Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Couverture: Sources, Favorites, Storage, Troubleshooting


lepatissier
 Share

Recommended Posts

Well, you do have to be careful. It is possible to be "chocolate" and not also "couverture." There are a lot of real chocolates out there that aren't couvertures--meaning they don't have a high enough percentage of cocoa butter (31%) to be fluid enough to "cover" well, especially in confectionery applications. Some of the lesser expensive chocolate formulations from Barry-Callebaut's group, for but one example, are not technically couverture and you will not see the word on the label. Some manufacturers also sell "ganache" chocolate formulations--which are "real chocolate" but formulated to be thicker and not with a high enough cocoa butter percentage to qualify as couverture.

Wendy's right in that most of the chocolate we talk about and use are couvertures--but I think it might be better to approach it by asking what it is you want to do with the couverture first. For instance, there are varieties of El Rey which are technically "couverture"--meaning they have more than 31% cocoa butter-- but that are not fluid enough to temper and dip or enrobe well. So there are couvertures and then there are couvertures.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve, with knowing that the percentage of cocoa butter is important.....how do I tell from El Rey 70% chips (or any other type of good chocolate), if it's got enough cocoa butter in it?

Thanks!

Think before you drink.......I think I'll have another!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It isn't always so easy. What you need to know doesn't necessarily come from the label--you sometimes can get that info from the salesperson or rep or spec sheet. With the brands we talk about most here--it is pretty easy--all of these are technically couvertures and work well in tempering and dipping applications straight out of the box: all the higher percentage Michel Cluizels, the E. Guittard 61% and 72%, the 4 Valrhona Grand Crus and also Caraque , Sharffen Berger, Cacao Barry 58.5% and 64%, the Cacao Noel varieties. With El Rey--the Mijao 61% and Apamate 73% are the ones with that extra boost of cocoa butter because people complained about the original Bucare 58% and Gran Saman 70% being too thick. I haven't used El Rey dark for years, so I have no idea if they've re-formulated these since--I also don't know anyone using El Rey anymore. (Though I still use and recommend the El Rey white and milk.)

Be careful with the Cluizel--since it doesn't have lecitihin anymore if you let it sit around too long it will attract moisture and can seem thicker.

If you don't know what chips you have--simply melt them over a bain marie. It will be very obvious--visually--whether you have a couverture with the right viscosity and fluidity. When it is melted, say at 115 degress, you should be able to stick a spatula in it and lift it up and have it pour readily off the spatula. It will run off. Then you know when you temper and work with it at 90 or 92 it will still be thin and fluid enough.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aren't you starting at the WCI Patisserie program? If so, Provvista, in Portland is your spot for wholesale purchases. I'm not sure if they let students purchase or if you have to have a business. I suggest you call them and ask (503.228.7676). If they say no, PM me and I'll buy for you when I am down there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...Be careful with the Cluizel--since it doesn't have lecitihin anymore if you let it sit around too long it will attract moisture and can seem thicker...

Steve, when you have a moment, can you expand on the role lecithin plays in chocolate formulation? Specifically, how and when it is added in the manufacturing process? Apart from claims of 'purity', which Cluizel actively promotes, what do they achieve by not using it?

As an 'eating' chocolate, Cluizel is at the top of my list. As I'm currently considering adding some Cluizel to my inventory as a 'working' chocolate, are there any factors I should consider, and what should I know as I put it to use in a testing capacity?

Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York

www.michael-laiskonis.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I understand it Michael, small amounts of lecithin are present naturally in cacao and milk components of chocolate. It affects flow, fluidity and shelf life in chocolate and that's why a small extra percentage has always been added to chocolate since the 30's. Since chocolate is really a suspension, an amalgam of different ingredients like sugar, lecithin as an emulisfier helps keep chocolate, well, suspended and improves fluidity. It binds with the sugar particles and reduces viscosity--and from the manufacturer's perspective it probably allows them to use less cocoa butter!

(There's some good really technical talk of this in Beckett's "The Science of Chocolate" and that "Sugar Confectionery & Chocolate Manufacture" textbook whose authors I forget at the moment.)

What happened world-wide, and especially in Europe, was people started questioning genetically-engineered foods and began trying to determine the sources of lecithin used and whether these sources were GMO or non-GMO. Soy and corn were especially problematic to certify pure. Countries began to debate labelling standards as well and a few chocolate manufacturers bought up the whole (nascent) supply of non-GMO lecithin. What Cluizel gains by removing lecithin from their formulations is a marketing edge--the ability to slap "made from noble ingredients" on their labels, to appeal to a customer base sensitive to this issue, since the bulk of the lecithin supply cannot ever be certified non-GMO it's been too contaminated.

The take home message I've observed is couvertures with lecithin tolerate water--like high ambient humidity--slightly better than Cluizel and store slightly longer. Cluizel has probably--and I'm completely guessing here--probably added back a minute additional percentage of cocoa butter to make up for the loss of the effect of lecithin in terms of fluidity. Cluizel themselves recognized this and began putting little stickers on their boxes of pistoles urging you to re-seal them tightly after use. You can't be as cavalier about shaking out pistoles and leaving the box open. Unless you are tempering and enrobing I doubt you'd notice a practical difference. And as long as you turn over your inventory, and don't keep Cluizel on your shelves for a long time, I doubt you'd notice a difference.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In terms of working, I have found that Cluizel is really nice: tempers and holds well, has nice fluidity.

I have found (the hard way) that in a very humid environment it is definirely affected, but that's what hurricane season will do to you. Also, it seems that over time the Cluizel seems to almost get dry and brittle (something I have attributed to the lack of lecithin)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve:

I can authoritatively reply to your question about whether or not Cluizel adds extra cocoa butter into their couverture to compensate for eliminating lecithin and the answer is: YES!

However, it is not minute amounts -- it is a mulitple of the amount of lecithin that is removed from the chocolate. If I remember a conversation correctly, 1% lecithin can replace 3-5% cocoa butter. Following is a table of cocoa butter percentages from Cluizel from a catalog AFTER they announced their Noble Origin initiative and removed the lecithin:

Type -- %Cocoa Butter

Ivory 31% -- 31%

Milk 33% -- 34%

Milk 45% -- 41%

Dark 60% -- 34%

Dark 72% -- 40%

Dark 85% -- 45%

Dark 99% -- 48%

72% Single Origins -- 41%

Hacienda Concepcion 66% -- 40%

Guittard started producing labels that actually list the percentage of additional cocoa butter added during conching. I see this is the start of a good trend and have lobbied with the US importer of Cluizel to get Cluizel to add this information to the label (or make it otherwise generally available).

Lecithin is used to assist in keeping the particles of cocoa and sugar in suspension in the cocoa butter. It also serves to coat the particles, making it harder to feel them on the tongue. Because it is comparatively inexpensive, it replaces much more expensive cocoa butter. One way to think about its use is that it is one of several things that manufacturers can do to reduce the cost of manufacture. More lecithin equals less cocoa butter, but it also means shorter conching times are possible. (Similarly, using an alkali to process the cocoa results in a less acidic chocolate, which means that beans that are not as well processed in the post-harvest phase (i.e., cheaper, lower quality beans) can be used.)

Cluizel couverture can have as long a shelf life as any other couverture but you need to monitor humidity as well as temperature more closely; I absolutely covet one of the new Irinox holding fridges designed just for chocolate. Monitoring and controlling humidity is also an issue when using the Cluizel, it is much more sensitive to ambient humidity than many other chocolates, especially if you're working in smaller batches (where the proportion of humdity is higher relative to the amount of chocolate).

I was speaking with people at the pastry forum in Las Vegas in July who said that from a competition perspective one of the hardest lessons to learn was the lack of humidity caused major problems with things drying out -- sugar pieces and chocolate alike.

Finally, technicall, couverture is chocolate that is specially formulated for dipping and enrobing -- the word comes from the French for cover. All couvertures are chocolate, but not all chocolate is couverture. Any chocolate with a significant percentage of replacement or substitute fats is called a compound coating. Because it may not actually contain the legal minimum cocoa content (coco solids+cocoa butter) it cannot legally be called chocolate.

HTH

Clay

Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Clay, for your authoritative input.

I, too, wish manufacturers were more generous with regard to this technical information, as it can only improve the relationship between manufacturer and pastry chef. Securing this info through the usual channels (distributor, importer) is time consuming and often futile.

Another question... where do you think manufacturers will take the 'vintage' concept? Will it remain a 'boutique' product, or will we begin to see more of them?

Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York

www.michael-laiskonis.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michael:

Where do I think manufacturers will take the 'vintage' concept? Will it remain a 'boutique' product, or will we begin to see more of them?

The concept of terroir chocolate is not new. As near as I can tell, terroir chocolates have been marketed since at least 1903. It is somewhat of a mystery why the chocolate industry ignored the lessons of the wine industry (i.e., you can charge a premium for good vintage and estate apellations - but there is the downside that in bad harvest years you can't command the premium).

The answer to that question may possibly be traced (this is my theory, anyway) to the fact that chocolate for the masses is truly a product of the industrial revolution and is closely tied into the invention of the steam engine and the social missions of seminal mass-manufacturers -- Hershey, Cadbury, and Fry -- who were instrumental to chocolate becoming a commodity product. One of the underlying mantras of industrialization was standardize, standardize, standardize, so it is hardly surprising, in retrospect, that chocolate makers looked to create flavors unique to their house and then strove to do everything they could to ensure that the product always tasted the same because they had created a market for a specific flavor.

The market for vintaged chocolate (i.e., chocolate that is stamped with the year the beans were picked) is very small and is likely to remain very small for the forseeable picture. The worldwide market for fine flavor cacao, often pegged at about 8% of the annual harvest (3 million tonnes (a tonne is 1000kg or 2200 lb and is often referred to as a metric ton) in 2002) is, in actuality, more like 1.5% of the annual harvest -- which is not very much when you think about it.

The real challenge with fine flavor cacao and vintage cacao is providing enough economic incentive to the farmer to take adequare care with post harvest processing, especially fermentation. One of the things I learned at the University of Chocolate in Ecuador a couple of months ago is that middlemen and exporters only rarely pay the farmers a sufficient premium to cover the cost of the additional labor required to ferment and dry. So the farmers don't do it properly. Sadly, virtually none of the Nacional cacao grown in Ecuador (a forastero type with many criollo characteristics) is fermented sufficiently to develop the characteristic "Arriba" flavor that is redolent of orange blossom and jasmine flower.

When you combine the relatively small size of the harvest with the fact that there is not enough economic incentive to the farmer to process properly, that vintaged chocolate exists at all is pretty amazing. It takes a vision and the dedication to that vision that very few large companies in the industry have today. Bars of Amedei Porcelana, which are hand-numbered and in limited production and therefore automatically vintaged, are north of $75 per pound -- for solid eating chocolate -- an astounding premium that most people balk at, even people who are not averse to paying $150 for 100ml of AIB-certified balsamic, $1000/lb for fungus (truffles), or $35 for a plate of pasta.

There is significant consumer education to be done before the market for terroir and vintage chocolate can become mainstream. This is the mission of my company, and I am in the process of setting up a "society" that focuses on the contributions the new world (after all, chocolate is a new world food and the best cocoa beans are still grown "here") has made to chocolate lovers everywhere. If people are interested, they can contact me privately to learn more.

Thanks for the great question,

Clay

PS. For all those who are coming to the Chocolate Show in NYC in November, I am currently scheduled to give a session on Thursday afternoon on Taste Trends in Chocolate. Of course, I will be handing out samples, including a sauce I developed myself. Steve Klc whom everyone knows from his contributions to this forum will also be presenting during the show I understand.

Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, Steve's been on the Board of Advisors for the Show for the past 5 years, so he better be demonstrating something! More here as the Show gets finalized:

http://www.chocolateshow.com/

Clay--I think we're going to discover that the real challenge of raising awareness is on the professional side as well as, if not more so, than the consumer side, and that's where the chocolate and wine comparison fails just a bit. You have to convince pros to buy more expensive chocolate. Granted wine in the bottle will change, but that's how it is judged, right out of the bottle--so in one sense chocolate right out of the wrapper can be judged this way. But how many people are likely to gather in the study to unwrap a few precious ingots of chocolate? Chocolate I suspect will more likely parallel the evolution of premium coffee in this country--which has to be transformed: processed, roasted, packaged then manipulated again by the consumer in order to drink it. Most of the sensory enjoyment and likely appreciation of chocolate--in desserts and in bon bons and in the mouths of the consumers--involves much further transformation and much more skill on the part of the chocolatier or pastry chef who then has to take this fine finished product and transform it even further. And that adds so many other layers of complication--and expense--in essence NOT to muck it up--so that it becomes a very expensive ingredient again and not just an expensive end product in an of itself. I hope that was clear enough and I apologize if it wasn't.

For the notion of vintage chocolate to become much more than quaint hype and quick money gleaned from a few pockets of the affluent, for the requisite "super-premium" pricing to gain any momentum, the public first has to be able to discern--and then willingly embrace--the notion that pastry chefs and chocolatiers shouldn't be using dreck but instead using "premium" chocolate varieties which cost say $4 per pound wholesale. And that is nowhere near happening yet. In fact, I'm seeing the reverse--I'm seeing more chocolatiers and pastry chefs use stronger fruit and herb flavors and greater intensity of spices to hide the natural perfumes and intricacies of the chocolate they use--so they can get away with using cheaper chocolate. There's another vintage problem as well--there's no cult of personality around unwrapping a vintage bar whereas there are visible personae, say a Jacques Torres or Francois Payard, behind their lines of truffles and bon bons. And we can never underestimate the role the cult of personality plays in our consumer culture--especially at the haute couture high end.

Also, before we get anywhere meaningful with vintage we still have to deal adequately with terms like organic and fair trade--neither of which actually means the end product will taste good!

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, Clay and Steve, good stuff.

It makes perfect sense, but I hadn't made the connection between the rise of chocolate and the rise of industrialization. With the exception of the handful of manufacturers who tout their cacao's origin, it seems that haute chocolate is one of the few luxury items that is not often identified with a sense of place (and time). The big problem with raising the awareness and 'taste' of consumers (and as Steve noted, pros as well) is that such a wide range of quality exists, from the Amedei Porcelana Clay mentioned, to the Hershey's and Cadbury dreck. Very few products enjoy such a wide spectrum of quality and accessibility, from the luxury to the pedestrian.

I see good signs and bad signs, with regard to consumer awareness. My local market, albeit progressive, displays their Valrhona and Sharfenberger bars in a central aisle display, in a high traffic area of the store. Sure, I wince when I realize I buy it wholesale for easily half the price of their retail bars, but when I notice the Lindt and Ghirardelli and 'organic' stuff hidden in the mass market candy aisle... that's a good sign. Yet a peek at the nearby in-house pastry case reveals what looks to me like a lot of pate a glacer-type, vegetable oil based work. With the recent announcement that the Barry-Callebaut-Carma empire is now swallowing Brach's, I want to think that they will elevate the low end here in the US, but I also worry their high end products will suffer as they continue to grow in size. And will the passing of the recent EU legislation push more consumers toward the artisinal, or will they settle for those brands that look to widen their margin by sneaking in that tiny percentage of vegetable fat.

And Steve hit on an important point; assuming pastry chefs and chocolatiers have embraced the concepts of terroir and vintage and politics, how do they reflect that to their consumers? It is common to see the words 'Valrhona' or 'Cluizel' in menu copy, for the prestige they bring (and for the higher price point they might justify), but will we eventually see menu descriptions that refer to 'Maracaibo' or 'Chuao' or even "Criollo and 'Trinitaro', let alone a vintage date? And then, as Steve also noted, will those unique characteristics survive the manipulation, the addition of cream and butter and sugar, to be recognizable in the end product? It is a challenge for us pastry chefs to acheive this, but not impossible. Again, it is the progressive pastry chef that employs methods, like a 'new' pate a bombe with a fraction of the sugar used in the traditional technique, or technologies, like a foam canister, to better express the least adulterated flavor of the chocolate.

The politics involved, whether we're talking organic growing practices, fair trade, or even the use of slave labor, it all starts to get really murky at some point, given the lack of information we have ( and the lack of information the manufacturer's have, it seems) when it comes to the sources and distribution networks of cacao. That alone is pushing me toward using the highest end exclusively, and taking the hit in food cost, simply because there is at least the suggestion of control from plantation to processing, and the hint of occasional reinvestment in those local communities.

Clay, I too will be presenting a demo at the Chocolate Show, Friday afternoon, though I have no idea what I'll be doing yet! I also hope to hang out 'backstage' for the fashion show to take some notes, as I want to do a dress next year. I look forward to meeting you!

Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York

www.michael-laiskonis.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve and Michael:

There is a lot to digest in those last two posts and I will try to respond to them both at the same time -- and hopefully make sense.

I spent this past Saturday at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY at a wine and food fundraiser that featured about 50 food and wine vendors, a silent and a live auction. I was one of two dessert providers and this is the third year I have attended. The audience is one that already understands the concepts of terroir, varietal, and vintage, so making the extension to chocolate is easy and natural. They get it. For several hours I was busy handing out samples and explaining the finer points of chocolate to an audience that is eager to learn more and is fascinated to find out that the subject of chocolate is at least as complex as wine (it's more complex, actually).

(FYI, I was tasting three Guittard couvertures -- the 65% Ecuador Nacional, the 65% Colombian, and the 64% l'Harmonie blend; and three Felchlins, the 66% Dark Maracaibo Classificado, the 49% Milk Creole, and the 33% Milk Criolait.)

Yes, there are many obstacles to overcome; some on the consumer side and some on the professional side. What the industry needs is an independent person who sees his or her role as an educator. Chocolate needs its own Robert Parker and Kevin Zraly. Which is what I have chosen to do. I am not a pastry chef and I am not paid to forward any particular manufacturer's agenda. While much of my time is spent talking to the converted, I also choose to work with classes of people who are predisposed to hear what I have to say. The top 10% of the close to $14 billion chocolate industry is growing at 5x the rate of the mass market. That top 10% represents my target audience.

I have yet to see a pastry chef try to do a horizontal tasting of chocolate in dessert form and be true to its varietal and/or terroir characteristics in a way that is distinguishable to the customer. You can consider this a challenge and I will start another thread to open it up to the group and it'd be fun to get together at The Chocolate Show and discuss it.

:biggrin:

Clay

Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

I would like to branch out and try some different brands and varieties of chocolate, so I thought I would start a conversation and ask for your opinions on which brands and/or varieties of chocolate you like to use. I've only used a couple Callebaut darks and a delicious Valrhona lactee that I have bought locally. I'm also curious as to how many of you stick with one brand for everything or if you use different brands for different purposes. What is a good multi-purpose chocolate? Which chocolate do you feel has the most interesting or distinctive flavor? What else do you have to say on the subject? :)

Josh Usovsky

Josh Usovsky

"Will Work For Sugar"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Josh,

To begin with I am no expert by any means, however I have used Callebaut (both semi-sweet and milk & a little white & am happy with it. I have recently purchased a different brand of Belgium chocolate called OCG. I really like the milk as it is really creamy tasting to me. Sorry not much more I can tell you.

Good Luck

Rookie - Mary

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm also a novice when it comes to chocolate, but I found the Callebaut 70% (not exactly sure on that percentage) extremely difficult to work with. Almost every time, even at the most gentle heating, the oils would separate out. I was only able to use it for mousses or other applications where the chocolate was not the main ingredient (like ganache).

The Callebaut milk chocolate was divine, though it never made it into any recipes. :rolleyes:

I have since picked up a batch of Schokinag's bittersweet, but haven't had time to do much more than break off a few big chunks and eat it.

As for different kinds/brands, I definitely will go for the more intense chocolates for desserts that will benefit from it. A nice dark Vahlrona has a great complex flavor that is wonderful for adding dimension when paired with a lighter, sweeter chocolate. And I usually mix two intensities of chocolate when making my ganaches.

Edited by kthull (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You may also want to try El Rey Chocolates, they are made in Venezuela. Here, the coco goes from the plantations to the factory in a very short time period, therefore allowing the manufacturers to have very close ties to the farmers. The closer all of the steps are in the cultivation-production-sales process, the more likely you are to have a quality product.

Cory Barrett

Pastry Chef

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a box of Noel 64% and it has worked for many recipies that I have tinkered with at home. It has a real shine with the ganache recipe I use too. Haven't had any problems with it. My 11# box will be around until Christmas I hope! I love using Valhrona (sp?) too. Great tasting product and wonderful to use. The orange one is yummy!

Debra Diller

"Sweet dreams are made of this" - Eurithmics

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I make mousse with callebaut 835 nv, double chocolate pudding with valronha manjari, milk chocolate pot de creme with valronha jivara and ganache with cocoabarry chocolate chips. In a chocolate class at school we used Felchlin couverture and it seemed pretty foolproof as far as tempering, and it was tasty. I get confused by all the callebaut numbers but I noticed they have new packaging on the big blocks and have little symbols indicating viscosity. big help for a chocolate dummie.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Different chocolates have different flavors; I like to match the chocolate to the flavors that will be going with it. Valrhona's Manjari (64% from Madascar) is nicely fruity and pairs well with strong flavors, such as citrus or peppercorns. Chovovic's Ocumare (71% from Venezuela) is subtle and complex, and is nice with earthier flavors, like chili or apples. I find El Rey's chocolates to be a bit earthy for my taste, others really like them. Bernard Castelain's chocolate is smooth and wonderful, but unavailable in quantity in the U.S.

My suggestion is that you try different chocolates as you encounter them. See what you like.

Rich

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 9 months later...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...