What is more luxurious than a silky smooth melt in the mouth, piece of chocolate or a decadent piece of chocolate cake. Our love affair with chocolate is never ending but our relationship with it is complicated let’s admit to that. Just on the chocolate shelf in a supermarket, you see many varieties of chocolates. So which one you can buy to just nibble on and which one you should use for baking with? Let take a closer look at all these questions.
Chocolate is basically made by fermenting & then drying the cocoa beans. These beans are then converted to cocoa nibs that are nothing but broken beans which goes through the grinding process to give you chocolate liquor or it is also called cocoa mass. Even though the name suggests the cocoa liquor does not contain any kind of liquor in it & is pure cocoa mass containing only cocoa solids & cocoa butter. Well, I have explained this process in a single sentence but believe me, it is fairly complicated.
At this point milk, sugar and other stuff are added to it to make different types of chocolates. This high-quality chocolate is couverture chocolate.
This kind of chocolate being high quality is rich and perfect to be used in many applications. The quality of other ingredients like milk, sugar, vanilla & other stabilizers also determines the quality of the chocolate.
Couverture chocolate requires tempering. It is a process where you manipulate the temperature to control the crystallization of cocoa butter bonds. This process stabilizes the cocoa butter bonds to form a particular crystal structure which gives stability to the chocolate along with a shiny finish and crisp snap when you break it. If you are using chocolate couverture for baking or for making ganache you can use as it is without tempering. But if you are using it to make candy(what we usually call as chocolate bars) or chocolate decoration you will need to temper it. You can use it without tempering but it won’t have the desired smoothness, glossiness or snap to it.
Sometimes when the chocolate loses its temper it develops a white film on top. This happens when the temperature of the chocolate increases but is not so much as to melt it.
At this point, the sugar or the fat ie. the cocoa butter separates out and comes on top. The chocolate still tastes good and can be used.
Another type of chocolate is compound chocolate. For making the chocolate compound vegetable fat is added instead of cocoa butter. Addition of vegetable fat decreases the price of the chocolate and makes it easier to work with. It also eliminates the time spent needed in tempering. This cocoa butter is sold separately or used to make white chocolate and hence you will find compound chocolate to be cheaper as compared to the couverture.
You can directly melt and use this chocolate
To adjust the consistency you can add some neutral oil to it especially for dipping purposes. It is cheaper but in terms of richness of taste & texture couverture wins. Some people like to use the compound in making ganache and for baking. But nothing compares to a rich ganache or smooth melt in mouth candy made with couverture chocolate.
What is the difference between dark chocolate, milk chocolate & white chocolate?
Milk Chocolate is made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter and milk ingredients. Addition of milk & sugar gives it that mild creamy & sweet taste.
White chocolate is made up of cocoa butter, milk solids & sugar. It lacks cocoa solid which is responsible for that dark taste. The bottom line? It doesn’t actually contain cocoa liquor or chocolate solids found in its milk and dark chocolate friends, and finds its flavour mainly from its milky, buttery components. White chocolate also requires tempering as it also contains cocoa butter.
Dark chocolate on the other hand which is my personal favourite is made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter & sugar. Milk ingredients are not used in it. The amount of cocoa solids present in it determines its darkness. Now higher cocoa percentage does not automatically make it of higher quality as the quality of beans and the manufacturing process also plays a role in it.
Anything above 70% of darkness is bitter chocolate and is perfect for baking with. Just for consuming on its own you can use darkness percentage as per your liking. Generally, I find anything above 55-60% to be too bitter to eat on its own.
Bittersweet chocolate ie. 54% dark chocolate works best when making a ganache. For baking, you can either go for bittersweet or bitter chocolate as per your liking.
To conclude, for baking, making chocolate candies and for decorations, couverture is the best type of chocolate. You can get away using the compound for ganache & baking but it is not the best option in terms of flavour. And I personally wouldn’t recommend it.
How to melt the chocolate
The melting point of chocolate is low. It is lower than body temperature. So while melting make sure you melt it at very low heat. Microwave it in 10-15 secs and mix in between. It is called the dry method and is the best method to melt chocolate. In case of double boiler keep the water simmering and it should not touch the chocolate bowl on top. Follow the same procedure for melting compound chocolate.
If you overheat the chocolate it gets thick & clumpy and if even a drop of water is introduced in it, it seizes & turns into a messy grainy, oily mess. You cannot salvage it and use it for original purpose but don’t throw it away you might be able to bring it back, remove it from heat add some hot cream/milk or melted butter and mix it until it comes back together. You can use it to make ganache, sauces or for baking.
How to store the chocolate
Certain cities in India can get hot like the inside of an oven in summers. The temperature soars up to 40 degrees Celsius. And chocolates definitely doesn’t like it. Chocolate loses its temper at high temperature and it blooms. (Remember we talked about the white finish on chocolates) If this happens it still tastes good and you can use it by tempering it again. Chocolate needs cool and dry temperature. In summers you can store the chocolate in a cool AC room in an airtight container. A normal refrigerator can be too cold for the chocolate and you can run into the risk of developing condensation but you can keep it in the fridge in an airtight container away from moisture. Wrap it in multiple layers & store in the least cold part of your refrigerator.
So there you go, I believe I have only scratched the surface of this topic. But the next time you go out to buy chocolate you would know better for sure.
Still have doubts, comment below and I will try to solve them
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