Friday, March 20, 2009

A Few Words About Cheap Chocolate

The people who have been doing the grocery shopping where I work recently started buying el cheapo chocolate chips. I realize there is a budget and we must mind our food costs, particularly now that the cost of everything is now rising, but the cheap chocolate sucks big time.

Not a lot of people know this, but lots of times, in order to make a product cheaper and to give it a higher melt-point, companies remove the cocoa butter from chocolate and replace it with palm kernel oil - or another type of oil, but palm kernel is the one I've seen mostly. Your first clue that the chocolate isn't real is the name it's called on the package, like this one:

Notice how it says "chocolate flavoured baking chips" not "chocolate chips". That's because these chips aren't real chocolate, since the cocoa butter has been removed. Here is the list of ingredients:
You can't call something chocolate that isn't chocolate. Note that these chocolate chips are made with cocoa powder (also note, incidentally, that they misspelled vanilla - gr), which chocolate is made from but is not actually chocolate. France has laws about this stuff, you know!

Anyway, here are some of the downsides of using this kind of chocolate, which has a name: compound chocolate.

  • it's grainy on the tongue and lacks chocolate's smooth texture
  • it lacks flavour, or is too sweet
  • it doesn't pipe well at all
  • it actually sticks to pans quite a bit, as seen in this picture I took at work last week:

While this may not look dramatic to you, it actually is a pain in the ass because it makes de-panning muffins and cookies much more difficult. Unfortunately, I lost four muffins last week because the fake chocolate chips stuck to the pans and wouldn't release upon cooling (OK, it wasn't a complete loss; I got to munch on chocolatey muffins during my shift, but still...).

The moral of the story: if you have to pinch pennies when baking, do it with another ingredient, not with the chocolate!

18 comments:

Joie de vivre said...

Oh yeah, that barely has any cocoa in it! Eeww.

Pierce said...

I totally agree. There are just some things you can not scrimp on. I have gotten where I would rather do without than have a substandard ingredient on one of the really god foods. Like chocolate!

Dark is my favorite, how about you?

Wandering Coyote said...

Pierce: Dark is my preference, too! But not more than 60% cocoa solids. After that it gets too bitter.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I always use dark chocolate. a strange product...

Cheers,

Rosa

Donna-FFW said...

EWW, how odd is that! I usually buy Ghiardelli, Nestle, are those OK? On occassion, like for my cookie trays for Christmas or Easter, I will splurge and buy Valhrona. Wonder what they taste like straight out of the bag?

Wandering Coyote said...

Donna - FFW: those brands are OK, I think, but ALWAYS check the ingredients. If it says palm kernel oil or any other fat besides cocoa butter, it's not real chocolate.

Cathy said...

Gross....I'm eating a 67% dark chocolate Thomas Haas bar right now...it's divine (and not cheap, but once in awhile is okay).

And I've always read that chocolate is recession proof...that people will actually buy more in an economic slump so they can have a bit of a treat...doesn't make sense then to use some fake chocolatey product does it??

Elyse said...

Eww, there are some things in life worth splurging on, and chocolate is totally one of them!

Alyse said...

vanillin is chemically synthesized vanilla. same structure and flavor, just made in a lab

Wandering Coyote said...

Alyse: I did not know that! Thanks for letting me know. Now this chocolate is even worse than I thought - fake chocolate AND fake vanilla! Ack!

tshsmom said...

Totally agree!
I accidentally bought a bag of chocolate "flavored" chips once. The grainy texture made me gag! :(

It's weird, but here the chocolate "flavored" chips are more expensive than generic real chocolate chips. Our store's generic chips actually have a better flavor than Nestle or Hershey.

BTW, as Easter approaches, make sure to read the ingredient list on chocolate eggs and bunnies. The fake ones are repulsively inedible!

Alyse said...

Yeah it's something that I learned in Organic that made me smile. I really jut try to buy Nestle or Hersheys when I don't want to go find some really good chocolate to make into chips, it's like a $1 more and you aren't injesting synthetically made chemicals with no flavor!

Helene said...

I never buy cheap chocolate chips. Great post.

~3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

It's ironic how the people minding the budget will trip over a dollar to pick up a nickel. The loss of the 4 muffins probably cost them more than the difference in the chips. And there certainly id a flavor difference!

Wandering Coyote said...

Hey 3 Sides, and welcome! Yep, you're probably right. I have no idea what they sell those muffins for up at the shop, but still, four is a significant amount to lose.

The people doing the shopping, I should say, are not cooks or bakers. They just run the organization I work for, so they probably don't know the difference between real chocolate and this fake stuff. Mind you, they probably don't really care, either, because this is a non-profit and they're trying to do things as inexpensively as possible.

Emily Rose said...

yuck!! I hate how that stuff is so waxy feeling in your mouth- real chocolate melts so quickly but this stuff just turns into a gross grainy ball! eww! I agree- get the cheapo flour or something but don't scrimp on the chocolate!

Sarah said...

I hate the fake ones - but "vanillin" isn't a misspelling! It's the real name for artificial extract which coincidentally shares the majority of it's compond ingredients with turpentine. Yeuch!

Wandering Coyote said...

Hi Sarah! Yeah, a previous commenter alerted me to the vanillin thing. Shocking! I had no idea!

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin