For many consumers, chocolate is synonymous with indulgence. Not only does chocolate turn an ordinary dessert into what’s known as a “twofer” — two indulgences in one — but depending on the source of the chocolate, the baked good might also upgrade to a “threefer,” as some chocolate ingredients deliver ­additional benefits.

Understanding cocoa

To take full advantage of chocolate’s benefits, it’s critical to first understand where it comes from. Before it is chocolate, it’s the bean of the Theobroma cacao tree growing in tropical climates such as Africa, South America and Southeast Asia (see “Cacao? Cocoa?” on Page 60). Cocoa beans vary by region of growth, variety and methods of harvesting, fermenting and processing into cocoa, chocolate and chocolate-containing ingredients.

In the US, the federal Standard of Identity for chocolate requires the use of chocolate liquor, the solid or semi-plastic mass prepared from cocoa nibs, which come from cured, cleaned, dried and cracked cocoa beans. They are the source of cocoa butter, which many in the confectionery world consider the gold-standard fat thanks to a chemical configuration that allows it to be solid at room temperature yet melt in the mouth.

Cocoa powder, a bakery staple much like flour and sugar, is what remains of the cured, cleaned, dried and cracked cocoa beans after cocoa butter is extracted.

“In a recipe, a small percentage of cocoa powder has a dramatic effect on the two most important characteristics of baked goods: color and flavor,” said Courtney LeDrew, marketing manager, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, Lititz, PA. “The many types of cocoa powder available on the market allow bakers to distinguish themselves.”

For example, Cargill’s dark range of dutched cocoa powders combines an intense dark color with a smooth, chocolaty taste. It comes in low- and high-fat versions, making it suitable for a range of baked goods.

“Its smooth taste means there is no need to use ­sugar to mask the bitterness often associated with darker powders,” Ms. LeDrew said. “This is a potential benefit to develop recipes with less sugar.”

Another of the company’s dark red-brown cocoa powders delivers intense flavor and rich color at low usage levels. This helps bakers cut costs without affecting quality by allowing them to use smaller quantities to achieve the same or sometimes even better results than conventional cocoa powders.

Confectionery chocolate

“Real” chocolate ingredients are all about the cocoa butter, inherently present in the chocolate liquor, which is the basis of all chocolate formulas in the US. For example, chocolate liquor is about half cocoa butter, so with dark chocolate products that rely on large quantities of chocolate liquor, a nominal amount of extra cocoa butter might be added to the formula. With milk chocolate, much more cocoa butter is added, along with milk powder or milk crumb. The amount of cocoa butter added depends on desired flow characteristics and rheological properties.

Because cocoa butter is an expensive ingredient, real chocolate is an economically challenging ingredient. To work around this, many bakers turn to ­chocolate-flavored compounds that can be transformed into chips, coatings and fillings. Such compounds — termed confectionery coatings or compound coatings — are made with vegetable fats chosen to mimic cocoa butter’s highly desirable characteristics, along with other functional ingredients such as milk solids.

“Historically, compound chocolate-flavored coatings have relied on nonfat milk solids in combination with other ingredients to deliver a product comparable to real chocolate,” said Tara Russell, vice-president of marketing and sales, Idaho Milk Products, Jerome, ID. “It’s now possible to bring the cost of non-­standardized chocolate coatings down even further through the use of milk permeate powder.

“Our milk permeate powder functions as a replacement for nonfat milk solids without sacrificing performance, texture or taste,” Ms. Russell said. “Cocoa powder is still part of the formula. The only thing that changes is the swapping of nonfat milk solids with milk permeate powder, which contains flavor potentiators and milk minerals to better enhance chocolate flavor, all at a lower cost.”

Laura Bergan, senior marketing manager, Barry Callebaut, Chicago, said, “Our chocolate-

flavored compounds offer processing flexibility yet still provide the indulgent taste and texture of real chocolate. The compounds offer resistance to bloom and withstand high temperatures during distribution while offering a less-expensive option versus standard dark, milk or white chocolate.”

In addition to being flavored chocolate, compounds come in varying colors, from white to very dark. They can also have extra layers of flavors, including caramel, cherry and coffee. Compounds can be melted and used for dipping, drizzling and enrobing. They are also formed into inclusions, such as chips. These are great options for food manufacturers when developing seasonal items, limited-time-offering options or just fun and unique flavors and colors to excite consumers.

For clean-label formulating, suppliers offer chocolate-flavored compounds made with non-­hydrogenated fats and products free of trans-fatty acids. Compound coatings made with sustainable ingredients are also gaining momentum, with clean-label compounds available for coating and inclusion applications. “We now offer coatings based on sustainable palm oil, which is gaining momentum in the US and Canadian markets,” Ms. Bergan indicated.

“One of the key benefits of most compound coatings is the lack of need for expensive tempering equipment,” Ms. Bergan added. “However, some coatings made with non-hydrogenated fats do require additional and more rapid cooling compared with similar products made with hydrogenated fats. This can typically be overcome by good air-flow during the cooling process.”

The ‘better for’ platform

Today’s informed consumer recognizes that “better for” positioning means much more than just the better-for-you angle. It includes better for the planet, better for the farmer and better for generations to come. For example, chocolate ingredients that reflect an ethical position such as being fairly traded (which indicates the farmer was paid a fair price for his beans) gives permission to the consumer to indulge because they feel good about the purchase.

When it comes to better-for-you products, suppliers offer a range of reduced-sugar and sugar-free chocolate ingredients. “We offer chocolates sweetened naturally with stevia in select markets overseas; we have chocolates sweetened with sugars physically extracted from fruits such as apples and grapes,” Ms. Bergan said. The latter has a slight fruity taste that is well suited for many baked goods.

“We are continuing to see trends toward more healthy options in chocolate and compound coatings,” Ms. Bergan explained. “In response, we now offer ingredients used the same way as chocolate chips and coatings, but they are not made with cocoa. These confections are made with Greek yogurt powder, enabling them to deliver the great taste and nutrition of Greek yogurt to a variety of baked goods.”

Greek yogurt ingredients typically contain two to three times as much protein as traditional yogurt ingredients, contributing to the total protein of a finished product. With consumers increasingly seeking out higher-­protein foods to assist with weight management and muscle building, such protein ingredients can help ­carbohydrate-laden foods better compete for share of stomach. “Due to this higher-protein food trend, we also offer a portfolio of high-protein coatings that work perfectly for snack bars and healthy snacks,” Ms. Bergan said.

Cargill offers a line of protein-enriched confectionary ingredients suitable for baking applications. This includes cocoa confectionery protein wafers and milk confectionery protein wafers, both formulated with 20% total protein. These wafers can be melted and used for coating and enrobing bakery products.

There are also two protein-enriched inclusions. “Our white chocolate protein drops are formulated with 10% total protein and meet the Standard of Identity for white chocolate,” Ms. LeDrew said. “These drops have a great white-chocolate flavor and a strong visual appeal. The product with the most protein — 25% —is the cocoa confectionery protein drops.

“We boost the protein content of all our confectionery ingredients through the addition of whey,” she continued. Dairy proteins tend to increase viscosity in coatings, so Cargill uses larger particles, which bind less fat than the finer ones and allow more free fat to circulate in the coating without increasing overall fat content. “Larger particles also help maintain coating viscosity so that the coating is suitable for enrobing or adding to the bottoms of nutrition or snack bars,” Ms. LeDrew added.

During enrobing, the fat in the protein coating is melted, allowing it to readily flow. After the protein coating cools, the fat converts back to a solid form and holds the protein and other components in a stable suspension. The confectionery drops can also be used as-is in cookies, muffins, breads or any other bakery application where increased protein levels are desired.

New health benefits

Another growing trend is the use of high-flavanol chocolate and cocoa powder. Flavanols are a subclass of polyphenolic compounds with complex mechanisms in the body. One of the specific benefits is improved blood flow. They also are recognized for their ability to act as antioxidants, which are molecules capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules, providing protection against free radicals. Cocoa is a particular rich source of flavanols, but unfortunately, many flavanols are lost during the fermentation, roasting, alkalization and chocolate-making process.

“Our proprietary process preserves the flavanols found naturally in cocoa beans,” Ms. Bergan said. “It preserves up to 80% of the naturally present flavanols in cocoa, while standard processing retains only 30%.” These flavanols remain present in the specialty cocoa powder and the chocolate ingredients made with the powder.

With the rising trend favoring free-from foods, suppliers now offer chocolate ingredients free from lactose, the sugar inherent to milk, for which many consumers have digestive intolerance. Milk-free chocolates are also becoming popular with vegan consumers.  

 “We’ve developed a milk chocolate alternative using rice powder that is currently only available to our European customers,” Ms. Bergan said. “Rice powder is an ideal milk powder substitute because it is neutral in taste compared with other dairy substitutes and gives the end product a light, creamy, milk-chocolate-like flavor. Its fine particle size creates a texture and flavor experience identical to traditional milk chocolate.”

It’s nearly impossible for bakers to ignore the fact that consumers are increasingly focused on overall well-being and avoiding certain ingredients. However, as Ms. LeDrew pointed out, “They must also remember that when creating better-for-you baked goods, taste is paramount. Chocolate can make baked goods taste great.”