As much as people enjoy chocolate, and eat it all the time, there’s actually quite a lot of mystery surrounding it. Through leading chocolate tours, and visiting as many chocolate shops as I do, I’ve noticed there are quite a few types of chocolate that many people are unsure of exactly what they are. Much of this comes from the fact that these chocolates often have names of European origins in other languages, and give no clue as to what their specific recipes or flavors contain. Below are an explanation of some of the most commonly found chocolates that people are unsure about.
- Pralines are made from nuts and sugar syrup, usually ground into powder. Belgian pralines are slightly different, as they consist of a hard, dense, chocolate shell with a softer, sometimes liquid, filling. French pralines are different still, as they are a combination of almonds and caramelized sugar, lending itself a “toasty” flavor note. American pralines also contain milk or cream, giving them a softer and creamier consistency, somewhat reminiscent of fudge. Pralines can also be chocolate cookies that contain the ground powder or nuts, and are usually very thin and crispy.
- Marzipan is made of sugar or honey and almond meal, or ground almonds made into a paste, with flavors sometimes augmented with almond oil or extract. When it is isn’t chocolate covered, it is commonly used to create imitations of fruits and vegetables, and are sold very often in Italian bake shops.
- Gianduja (jahn-DOO-ya) is a sweet chocolate containing about 30% hazelnut paste, invented in Turin during Napoléon’s reign. While this is the most classic interpretation of gianduja, it’s not unusual for any combination of chocolate, nuts, and sugar as a gianduja.
- Nougat is a filling made with sugar and/or honey, roasted nuts (usually almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts), whipped egg whites, and sometimes chopped candied fruit. The whipped egg whites add a fluffy, mousse-like texture to the mixture.
- Florentines are an Italian biscuit made from setting nuts and candied cherries into a caramel disc, which is then coated on the bottom with dark chocolate. Other types of candied fruit can also be used on occasion.