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Common Chocolate Styles

By Victoria Kichuk from Cocoa Beantown.


Chain-store bought chocolates are one thing, but true chocoholics know the thrill of visiting your local chocolatier and getting to pick the selections that go into your very own chocolate box.


Yet as much as people enjoy chocolate and eat it all the time, there are many misconceptions and mysteries that exist in the chocolate world.


Additionally, due to chocolate’s existence as a global product that requires many steps to make, it also is a well-traveled item that has cultural influences from around the world. For example, many chocolate pieces often have names of European origins in other languages and give no clue as to what their specific recipes or flavors contain, leaving folks who have not grown up in those regional origins lacking in understanding of what a particular word or name might mean.


Below is an explanation of some of the most commonly found chocolate pieces and styles that people are often unsure about so that the next time you visit a chocolatier’s shop, you’ll be able to order your selections with confidence!   



Ganache is an emulsion made by melting chocolate in heavy cream. It is the center of traditional truffles, and when the cream is infused with other flavors, can also be a flavor element of bon bons, or used as a type of frosting on cake or cupcakes.


Truffles are cocoa dusted chocolate ganache pieces, which may be flavored by liquor or another flavoring extract but is most traditionally meant to highlight the natural flavors in the chocolate. The cocoa dusted appearance is meant to evoke the piece's namesake, the truffle mushroom, which is found in dirt.


Bon bons are filled chocolate pieces with a hard outer shell. Fillings can include everything from more traditional items like cherry cordials or coconut cream or even liquors, as well as more exotic, even culinary-inspired centers like herbaceous jams, goat cheese, or roasted fruits.


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 ground powder or nuts, and are usually very thin and crispy.


Penuche is a classic cut piece of fudge-like candy made by combining butter, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. The candy is made by caramelizing the brown sugar, and through the Maillard reaction, creates a flavor not far from caramel.


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 (pronounced as 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.


Mendiants are French origin confections are most traditionally served during the holiday season. Made of small puddles of melted chocolate sprinkled with nuts and dried fruits.


Did you know Therapy Gardens offers Chocolate Tastings in partnership with Cocoa Beantown? Visit our website for more information.


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