How Sweet it is
by Kathie Canning
Chocolate’s status as an indulgent treat makes it a natural
fit for rich dairy beverages and desserts.
|Did You Know…
| The Mayan Indians ground cocoa
beans and mixed them with water, black pepper, vanilla and spices
to create a beverage to shared during wedding ceremonies?(1)
Hot chocolate shops were popular in England during the 1700s?(1)
The first milk chocolate was created by Swiss candy maker Daniel
Peter in 1876 when he added condensed milk to chocolate liquor?(1)
Americans consumed more than 3 billion pounds of chocolate in 2002?(1)
22 percent of all chocolate consumption takes place between 8 p.m.
71 percent of North American chocolate eaters prefer milk chocolate?(2)
|Sources: (1). The National
Confectioners Association; (2). “The World Atlas of Chocolate,”
a Simon Fraser University Student Project, 2003
Few other foods are as tempting or satisfying as chocolate. As an ingredient,
it adds decadence to our dairy desserts, a sweet richness to our dairy beverages.
Moreover, chocolate is said to contain substances that increase brain activity,
contribute to a general sense of well-being and boost antioxidant levels.
Of course, chocolate and its cocoa cousin owe their existence to cocoa beans,
the fruit of the cacao tree. Whether transformed into a richly colored powder
or a smooth milk chocolate filling, the plain-looking beans serve as the source
of some of our most decadent and palate-pleasing foodstuff.
West Africa supplies the greatest number of cocoa
beans, accounting for more than half of the world’s production. Here,
the Ivory Coast is the leader, followed by Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.
Other major bean suppliers outside of West Africa include Indonesia and
“The best cocoa beans in the world come from the
Ivory Coast in Africa,” delivering the “richest, cleanest
flavor and the finest color,” says Rick Stunek, marketing director
for Cleveland-based Forbes Chocolate. “Brazil also produces some good
Although some smaller cocoa and chocolate suppliers
have begun to market products made from single-source beans, the majority
of suppliers offer a variety of bean mixes.
“Each mix of beans gives a different flavor
profile,” says Roberta White, marketing director for OCG Cacao U.S.,
Whitinsville, Mass., a business unit of Minneapolis–based Cargill
Inc. “That is why each cocoa producer has a unique flavor.”
Ivory Coast beans are known for their “very deep
chocolate flavor,” says Sylvie Morisset, new business development
manager for Barry Callebaut, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. Ghana beans
have a fruitier, more flowery taste, she says, while South American beans
tend to have smoky off-flavors.
Many suppliers are able to combine beans from
different cocoa-growing regions in varying proportions to deliver the exact
flavor profile the processor desires in the final chocolate product.
A Versatile Powder
Many a dairy product owes its chocolaty flavor to one
of a wide variety of cocoa powders available today. A number of
cocoa-processing factors, including bean origin and roasting, combine to
influence cocoa powder attributes.
To create a cocoa powder, processors first must clean
the beans well, removing all extraneous material. They usually remove the
shells before roasting the “nib,” which is the remaining
portion of the bean. The nib then is ground into cocoa
Most of the cocoa butter then is removed from the
chocolate liquor through a pressing process. The remaining cake, still
containing a varying percentage of cocoa butter, is broken into smaller
pieces to be sold as cocoa cake or ground into a fine cocoa powder. The
cocoa butter is filtered and sold for chocolate-making and other
Two basic types of cocoa are derived from the beans:
natural and alkalized. Alkalized or “dutched” cocoa is treated
with alkali to “bring out the best color and flavor of the
cocoa,” says Stunek. Although processors can alkalize either the nib
or the cake, the former produces the best cocoa for dairy applications, he
“Cake-alkalized falls somewhere in between
natural and nib-alkalized on the quality scale,” says Stunek.
“It can be confusing, but if you are looking to spec out the best
cocoa for your product, make sure to request nib-alk.”
To get a “rich, milk chocolaty taste,”
dairy processors are encouraged to choose a moderately alkalized cocoa
powder for both beverages and ice cream, says Mark Freeman, vice president
of sales for Wilbur Chocolate and Gerkens Cocoa, both Cargill subsidiaries.
“Sometimes a more highly alkalized powder like
Gerkens Garnet cocoa powder is used to produce a more intense dark
chocolate flavor,” says Freeman. “As a soft chip or variegate,
we often end up with natural powder to maintain the fruity, acidic note,
which is distinctive from the sweet ice cream base. Many of these products,
if eaten outside of the sugary ice cream complex, would be very bitter and
unpleasant. However, once they are incorporated into ice cream, they taste
Because cocoa does not dissolve, highly dispersible
products work better for dairy applications, says Stunek. “Alkalized
cocoa, particularly nib-alk, seems to have the best dispersion properties
for incorporation into milk and ice cream mixes, although almost all cocoa
will disperse eventually,” he says. “The nib-alk gives you more
bang for your buck. It delivers a better flavor/color combination than
other cocoas. This can be particularly important in chocolate milk where,
in many cases, the product is in a clear container that allows consumers to
’taste’ with their eyes.”
The fat content of a cocoa also matters, notes White. “Lowfat
cocoa powder works well in dairy drinks,” she says. “Dark chocolate and high-fat
cocoa powders work well in ice cream.”
Bill Ryan, vice president of confectionery marketing
for Milwaukee-based ADM Cocoa, a unit of Archer Daniels Midland Co.,
Decatur, Ill., says the majority of today’s ice creams contain an
alkalized cocoa with a fat content of 10 to 12 percent, although some
super-premium ice creams still incorporate cocoa with a higher fat content.
Specialized cocoa powders that contain lecithin are
“very handy” in dairy beverages, says Morisset, helping to
disperse the solids through the milk.
In addition, stabilizers such as kappa carrageenan
help prevent the cocoa particles from settling out in chocolate milk, and
gums also can improve product viscosity and mouthfeel. According to ADM
Cocoa, carrageenan reacts with milk proteins and cocoa particles to form a
three-dimensional network that holds the particles in suspension. Cocoa
powders with a relatively low alkalinity and pH will interact most
effectively with milk proteins in dairy beverage applications.
In dairy desserts such as puddings and mousses, the
desired texture and air content determine the type and amount of cocoa
powder to be used. The lighter the texture and the higher the air content,
the more concentrated the color and the flavor of the cocoa powder need to
be, reports ADM Cocoa.
The degree of cocoa alkalization is important, too.
For instance, in gelled desserts based on kappa-carrageenan, gel strength
decreases when cocoa powder is used. The decrease is minimal with lightly
alkalized cocoa powder, but with strongly alkalized powder, the gel
strength is significantly reduced. In this case, the carrageenan dosage
would have to be boosted or a more powerful gelling agent used to obtain
the desired gel strength, according to ADM Cocoa.
Proper storage is essential to maintaining cocoa
powder quality for later processing. “We definitely recommend an
air-conditioned environment,” says Morisset. “You don’t
want it too warm because (the cocoa) can contain high amounts of cocoa
butter and you don’t want the powder to cake or to develop
off-flavors. … It will absorb anything that’s around it because
it’s a high-quality fat.”
Moisture also can adversely affect product quality,
notes Stunek. “If you have a good (low-standard-plate-count) cocoa
powder to start with, it will last for years if it is kept dry,” he
The Real Thing — or Not
Varying forms of finished chocolate also are used in dairy applications.
To make chocolate, processors mix the cocoa liquor
with cocoa butter, sugar and, to create milk chocolate, different forms of
milk. The mixture is refined via rollers to improve its texture and then
conched, or kneaded under heat, to smooth it out. It then either is stored
or shipped in tanks, or it goes through a tempering process —
heating, cooling and reheating — to ensure lasting color and prevent
“fat bloom” before the product is molded into bars or blocks.
Variegates and inclusions destined for frozen dairy
desserts are more likely to be labeled as “chocolate flavored”
than “real” chocolate. Essentially, the cocoa butter is
replaced by vegetable oil to improve the eating experience.
“The cocoa butter in ice cream becomes very,
very hard,” explains Morisset. “So you blend your chocolate
with softer fats — vegetable fats like soybean oil or coconut oil
— and it makes it much softer to your palate.”
Chocolate variegates, or soft chunks, could be made
from pure chocolate to which vegetable oils have been added, says Morisset,
or could be created through compounding, “where you start with powder
and (add) some vegetable oils to make it whatever texture you need for your
Barry Callebaut currently is the largest soft-chunks
supplier for the ice cream industry, notes Morisset. “These chunks
are produced and stored and distributed in refrigerated storage to maintain
their solid state because they are made to be softer in ice cream,”
Freeman notes: “Real chocolate flakes have a
melt point near body temperature, so the eating quality is not great in the
ice cream. Wilbur Chocolate offers a number of soft inclusions that have a
lower melting point than real chocolate. These need to be kept at
near-freezing temperatures all the time.”
“Real” chocolate products best maintain their quality when stored
at temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees F, notes White. At that temperature
range, in a dry environment, the products should enjoy a shelf life of approximately
Chocolate remains the flavor of choice for flavored dairy beverages.
“Dairies have been improving the quality of the chocolate milk
they are producing,” says Stunek. This fact, combined with single-serve bottles
and strong marketing, have “helped boost sales of chocolate milk over a wide
variety of packaging,” he says.
Although vanilla is still the No. 1 flavor for ice
cream, says Stunek, chocolate is a “solid two.” In addition, he
says, chocolate is enjoying increased use as a base flavor for variegates
Ryan says: “We like to think that chocolate is
making some inroads,” noting that many people refer to dark chocolate
as “vanilla chocolate” because vanilla or vanillin often is
used to flavor it.
Although the U.S. population as a whole still prefers the milk
chocolate flavor, dark chocolate is gaining ground.
“Some regions of the country prefer dark
chocolate and others favor milk chocolate,” says Freeman.
“There are some parts of Western Pennsylvania and Ohio where they
prefer a very light milk chocolate. The Northeastern United States and the
Pacific Northwest including the San Francisco Bay area tend to favor the
harsher dark chocolate notes.”
Like wine or gourmet coffee aficionados, many
chocolate lovers are beginning to recognize different flavor components,
notes Freeman. As a result, he says, he is starting to see an increase in
requests for beans from specific regions.
Another trend, says Freeman, is the demand for more
and more chocolate in dairy products, particularly in ice cream.
“People want more inclusions, more gooey variegates and more
variety,” he says. “There are a lot of directions you can take
with chocolate — starting with dark, white and milk, looking at
Dutch, Swiss, Belgian, playing on double, triple and in forms of chips,
chunks and flakes.”
Processors not only are combining different forms of
chocolate to create decadent dairy desserts, but also are continuing to
introduce dairy desserts and beverages with complementary flavors that
further boost chocolate’s appeal. Although the traditional chocolate
companions — ingredients such as caramel, peanuts, marshmallow, malt
and mint — remain popular in the dairy arena, a few other flavors
also are proving worthy chocolate partners.
“There are some nutty top notes that are
interesting combinations in ice cream,” says Freeman. “One we
see gaining in popularity is hazelnut.”
Mocha, the coffee-and-chocolate combination, works
well in dairy applications and continues to grow in popularity, says
Stunek. “After chocolate, mocha is one of our most popular
flavors,” he adds.
“I think coffee and cappuccino-type flavors are
becoming popular for dairy beverages,” says Ryan. “Processors
are coming up with a lot of drinks that incorporate various flavors of
Fruit-and-chocolate blends also are trendy, but not all fruits
are created equal when it comes to chocolate dairy blends.
“Chocolate/cherry and chocolate/raspberry are natural combinations
that work extremely well,” says Stunek. “When it comes to fruit, the berry family
seems to work best with chocolate, while the citrus flavors are best avoided.”
A citrus top note, however, “can help a chocolate ice cream
stand out,” says Freeman.
Chocolate also is playing an important role in many of
the new ice creams that attempt to capture the flavors of s’mores,
tiramisu and other chocolate-containing dessert favorites.
Getting it Right
Ultimately, the type of cocoa or chocolate selected
will depend on the type of product the processor wants to create its target
market, says Freeman. In other words, the cocoa that works so well in a
chocolate-and-coffee concoction geared toward adults could spell disaster
in a milkshake destined for the under-10 set.
“There is a saying in the chocolate
industry that there is no such thing as a ’good’ chocolate or a
’bad’ chocolate — there is only chocolate which is
appropriate for one application and inappropriate for another
application,” says Freeman. “Working closely with your
chocolate and cocoa supplier’s technical staff can help you create
the perfect balance.”
Some applications require customized solutions, notes
Freeman. “We tend to work closely with our customers to develop
specific solutions to complicated needs,” he says. “Of course,
this year we have had a lot of interest in sugar-free and no-sugar-added
products. Wilbur has been making sugar-free chocolate for over 20 years and
can fashion a product to meet almost every need.”
In addition, says Freeman, Wilbur recently introduced
Two-Tone™ inclusions that combine a fudgy chocolate layer with a
colorful flavored layer. The products offer consumers a “fun
combination in every bite,” he says, adding that the most
popular version is a mint-and-chocolate combo.
OCG Cacao, which has a full range of chocolate, cocoa
powders and cocoa butter, also is able to “tailor-make”
products for its customers, says White. “We offer premium cocoa
powders and Belgian chocolate,” she says.
Forbes Chocolate not only offers a wide variety of
cocoa blends, but also gives dairy customers an easy way to meet
low-carbohydrate diet needs.
The company developed reduced-carbohydrate blends that provide “all the necessary
components for chocolate milk,” as well as other flavors, says Stunek. “All
the dairy adds is the milk.”
The chocolate giant Barry Callebaut recently came out
with a lactose-free milk-flavored chocolate for use in a wide variety of
applications, says Morisset. In addition, its Bensdorp brand introduced
chocolate “crystal” cocoa powder/sugar blends that do not
dissolve onto the water-based surface of frozen desserts such as tiramisu.
“It’s a new thing technology that was discovered by
accident,“ she says. “We have a milk and a dark
ADM Cocoa offers the De Zaan line of cocoa powders, which gives
dairy processors a wide range of color and taste-profile choices. According
to the company, its “expertise in processing and blending enables fine-tuning
of its cocoa products to meet most customer specifications and expectations.”
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