Chocolate is divided into two categories: real and compound.
Both real chocolate and compound chocolate are chocolate – the difference is the type of lipid (fat) or oil used in the production of the product.
Real chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is extracted from the cocoa or cacao bean. Cocoa butter is an expensive ingredient that has some unusual characteristics or quirks. Because of the nature of cocoa butter, real chocolate requires going through a special procedure during the melting process called tempering, which re-establishes the cocoa butter crystals, giving the cooled and finished chocolate the proper sheen, snap, and taste. Additionally, and of vital importance, tempering prevents bloom, where the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa solids and comes to the surface, turning the chocolate whitish or grayish in color. If you are making candy or dipping items that won’t be consumed within a day or so, tempering is absolutely mandatory for all real chocolate.
Real chocolate is subdivided into three categories based on the quality of the product (quality of the cocoa beans) and most importantly, the cocoa butter content: regular chocolate, couverture chocolate, and ultra couverture chocolate.
Typically in chocolate chip form, regular chocolate is sweetened with sugar, is generally made from moderate quality cocoa beans, and has a very low cocoa butter content and a high viscosity (thickness when in a melted state). Generally used in baking (i.e. chocolate chip cookies), regular chocolate holds its shape and is not the best choice when molding, dipping or enrobing.
Another form of regular chocolate is unsweetened blocks or bars of baking chocolate (also called plain chocolate), which generally has a relatively low cocoa butter content and doesn’t require tempering when used in normal baking applications.
The term couverture translates to “covering” and refers to the finest professional quality chocolate. It is produced with a high percentage of cocoa butter and uses premium cacao beans. It melts smoothly, making it ideal for specialty candy making and molding. When tempered and cooled, it forms an elegant glossy finish.
Ultra Couverture Chocolate
Ultra Couverture Chocolate is equal in quality to couverture chocolate but with an even higher cocoa butter content. Due to the higher cocoa butter content and very low viscosity, it is the perfect chocolate for dipping and enrobing. Few manufacturers are able to successfully produce this type of chocolate because of the difficulty in balancing the higher cocoa butter content while retaining superb taste and texture. When tempered and cooled, it forms a thin and elegant glossy shell.
Compound Chocolate contains vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter and tempering is not required. Home hobbyists and professionals alike have utilized compound chocolate due to its ease of use and lower price.
Historically, quality and taste have been sacrificed for ease and price. Now, with Bada Bing Bada Boom, Chocoley has a solution for those that do not want to temper, yet want great tasting chocolate. Bada Bing Bada Boom is produced using unique and drastic advances in manufacturing and superior formulation processes.
Preventing problems in dealing with chocolate & troubleshooting
Like Superman, chocolate (the Super Food) has its weaknesses. Superman has to worry about kryptonite and chocolate’s archenemies are water (or moisture of any kind), temperature extremes (especially heat), and absorption of odors. Read this section, and read problems and corrections when working with chocolate.
Understanding & preventing seizing will eliminate potential catastrophic results.
When moisture/liquid gets in chocolate, it’s like oil & water – they don’t mix. A drop or two of liquid can cause chocolate to seize (form hard lumps) and become unworkable for dipping.
Always pat wet fruits dry before dipping and always keep tools and utensils dry. I am aware of very experienced chefs ruining a large batch of chocolate by melting in a double boiler and then pouring the melted chocolate directly into the base of a chocolate fountain, without first drying the water from the outside of the double boiler pan. When they pour the chocolate, water drips from the outside of the pan into the chocolate, creating a disaster. Similarly, dipping wet fruit items can result in the chocolate seizing.
Seizing is also caused by overheating the chocolate. Proper melting is done slowly at low temperatures as chocolate is extremely sensitive to rapid temperature changes, such as melting under high or direct heat. Chocolate will melt at around 88°F and will burn at around 125°F (for dark & milk chocolate) and around 120°F for white, so don’t be in a hurry to melt it. It’s very easy to scorch/burn chocolate – especially white.
The Just Melt It! Fountain & Fondue Chocolate has microwave instructions on each microwavable 2.5 lb. tub. The instructions assume that your microwave has a turntable, which is important so that no hot spots are created. Use low-temperature settings and stir frequently with a rubber spatula.
Be very careful when melting chocolate – one small burn can cause the entire batch to seize or simply taste and smell awful.
Dampness & condensation results in “sugar bloom” – you’ll see grains of sugar on the surface of the chocolate. Excessive heat or cold results in “fat bloom” – you’ll see a whitish or gray color on the chocolate. Blooming (especially “fat bloom”) is probably the biggest issue most people have with chocolate. If you haven’t melted the chocolate yet and it has bloomed, the final taste will not be affected because when the chocolate is melted, the cocoa butter will be redistributed throughout the chocolate. Fat bloom is simply the cocoa butter separating from the cocoa solids and coming to the surface. Proper storage will prevent blooming.
Before and after it’s been melted…store between 55-70°F, ideally with less than 50% humidity. DO NOT refrigerate before or after melting. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT FREEZE! Remember, dampness & condensation results in “sugar bloom” and excessive heat or cold results in “fat bloom.”
While we maintain a climate-controlled facility (both temperature & humidity), once the chocolate leaves our facility, it is subject to the outside world, which we, of course, have no control over. It’s fine if you receive your Just Melt It! Fountain & Fondue Chocolate melted since it’s intended to be used melted. When weather requires it, our other chocolate products will be shipped in insulated cold packaging to help control temperature.
How To Melt Chocolate
- Use only DRY utensils.
- Don’t stir chocolate with a wooden or metal spoon. Use only rubber spatulas that have not been exposed to strong flavors such as tomato sauce or garlic.
- Stir the chocolate slowly & gently, keeping movement to a minimum.
- The correct temperature coaxes the very best out of chocolate. When melting, the ideal temperature is 108-115°F. Make sure to completely wipe the bottom of the pot before pouring the chocolate, whether into a chocolate fountain, fondue pot, or when making candy.
When making candy or dipping items that are not going to be consumed within hours of initial preparation, you must “temper” the chocolate in order to prevent blooming. Tempering is when the cocoa butter crystals are stabilized, allowing the chocolate to harden properly with the desired gloss finish. Chocolate that has not been properly tempered will seriously bloom within 24-48 hours. Tempering takes time, devotion, and a cool kitchen (around 68°F), but the results are worth the work.