will be mixed with other ingredients that will mask the flavor of the inferior quality beans.


From the French. Literally, “Mary’s bath”. A pan of food is placed in or over another, larger pan filled with simmering water. Because the food is not placed over direct heat, it does not scorch or burn so easily. This is a time-tested method for melting chocolate, which is particularly susceptible to scorching when heat is applied to it.


In 1912, Jean Neuhaus, grandson of the founder of Neuhaus Confiserie et Chocolaterie, developed the first bite-size filled chocolates. When these were purchased, they were placed in paper cones. All too often, the chocolates were scratched or crushed in transit. Neuhaus and his wife, Louise Agostini, recognized the need for protective packaging for their delicate creations. Together, they designed an elegant box with structured components that would protect the chocolates. These boxes, still in use today, are ballotins.


From the French. Literally, “stick”. A baton is a specialty-size portion of chocolate, sometimes placed in baked goods such as croissants. It is named after its shape, a narrow bar that resembles a stick in appearance.


The source of all cocoa powder and chocolate, beans are the seeds of the tree Theobroma cacao. Typically, between 20 and 40 flat, almond-shaped beans grow in a pod, which can be more than a foot long. Manufacturing chocolate from beans is a laborious process requiring multiple steps, including fermentation, drying, roasting, grinding, and conching. Historically, chocolate manufacturers have purchased beans from brokers in the beans’ country of origin. More recently, some small-scale producers have broken with that tradition, purchasing beans directly from growing cooperatives or even individual farmers.


The term for a manufacturer who makes his or her own chocolate, beginning with’the selection of raw cocoa beans and continuing through the many steps necessary to achieve finished chocolate. The alternative is to purchase couverture chocolate made by someone else, often a large-scale manufacturer. Bean-to-bar has become very popular among small-scale manufacturers who seek change in everything from ingredients (and how they are sourced) to aroma, mouthfeel, flavor, and aftertaste of the finished product.


Although many people divide chocolate into Belgian, Swiss, or French “style”, there is no Belgian style per se. Fine chocolate is made in Belgium, certainly, but equally fine chocolate is made in many other areas of the world, too. As with any food, the chocolate you like is a matter of personal preference and what you grew up with.


Another term for Baker’s chocolate or unsweetened chocolate.


There is no legal definition of bittersweet chocolate in the United States. Semisweet chocolate must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor by weight, with a maximum of 12% milk solids. Typically, bittersweet chocolate contains more chocolate liquor and less sugar than does semisweet; in addition, neither semisweet and bittersweet usually contain milk solids. There are people who consider a 70% chocolate liquor content the minimum for bittersweet, but that is personal judgment. Bittersweet chocolate has become increasingly popular in the US over the past couple of decades, partly because darker chocolate, known to be higher in antioxidants, is considered “healthy”, and partly because consumers are recognizing that chocolate doesn’t necessarily need a lot of sugar to be pleasing.

This glossary would not have been possible without the kind assistance of my good friend Karen Hochman who runs the website: The Nibble. Karen gave us permission to base our chocolate glossary on hers. TheNibble is one of the Internet’s greatest resources for food articles, reviews, history, and just about anything when it comes to quality food. Please, if you have a few moments, visit my friend Karen’s website and you’ll be amazed at what a valuable resource it is. Thanks for all your help Karen!

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