Couverture chocolate (and why chocolatiers aren’t rocket scientists)

Chef Rubber 64% dark chocolate chips

Chef Rubber 64% dark couverture chocolate

Are you confused by couverture chocolate? You aren’t alone. I hadn’t even heard of it before I began my confectionery training. But never fear — here’s the quick and dirty on couverture chocolate for your reading pleasure.

Couverture is a type of chocolate made specifically for confectionery use. Its defining characteristic is its higher cocoa butter content (32-39% ADDED cocoa butter, on top of the cocoa butter already present in the cocoa mass). The extra cocoa butter makes couverture thinner when melted, so professionals can achieve super-thin, super-shiny bonbon shells for their confections. It also gives couverture a really smooth texture and mellow flavor — in no small part because the cocoa butter significantly dilutes the flavorful (but less creamy) cocoa bean mass.

Chocolatiers refer to the more liquid quality and easy pourability of melted couverture in terms of its viscosity — specifically, they categorize couverture as “high viscosity” chocolate. When I first started working with chocolate this confused me to no end, because in physics, the higher the viscosity, the THICKER the liquid. For some reason (maybe they were high on theobromine), chocolatiers decided to reverse that — they call chocolate that is thin and runny “high viscosity.” Clearly someone wasn’t paying attention in high school physics class!

It would be remiss of me to talk about couverture chocolate without noting that, well… it’s delicious. Especially if you like that smooth, European, vanilla-forward chocolate style. But who likes that, right? 😉

You may be wondering if you’ve ever tasted couverture, or if you would even recognize it if you saw it on a shelf, and my guess is that you would. Valrhona and Callebaut are two of the most well known couverture makers — you’ve probably heard of them. Michael Cluizel, Amedei and many others make excellent couverture too.

If you’re interested in a couverture starter kit, I recommend ordering it on Chocosphere, which has a great selection of bars and sampler packs (I love this one). Try the Valrhona classics like Manjari and Guanaja. Jivara is a great couverture milk chocolate (also by Valrhona), if that’s what you’re looking for.

If you do try any of these, please let me know what you think of them.

Truffles with dark chocolate mint ganache

Molded dark chocolate bonbons

Molded Dark Chocolate Bonbons

A couple of years ago I bought an indoor herb garden as a birthday present for my husband. We grow basil, cilantro, dill, parsley and mint, but mint is the one we seem to use least frequently — so I was excited when I realized I could use all that mint to flavor my ganache.

I won’t get into too much detail about how I made these because the process was very similar to how I made the lemon ganache truffles a couple of weeks ago. The only difference was that this time I infused the cream with mint while the cream was still cold. Being short on time, I thought it would be more efficient to blend them up together in my Magic Bullet.

Fresh mint whipped cream
Fresh Mint Whipped Cream

Well… it turns out you can make really fluffy whipped cream in a blender! I had no idea. Green whipped cream too. Whoops.

Despite this accident, it turned out beautifully. I used 70.4% dark Callebaut. Not too sweet, and the ganache had just the faintest hint of mint.

At the last minute I second-guessed myself and added a drop of peppermint oil. I wish I’d skipped it. The subtlety of the mint had been refreshing, but the peppermint oil made these truffles taste like Andes Candies — which are tasty, but not very original. I’d really hoped the fresh mint flavor would come through.

Whisked Chocolate Mint GanacheSigh.

Still, the truffles came out so shiny and pretty — I couldn’t have been happier with the result (aesthetically, anyway).

Plus, now I know how to make green whipped cream in a blender. Which will come in handy… never?