Chocolate is a reasonably simple food, although its flavor is deep and complex enough to pair well with just about anything. The purest chocolate is made of just cacao and sugar. Chocolate can also include flavorings such as vanilla and ingredients such as lecithin which increase viscosity. But chocolate is first and foremost about the chocolate. Fudge, on the other hand, is a confection often made with chocolate, but it contains other ingredients such as butter and condensed milk that make it spongier and friendlier.

Explore Chocolate's Flavors

Fine chocolate needs few other ingredients because its flavor can stand on its own. Like wine grapes, cacao beans take on layers of nuance from their genetics, the qualities of the beans themselves, and also from the soil they're grown in and the way they're handled, from fermentation to grinding. Beans from Madagascar have a fruity acidic finish, Vietnamese cacao often has a smoky flavor and South American origins tend to be crowd pleasers, with rich chocolatey notes. The flavor of chocolate also depends on the amount of cacao it contains relative to other ingredients, such as sugar and milk powder. Most milk chocolates contain about 30 percent cacao, although there are dark milk varieties with as much as 60 to 70 percent. Dark chocolate contains at least 50 percent cacao, or nibs and cocoa butter combined, and cacao content can run as high as 90 to 100 percent.

To get the right consistency, chocolate is tempered or worked with a seed crystal such as grated cocoa butter. The tempering process addresses consistency and temperature. Well-tempered chocolate is smooth and creamy, and snaps cleanly when you break it. Poorly tempered chocolate is chalky and crumbly, and may have an unpleasant white sheen.

Enjoy Fudge as Comfort Food

While chocolate is a food for both passionate aficionados and folks who just want a good candy bar, fudge is a satisfying comfort food. Its accessibility makes it a favorite everywhere from malls, to country fairs to birthday parties. While chocolate relies on the tempering process to take it from a melted to a solid state, the butter and condensed milk in fudge help it to solidify without much fussing. Chocolate fudge is the most popular and most common, and often contains nuts. But fudge comes in many flavors besides chocolate, including maple, peanut butter and even whisky.

Choose Your Chocolate

If you're choosing chocolate based on health considerations, chocolate is a better choice than fudge. Aside from the absence of butter and condensed milk, chocolate usually has less sugar and more cacao, a super food high in antioxidants such as polyphenols and minerals such as magnesium. If you're choosing based on pleasure, you can't go wrong with either option.

About the Author

Devra Gartenstein

Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.