The chocolate war between the American and British flavors is very much a matter of taste. It doesn't quite feature the battles or violence of previous conflicts, but it divides opinion and is the cause of many heated debates on both sides of the Atlantic.
Traditionally I am a cake man. However, it would be wrong of me to ignore something that has kept me going on many a chilly evening camping or canal boating, those days when I just need a boost, or sometimes because it's just all that will do. So here's my view of the chocolate war.
I'll start with an easy one. White chocolate. Whichever side of the Atlantic you're on, it isn't strictly chocolate. Or is it?
White chocolate is called chocolate because it has cocoa butter. Since 2000, European white chocolate can be called chocolate if it has (by weight) at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% total milk solids, and 3.5% milk fat. The same standards apply in the United States, since 2004, with the additional proviso that the product can include no more than 55% sugar or other sweetener.
So white chocolate can be called chocolate because of the cocoa butter. However some people still say it shouldn't because it has no cocoa solids in it. Confused? Well those differences underlie the American British chocolate war.
Differences between UK and American chocolate
Let's now look at the US and British versions of "normal" chocolate.
In the UK, chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa solids. In the US, cocoa solids need only make up 10%. So if you're wondering why your Hershey bar tastes different to your Cadbury's Dairy Milk, there's your answer.
Other Europeans generally prefer chocolate with an even higher amount of cocoa solids than the UK. But then that's why the British voted for Brexit, just to be different.
The cocoa content isn't the only thing which separates British chocolate from its American namesake.
The chocolate making process differs from the grinding of the first bean. Though confectioners keep their recipes a firm secret, it is believed that American chocolate typically uses South American beans, whilst British makers favor West African cocoa.
There are also variations on the type of powdered milk used, which can impact the flavor.
American chocolate also tends to be sweeter, using more sugar in the making.
American chocolate helped win World War 2
Some of the differences are rooted in American history, and the war when supplies were limited, especially of cocoa.
In 1937, the US Army approached the Hershey Company about creating a specially designed bar for its emergency rations. According to Hershey’s chief chemist Sam Hinkle, the US government had four requests about their new chocolate bars: They had to weigh 4 ounces, be high in energy, withstand high temperatures and “taste a little better than a boiled potato.”
I guess we should celebrate the American ingenuity in creating the Hershey bar and its contribution to the war effort. However maybe in making it taste just a bit "better than a boiled potato" to stop the soldiers eating it all the time, the Americans lost some of the flavors that make chocolate so great.
For me, I have eaten my own body weight in Hershey bars before as they're cheap (a byproduct of less cocoa). I must admit though, if it came to dying in a ditch over a chocolate bar, it would be British chocolate for me. The velvet smoothness, the richness and the general taste is better than the US counterparts. Sorry. It's a personal preference thing.
Either way you can have fun with chocolate whatever your persuasion. Melt it and pour it into a silicone mold and you can be hugely creative. Chocolate is fantastic for molds, cooling quickly into intricate shapes that can impress anyone.
The BBC has an example of making home made chocolates using silicone molds, but in actual fact it's pretty easy (especially if you're melting chocolate bars rather than making from scratch).
If you like an easy life use standard confectionery chocolate. It melts more easily than the ones with more cocoa content. If you do use couverture chocolate you'll need to double boil, so for the sake of ease we're going with "normal" chocolate here.
- Chocolate (500g) or more
- Silicone molds for chocolates
- A ladle
- Pan or bowl to melt the chocolate
- A small knife
- Ideally a squeezy bottle or piping bag
- A chocolate scraper
- Non-stick silicone mold spray
Heat the chocolate in a microwave or pan until it has the consistency of a syrup. Stir frequently while you're warming and don't over cook it.
If you have a mold spray use it now to lightly grease the mold. It helps to get the chocolates out intact.
Fill the mold with chocolate. Ideally you would do this with a squeezy bottle or piping bag to ensure consistency, but you can do it with a ladle. When you're done, scrape off the excess chocolate from the top and sides of the mold.
Tap the mold firmly to remove any air bubbles from the chocolate.
Scrape off the excess chocolate from the top and sides of the mold again.
Let the chocolate set for about 5 minutes: put the mold on a sheet of paper (on a board for stability) with the open side facing down and allow the excess chocolate to drip onto it (until the dripped out chocolate begins to set).
Scrape off the excess chocolate one last time and leave the chocolate to harden in a refrigerator for at least fifteen minutes or so.
Place a board over the top of the mold and invert. Gently push out the chocolates on to some baking paper. Ta ra, a chocolate bar converted into something altogether more special.
The chocolate war is over. Let's not start another.
There you have it. I think the British won the chocolate flavor war, although we have to recognize the American chocolate contribution to an actual war.
In terms of molding, the great thing is chocolates can be shaped like anything. For example Star Wars or Dr Who characters, depending on whether you like America or British sci-fi. However, let's not argue about it. We don't want to start another war.