Bakers Journal

Final Proof: Making intense dark chocolate delicious

March 6, 2023
By Jane Dummer

Consumers seek unique experiences, artisanship and storytelling about the cocoa origin of dark chocolate

Consumers are craving inventive options beyond the typical, sweet milk chocolate available in the market. PHOTO: baibaz / Adobe stock

With the increasing consumer focus on health and well-being, people are showing interest in high cocoa content dark chocolate. The pigment contributing to the dark colour contains antioxidants that impact both brain and heart health. Dark chocolate carries a rich and intense flavour. As a result, intense dark chocolate can be bitter and astringent, plus brittle in texture. Therefore, the sourcing and processing of the cocoa beans are necessary steps to create palatable ingredients and products. 

When it comes to chocolate, consumers continue to seek unique experiences, artisanship and storytelling about the cocoa origin, especially for dark chocolate. Darsh Mehta, product manager – chocolate, Puratos Canada explains: “Belcolade goes beyond typical industry standards to have a real impact on better health, better life and better planet. The living conditions of cocoa farmers, the inequality of value along the supply chain and the future of chocolate are all important matters to us. That is why Belcolade and Puratos developed the Cacao-Trace sustainability program. It starts by selecting a farming community and committing to buy 100 per cent of their cocoa beans at a premium price. We train farmers and work hand in hand with them to deliver wet beans of the highest quality.”

Mehta adds, “We also invest in local Post-Harvest Centers equipped with professional fermentation and drying equipment. There, the wet beans are fermented in an optimized process by well-trained master fermenters to deliver superior quality beans. The mission of Belcolade’s chocolate experts is to preserve the uniqueness and richness of these cocoa beans. They develop chocolate recipes and adapt the process methods to best enhance the natural distinctive flavour notes. This is possible thanks to the combination of Belcolade chocolate taste proficiency with the mastering of Cacao-Trace cocoa fermentation and overall fermentation expertise. Belcolade has added ingredients like fermented buckwheat in its ‘So’choc’ product which creates unique taste profiles for our customers.”

Intense dark chocolate offers a range of robust flavours that consumers want to experience. They are craving inventive options beyond the typical, sweet milk chocolate available in the market. Rachel Nicholson, executive pastry sous chef, Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, explains: “In 2016, we created our own dark chocolate with Cacao Barry in France. We wanted to showcase our property’s terroir. The base flavour notes are smoke, earth, leaves and berry. It’s very intense with a clean finish. Consumers’ palates are more educated now. There is an interest in where our food comes from. And people are taking more time to taste their food.” 


Nicholson says, “When we developed our Terroir Noir (LH Dark Chocolate) we had the intention to bring a more complex chocolate to the Canadian market. Most dark chocolate at that time was super sweet with little interest or flavour notes. The Terroir Noir is smoky and sour, with highs and lows on the palate. The ability to use dark chocolate has allowed the industry to cut back on sugars and to educate consumers about the flavours that they are experiencing. It’s a huge shift in the marketplace.” 

TJ Mulvihill, vice-president – marketing, North America, Barry Callebaut says: “Our data shows consumers are gravitating towards multi-sensorial experiences when it comes to baked goods. In the confectionery segment, one trend is dark chocolate tablets being combined with flavours like mint or orange to make the higher cacao content more palatable. Our Gertrude Hawk Ingredient products allow customers to extend this trend to the baking aisle. We offer miniature dark chocolate cups with fillings such as peanut butter, raspberry or mint. These products are used as inclusions in cookies or toppings on baked goods. They offer the intensity of dark chocolate while providing a multi-flavour and -colour experience, which is on trend today.”

Mulvihill adds, “Data from a proprietary research study we conducted in 2022 shows that 66 per cent of North American consumers find big chunks of chocolate appealing in a cookie. Irregular dark chocolate chunks are another great inclusion bakers can use to provide dark chocolate intensity to consumers while creating baked goods that appear more artisanal or ‘perfectly imperfect.’ ” 

Not too sweet and not too bitter, intense dark chocolate ingredients and products are offering unique taste experiences for bakers and bakeries to meet consumer demands.

Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.

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