I received lots of protests overnight from people saying, in effect: whaddya mean chocolate without milk in it is harsh? I eat dark chocolate all the time and I think it’s perfectly smooth and delicious!
I get that, for sure. But consider that back in Daniel Peter’s day chocolate was pretty rough stuff. To make a bar you pretty much just took some fermented and roasted cocoa nibs, ground them, pressed out the cocoa butter, ground them some more, added sugar, put back the cocoa butter and let the mixture set up in a mold. Bing, bang, boom, you’ve got your basic “eating” chocolate.
Nowadays chocolate makers are much more selective and precise in the manufacturing of bar chocolate (it is, after all, one of the most highly refined and processed foods out there). These days there are other ways of taming chocolate’s tannic pucker. Being selective about the variety of your beans is one way, but there are other process steps, or so I’m told.
Suffice to say that chocolate manufacturing has come a long way in 150 years. The couverture that you see in melted form below is 65% cocoa, but to taste it — and yes I tasted it for, um, quality control reasons — it’s very smooth and mild. But that’s Valrhona. A bittersweet from, say, Scharffen-Berger is a completely different experience. It’s also terrific, but at least to my mind it gives you a little more of that dry-around-the-edges-of-the-tongue mouthfeel that tannins are famous for.