The Ultimate Chocolate Glossary: M


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A sugar substitute derived from malt extract. This sugar alcohol provides the most natural sweetness in sugar-free chocolate. It is pricier than other sugar substitutes and is used in finer-quality sugar-free chocolates. Like all sugar alcohols, maltitol can cause gastric distress if too much of it is ingested.



The fourth-largest island in the world, Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean, about four hundred kilometers off the east coast of Mozambique. It is a well-established growing region for cacao. The cacao from Madagascar is often noted for a number of flavor elements, among them citrus, pineapple, raspberry, and raisin. Spice, cedar, and woody notes are also commonly used to characterize this cacao. As always, however, flavor can vary, depending upon plantation, bean genetics, fermentation process, etc.



A classic bonbon, with a white, milk, or dark chocolate shell filled with buttercream and topped with a walnut half. Some chocolatiers place the walnut half inside the Manon.



A cacao bean, usually considered Criollo, grown near the banks of Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela’s Sur del Lago region. These beans are shipped from the port of Maracaibo, hence the derivation of their name. Beans from this region, though not especially complex in nature, are noted for a very smooth consistency with a delicate flavor along the lines of sweet spices, gentle woody hints, and occasionally slight undertones of red fruits. Note that there is a great variety in the types of cacao grown in this region, including a significant amount of the prized Porcelana, so flavor will vary according to the type(s) grown on any particular farm.



The French term for chestnuts candied in a particular fashion. Pronounced mah-RAWN glah-SAY. Chestnuts that have already been cooked are candied in a vanilla-flavored glucose syrup in a complex, time-consuming process.



The term “marzipan” is often used interchangeable with almond paste, but the two are not the same. Marzipan is made from almond paste with added sugar and glucose syrup. As a result, marzipan is sweeter than almond paste. Marzipan is often formed into figurines or fruit shapes and covered in chocolate or colored with vegetable dyes; the latter can be remarkably realistic in appearance. Marzipan was originally used to cover wedding cakes before they were iced or covered with a layer of fondant; in some European recipes, marzipan is still used as the sole covering for a cake.



Another word for the nib of the cacao bean.



These traditional French confections are discs or bars of chocolate studded with nuts and dried fruits. Typically, in a chocolate bar containing dried fruits/nuts, the idea would be to have those ingredients completely covered by the chocolate, but in a mendiant, these additions are meant to be seen; they add appeal to the otherwise uniform appearance. Mendiants are sometimes made in large slabs and broken into smaller pieces, like bark. Mendiants can be made with dark, milk, or white chocolate. Legend has it that the colors of the dried fruits and nuts used referred to the colors of the monastic robes of various orders of monks. The word mendiant is French for “mendicant” or “beggar”.



Available in bars or tablets, Mexican chocolate is usually a sweet, dark chocolate designed specifically for drinking. The cacao nibs are ground, then mixed with sugar, almonds, cinnamon, and lecithin, giving this chocolate a special flavor; some versions include nutmeg and/or ground cloves, as well. The Aztecs made a drinking chocolate with similar ingredients. The texture of the bars or tablets is coarser and grainier than that of many other chocolates.



In 1879, Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer, decided to attempt to add the powdered milk invented by his neighbor, Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé, to chocolate liquor (previous attempts to add whole milk or cream to the liquor had ended in failure). It was a success. These days, milk chocolate still uses chocolate liquor, condensed or powdered whole milk, sugar or some other sweetener, cocoa butter, and flavorings (such as vanilla); lecithin is often added as an emulsifier. Some milk chocolate has extra cocoa butter added to become couverture.

In the US, milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor by weight, as well as at least 12% milk solids by weight. While mass-market manufacturers continue to produce milk chocolate that just meets or barely exceeds these standards, some higher-end producers are realizing the appeal of dark milk chocolate, milk chocolate that contains a considerably higher proportion of chocolate liquor than is mandated.

Milk chocolate cannot always be used interchangeably with dark chocolate or white chocolate in recipes. It is frequently used in desserts, pastries, and confections, and good-quality milk chocolate is a joy to eat out of hand.

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 best 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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