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Homemade Couverture


A Patric
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Dear all,

I am in the process of working on a recipe for couverture so that I can make my own dipped chocolates from my own chocolate. I am running into conflicting statements though.

1) I have read that couverture must have at least 31% cocoa butter. I have also read that it must have at least 32% cocoa butter. Is there a law related to either of these statements, and which is the accurate one?

2) When looking at cocoa butter content I assume that this means 31/32% of the couverture must be "added cocoa butter." Is this correct? The reason I mention this is that cocoa beans have plenty of cocoa butter, about 55% of the total mass, by themselves. Therefore, it would technically be possible for anything from 100% down to about 65% chocolate, with no added cocoa butter, to qualify as couverture if we look at things like this. I don't think this is correct however. This is why I am looking for specification as to whether it must be 31/32% "added" cocoa butter.

3) Regarding lecithin, do couverture chocolates generally have more lecithin (by percentage of the total weight) to reduce viscosity, or do they generally have a bit less (by percentage compared to the total weight) due to the fact that extra added cocoa butter (I'm making an assumption about the answer of the last question) already reduces the viscosity of the couverture? What is the average percentage of the total weight of lecithin in most couvertures? As I understand it, there can be no more than 1% lecithin of the weight of the final product by law (US) or one can no longer call it chocolate. Would couverture be closer to the 1% end of the scale, or would there generally be significantly less?

I realize that different makers will have different ways of doing things, but I am looking for rules of thumb here based on what is generally considered to be correct.

Thank you for any help that you can provide, I haven't been able to find these answers clearly stated elsewhere.

Sincerely,

Alan

EDITED to correct an incorrect number (I said .5% for the legal limit of lecithin, and it should be 1%)

Edited by alanmcclure (log)
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one of our more scientific members will surely jump in and give you a more interesting answer but here's my understanding:

When the cacao is ground the oils,or cocoa butter, seperate and are added again at the next stage of production which is the emulsification process called conching. The amount of cocoa butter reintroduced will determine the final quality of chocolate or couverture(a minimum of 32% I believe) Some manufacturers will even replace the cocoa butter with veggie oils to make a more stable production chocolate.

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I cannot answer your question - but I am interested in how you propose to 'make' your own couverture

are you discussing actual manufacture of chocolate?

what will you start with? nibs? beans?

or are you actually talking about basically creating a 'mix' of cocoa solids and cocoa butter etc

And - of course - why are you pursuing this route?

Is this an artisinal cottage industry thing?

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I think you're on John's mailing list for alchemy, no? When you're talking fat level of the chocolate, you're talking total fat, not just fat added in the form of cocoa butter. Example - if your chocolate is 32% fat, a good portion of that is from the liquor, as well as any milk fat that might be present. There really is no legal definition of couverature - it's jsut a french word that means coating. Traditionally, however, couveratures are those chocolates which are higher in total fat than other types of chocolate coatings. As noted in the mail list, there's no hard and fast rule to lecithin usage. If you're looking for a coating that's very high in total fat, you're likely to require less lecithin to obtain the appropriate viscosity you're after - in fact, you may not require any, if you're cocoa solids are high enough. I've never seen any chocolate formulation require more than 0.6% lecithin, and would absolutely never, ever formulate a chocolate with lecithin as high as 1% (the US rules don't specify a limit of 1% lecithin, but rather total emulsifiers. The only other emulsifer in use for chocolate in the US is PGPR, but usually on a smaller scale for very industrial mass mfrs). And of course this doesn't take into account the different grades of lecithin, or HLB values.

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Alan,

There are no laws that govern the amount of cocoa butter in chocolate. The laws only govern the amount of cocoa mass. Hence why some chocolate manufacturers can (and do) use products other than cocoa butter in their manufacturing process. And the laws and general practice have absolute no relationship to each other. For example, US law says that any dark chocolate (what they refer to as 'sweet' chocolate) must contain 15% chocolate liquor. The EU requires a minimum of 35% for dark chocolate. In practice, chocolate manufacturers use far higher percentages of cocoa mass. And, the laws make no distinctions made between your run-of-the-mill mass market chocolate and couverture.

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I cannot answer your question - but I am interested in how you propose to 'make' your own couverture

are you discussing actual manufacture of chocolate?

what will you start with? nibs? beans?

or are you actually talking about basically creating a 'mix' of cocoa solids and cocoa butter etc

And - of course - why are you pursuing this route?

Is this an artisinal cottage industry thing?

Dear Chefette,

Yes I mean making chocolate as in buying beans, roasting them, winnowing them, reducing them to cocoa liquor, adding cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, and lecithin, refining the mixture further, conching it, and tempering it.

There are a number of sources for beans online, and in my sig, you'll find a site devoted to making chocolate at home.

I am not selling chocolate, but only making it for me. I am interested in couverture to make my own chocolates from start to finish. Why? Because I like to do things myself. Why do I like to do things myself? I don't know, but I imagine a lot of people here are like that.

Sincerely,

Alan

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I think you're on John's mailing list for alchemy, no?  When you're talking fat level of the chocolate, you're talking total fat, not just fat added in the form of cocoa butter.  Example - if your chocolate is 32% fat, a good portion of that is from the liquor, as well as any milk fat that might be present. There really is no legal definition of couverature - it's jsut a french word that means coating.  Traditionally, however, couveratures are those chocolates which are higher in total fat than other types of chocolate coatings.  As noted in the mail list, there's no hard and fast rule to lecithin usage.  If you're looking for a coating that's very  high in total fat,  you're likely to require less lecithin to obtain the appropriate viscosity you're after - in fact, you may not require any, if you're cocoa solids are high enough.  I've never seen any chocolate formulation require more than 0.6% lecithin, and would absolutely never, ever formulate a chocolate with lecithin as high as 1% (the US rules don't specify a limit of 1% lecithin, but rather total emulsifiers.  The only other emulsifer in use for chocolate in the US is PGPR, but usually on a smaller scale for very industrial mass mfrs).  And of course this doesn't take into account the different grades of lecithin, or HLB values.

Dear Sebastien,

Thank you. This answers most of my questions.

I find it interesting, though, that people talk about couverture as if it is "quite different" from regular chocolate, when this shouldn't be the case according to what I understand from your writing.

In other words, cocoa beans being 55% cocoa butter would mean that, as I stated above, a chocolate from about 60% to 100%, with no added cocoa butter, would qualify for the title "couverture," though the upper percentages wouldn't be quite sweet enough for most. However, since the idea of couverture, as I understood it, is to have a chocolate with a reduced viscosity, would 90% or 100% chocolate, with such a high percentage of cocoa solids, really fit the bill? If what I'm saying is correct, then it even seems that chocolates would meet these guidelines. Any dark over about 60%, all whites, many milks since they are very high in total fat, and eved lower percentage darks with other forms of fat added (milk, nut, etc.). There would be a rare bar that wouldn't make it, maybe something like Hershey's, but it seems that many, at least of the higher quality of chocolates, i.e. Valrhona, Guittard, etc., would. Have I gone off the mark somewhere here in my thinking?

Moving on:

Thanks for the further info. on emulisfiers and the clarification that it is emulsifiers "total" that mush be kept below 1%. I purchased some liquid emulsifier today and will have some solid on Tuesday. I'm going to experiment a bit to see what effects I get, and I am going to write to the company to find out the HLB (Hydrophillic-lipophillic) value. Your clarification regarding the level of total fat reducing the need for lecithin is very helpful. Is there a site that you would recommend for different grades of liquid lecithin?

Finally, yes I am on John's Alchemy list.

Thanks again.

Sincerely,

Alan

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Alan,

There are no laws that govern the amount of cocoa butter in chocolate.  The laws only govern the amount of cocoa mass.  Hence why some chocolate manufacturers can (and do) use products other than cocoa butter in their manufacturing process.  And the laws and general practice have absolute no relationship to each other.  For example, US law says that any dark chocolate (what they refer to as 'sweet' chocolate) must contain 15% chocolate liquor.  The EU requires a minimum of 35% for dark chocolate.  In practice, chocolate manufacturers use far higher percentages of cocoa mass.  And, the laws make no distinctions made between your run-of-the-mill mass market chocolate and couverture.

Dear WhiteTruffleGirl,

Thank you for your response. I appreciate knowing the minimum % amount for cocoa mass in the EU and the US. I knew that it was strictly regulated in the EU, but wasn't aware of the laws in the US.

Sincerely,

Alan

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Alan,

Don't know if you're familiar with it, but there is a book entitled "The Science of Chocolate" by Stephen Beckett that goes into some detail on the scientific principles behind chocolate processing.  It's worth checking out if you haven't.  Might be quite useful to your endeavors.

Dear WhiteTruffleGirl,

Thank you very much for the reference. Are you also familiar with this very expensive tome:

Chocolate, Cocoa, and Confectionery : Science and Technology, and can you compare them?

Sincerely,

Alan

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Alan,

There are no laws that govern the amount of cocoa butter in chocolate.  The laws only govern the amount of cocoa mass.  Hence why some chocolate manufacturers can (and do) use products other than cocoa butter in their manufacturing process.  And the laws and general practice have absolute no relationship to each other.  For example, US law says that any dark chocolate (what they refer to as 'sweet' chocolate) must contain 15% chocolate liquor.  The EU requires a minimum of 35% for dark chocolate.  In practice, chocolate manufacturers use far higher percentages of cocoa mass.  And, the laws make no distinctions made between your run-of-the-mill mass market chocolate and couverture.

Actually, US law is harmonized with EU and Canadian laws regarding the amount of liquor that must be present to be called semisweet or bittersweet - all of which require a minimum of 35% liquor. On an interesting note, there is no legal distinction between bittersweet and semisweet - however when reduced to practice, industry has sort of self policed itself such that bittersweet refers to a minimum of 50% liquor.

Alan - i'm afraid I can't direct you to any place specific regarding different grades of lecithin, and my gut feel is that most small distributors are going to look at you like you've grown antennae if you ask them about the HLB. You might want to try an industrial producer such as Cargill, ADM, Degussa, etc and ask for samples or a distributor list w/a listing of products sold to those distributors so you can then ask for spec sheets on those specific products.

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Alan - i'm afraid I can't direct you to any place specific regarding different grades of lecithin, and my gut feel is that most small distributors are going to look at you like you've grown antennae if you ask them about the HLB.  You might want to try an industrial producer such as Cargill, ADM, Degussa, etc and ask for samples or a distributor list w/a listing of products sold to those distributors so you can then ask for spec sheets on those specific products.

Dear Sebatian,

Well, at least one company is going to get the chance to ask what the hell I'm talking about as I have already e-mailed "Fearn." As for others, with the list of names you supplied above I tracked down:

http://www.asa-europe.org/Suppliers/lecithin.htm

This website lists all(?) of the suppliers of lecithin for the US (and other countries too). I guess I'll be getting busy with some e-mailing come Monday.

Thanks again for the help.

Sincerely,

Alan

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  • 2 years later...

I've been trying various techniques and couverture when coating my truffles. The latest experiment was with a run of truffles for Father's Day.

I formed my ganache rounds and let them sit for a couple hours in the fridge before coating them. I tempered my what I thought was my couverture and started hand-rolling the rounds to pre-coat them before wand dipping. I noticed that the "couverture" was very viscous, then I noticed that I tempered the wrong chocolate. I decided to just go ahead with precoating and the rounds turned out ok. After the chocolate set, I bit into one of the rounds and found that the coating was indeed on the thick side, but it had a very nice "snap" to it. The viscous chocolate was much too thick to dip with a wand so I used a fork and gently slid the rounds off. Not good at all!!! The chocolate was so thick that it took too long to set and as a result, I had several "bigfoot" truffles. Also, way too much chocolate was used in the coating process.

Rather than dumping the tempered chocolate and using couverture, I added about 7% cocoa butter by weight and re-tempered. The resulting chocolate had a very nice viscosity for coating. It was fluid enough to flow fairly quickly and thin enough to set quickly with a very small foot on the rounds. I was able to dip with a fork and slide the rounds off using a paper clip bent into an "L" shape. The result was one of the best dipping jobs I've done. The rounds were very smooth and the resulting foot was quite small. Only one truffle out of 200 developed a crack and there were no "leakers".

I'll have to try a couple more runs to see if pre-coating with a very thick chocolate then dipping using a very thin couverture get consistent results. I am very encouraged as lots of my taste testers said that this was the best looking batch of truffles.

Just for the heck of it, I also hand coated some of the rounds using the thin couverture and got a very nice texture on the truffles. The packaging looked great with one hand coated and two forked dipped truffles in the box.

Guess I'll have to pick up a digital camera so I can start posting pictures, but it's hard to show the process because I'm usually working alone in the kitchen after hours. I'll try to post pictures of the finished products and packaging after I get my camera.

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