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.

Caramelized white chocolate

Caramelized white chocolate

Like many chocolate lovers, I used to be a little snobby about white chocolate. It’s so sweet, I would get a headache just thinking about it. But when I noticed Valrhona was making a caramel-colored white chocolate using toasted milk powder, I was intrigued. Who doesn’t like the nutty flavor of dark caramel? White chocolate seemed like the perfect medium to carry that toasted taste.

When I did a little research, I learned that you don’t have to be a chocolate maker to make toasted white chocolate. You can caramelize white chocolate in under 30 minutes in your home oven! The only thing I find more amazing than this is how few people know about it. Which is why I’m trying to spread the word.

White chocolate caramelizes so beautifully for the same reason many people don’t like it: it contains a massive amount of sugar. If you stick a tray of chopped-up white chocolate in the oven at 250 Fahrenheit for 20 – 40 minutes (it will depend on your oven, just keep an eye on it), stirring every 10 minutes, it will go from this…

White Chocolate Couverture

To this….

White Chocolate Melting in Oven

And finally, to this…

White Chocolate Caramelizing in Oven

It’ll look a little grainy, but it turns into a beautiful ganache if you add cream and blend it with a hand mixer (it will be too thick for a whisk). I eyeballed my proportions, but I probably used about a 3:1 ratio of white chocolate to cream. Try to heat the cream to the same temperature as the melted chocolate, and add it a little at a time — the chocolate might look like it’s seizing at first, but keep adding more cream and it will eventually smooth out again into a beautiful, silky ganache. It’ll have the texture and taste of caramel, but with less stickiness and sweetness.

When your ganache is silky, pour it into a frame (I used a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper) and let it set. Use it as the filling for bonbons. Or melt it and pour it over vanilla ice cream. Or eat it with a spoon. The possibilities are endless.

Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache

You can even temper it to make bars and bonbon shells. I haven’t tried this yet, but here’s a drool-worthy pic of successfully tempered caramelized white chocolate bars from Celia’s lovely Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog.

Tempered Caramelized White Chocolate

Happy caramelizing!