Extraordinaire de Chocolat (A Tutorial)

Few folks have a good understanding of chocolate and the huge world of the “good stuff” beyond Nestles morsels and Baker’s squares.  So I feel strongly compelled to offer some basic facts that I feel everyone who cooks should know.  Believe me, this information will save you a fortune in mistakes down the road, and the knowledge is critical if you intend on making some of the chocolates and candies I will eventually be posting.

Chocolate is made from the cocao bean, that is dried, roasted and ground. The grinding produces cocoa liquor, and from this liquor two distinct items are extracted:

A fat that is called “cocoa butter” and a solid that is called “cocoa mass” and which is refined to make cocoa powder.


Depending on what is then added to the cocoa mass, the different varieties of chocolate are produced. Each has a different chemical make-up and the differences between them are not solely in the taste. Be sure, therefore, to use the type of chocolate the recipe calls for, as different varieties will react differently to heat and moisture and other ingredients in the recipe.


As a general rule, these definitions will help you understand the differences:


Cocoa is chocolate liquor with much of the cocoa butter removed, creating a fine powder. Alkalized cocoa powder (also known as Dutch processed cocoa), has been treated with an alkali during processing to produce a more mellow, less harsh-tasting, but darkly colored cocoa. Depending on how it is produced, it may or may not have other ingredients added, such as sugar, etc.Unsweetened Chocolate is simply the cooled and hardened version of chocolate liquor. It is used primarily as an ingredient in recipes since it is not terribly tasty all by itself.


Bitter / Dark / Plain Chocolate is made from the combination of cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar. Normally contains approximately 35% cocoa liquor.


Semi-sweet Chocolate has approximately 15% chocolate liquor, with extra cocoa butter and sugar added. Sweet cooking chocolate is basically the same with more sugar added for taste.


Milk Chocolate is made with cocoa mass, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder and sugar and vanilla added. Normally contains approximately 15 % cocoa liquor.


White Chocolate is in reality (and, in many countries, legally) not really chocolate at all, as it contains no cocoa solids, which leaves it the smooth ivory or beige color. White chocolate is primarily cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla.


White “chocolate” is the most fragile form of all the chocolates. Pay close attention to it while heating or melting it. It must be achieved slowly or it will burn and seize very easily.


Couverture is a special kind of chocolate used by the pros and some of us who have discovered that its wonders far outweigh its price!  A couverture is simply a chocolate with a relatively higher cocoa butter content (a minimum of 32%, often as much as 39%). This high cocoa butter content contributes fluidity, smoothness, strength and ease of handling. In most cases, these chocolates also contain a high cocoa solid content which heightens the flavor.


The formula on couverture packaging may look like this: 70/30/38. This means that there is 70% cocoa solids, 30% sugar, and 38% total fat content.


70/30/38 describes an extra bitter couverture and indicates 70 percent cocoa
solids and only 30 percent sugar.


60/40/38 describes a bitter couverture, which is the most frequently used one (according to E. Guittard  (my personal favorite for years and years).


50/50/38 is “semisweet” coverture.


36/42/38 is milk chocolate couverture.





How to Temper Chocolate




5 Responses to “Extraordinaire de Chocolat (A Tutorial)”

  1. Is the 60/40/38, the bittersweet chocolate? I am having trouble trying to find it on the internet.

    SpinningSugar: Pat, it is bittersweet, indeed. Be aware than chocolate houses vary their percentages of cacao and sugar, so just look for one that is close to this ratio. I order from E. Guittard (find them at http://www.eguittard.com on the web) in large quantities at the beginning of each November, but I have found Lindt and Scharffen Berger bars in local stores.

  2. it looks good..

  3. HI,
    Made the Divine Divinity and it was beautiful. Our mother used to make this and I ompared her receipe with yours and found them to be almost the same. I am 64 and Mom was 81 when she pased.
    I want to learn how to make creme filled choclates. I have read much lately but I find when I read your receipes that I get a feeling of love, knowledge and wisdom. I just read the article on tempering chocolate. Impressive! I can’t drink anymore but have often thought that to put me in the mood for the process of chocolate I would put on the movie “Chocolat” because I believe that good chocolate has a history and a love. I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for but feel that I might be not looking in the right place. Help I am looking for the cream filled centers similiar to See’s. I love the maple crreams.

  4. Your wonderful posts are amazing, I hope you are still out there baking, confecting and please, please, please write again! Are you out of material, very surprising if this is the reason the last posts I can find are from 2007. Not from lack of fans and followers … your work is a very valuable contribution to us bakers and budding confectioners. Thank you and bless you. I would love to know you are still out there making these wonderful treats from your family recipes, to which you’ve added new life.

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