Eating dark chocolate for me is like the bus speed in Speed. Once you go past 50, you can't go below 50.
The number isn't miles per hour, but the percentage of cacao in that chocolate. The higher the number, the less sugar there is, reducing the sacrifice to get the benefits from chocolate.
100% cacao is pure chocolate. This is a little extreme. I tried 100% cacao chocolate in Le Musée du chocolat Érico in Quebec City in Canada. Once you have had 100% cacao, any chocolate with sugar tastes better.
There is no standard for what can be defined as "dark chocolate." 50% appears to be a minimum but 50% isn’t really that dark of a chocolate.
The chocolate chart on Good Eats with Alton Brown reads like this:
|Chocolate type||Cacao %|
A realistic parameter for minimal dark chocolate is 60% cacao. There is still quite a bit of sugar in 60% cacao but you are still better off than most chocolate on the market.
Ghirardelli sells two primary dark chocolate "sizes" at 72% cacao and 86% cacao. That is pretty dark chocolate.
There is hope if your palate is stuck at milk chocolate from candy bars you see as at the checkout in grocery stores. Even 40% can seem really intense. You need to build up the bitterness you get from a darker chocolate.
Making the conversion to a darker chocolate requires another huge step. Eat less of the dark chocolate per serving. The individual square in the Ghirardelli bars is an ideal size. You don't eat a dark chocolate square in the same fashion that you eat a standard candy bar.
Nibble at the chocolate. Appreciate how the chocolate actually tastes without the high-fructose corn syrup taste missing from dark chocolate.
Some will adapt more easily. Build up your endurance. If 60% is a struggle and you get there, good for you. If you can handle the increased cacao, stretch your limits. Don’t stop at 72% if you can make it to 86%.
If you miss the milk part of chocolate, drink a glass of milk along with the dark chocolate. That is a much better option than milk chocolate because you avoid the extra sugar.
If you can get your cacao level high enough, don't grab a random bar because "dark chocolate" is on the label. Since there are no requirements, a label that reads "dark chocolate" might not be all that dark.
You can find some dark chocolate bars with fruit undertones. If the bitter taste is a concern, the fruit can help you make that transition easier if you are missing the sugar.
Very few people make the instant transition from 10% to 86%. Give yourself some love by taking it slow. Over time, your palate will be happy and you will get the benefits of chocolate without paying a high sugar price.
photo credit: Ghirardelli