The word couverture is French in origin and roughly translates to “covering.” Couverture chocolate is used to cover cakes and desserts with a thin, super smooth, shiny layer of chocolate. While very convenient, versatile and delicious, it is delicate and very temperature sensitive.
High quality couverture chocolate is rich, cream, firm and absolutely delicious. Some gourmet bakers add extra cocoa butter to their batches, resulting in a chocolate covering that snaps a little when it is sliced. In fact, some bakers use up to 40 percent cocoa butter per batch. When plucked from the tree, cocoa beans are comprised of about 51 percent cocoa butter.
When the butter is pressed out of the bean and the remains are pressed and processed, powdered cocoa is the result. During the creation of couverture chocolate, some of that cocoa butter is re-incorporated into the powdered bean through a very meticulous and difficult process.
The History of Chocolate
Chocolate makers, called couvertures, have been in existence for at least 4,000 years. History’s first recorded use of chocolate was in Egypt around 1566B.C. Cocoa beans were roasted and then added to date sugar or honey to create the first chocolate form of chocolate. The Olmec Indians are believed to be the first civilization to cultivate cocoa plants in 1500 B.C. Scientists believe that cocoa plants grew in the wild as far back as 10000 years ago.
This new substances failed to make a big bang around the world until about 500 years later when it was discovered to be highly valuable by the Mayan and Aztec tribes. Cocoa was first drank by society elites and was very expensive. The drink was comprised of unsweetened cocoa beans and water. Around 600 B.C. a cocoa plantation was established in the Yucatan Peninsula. The beans were used as currency, lending credence to the myth of a money tree.
According to The Nibble, cocoa beans were used to purchase grocery items: a turkey for 200 beans, a tomato for 3 beans. They were so valuable to the people of ancient times that deities were appointed to protect the cocoa plant. Humans were sacrificed to these gods between 600-1000 A.D.
The Aztecs mixed cocoa beans with chili peppers, cinnamon, vanilla and other spices and then brewed into a spicy, but delicious drink. This drink was a favorite of societal elites – holy men and women, government officials, soldiers and the noble classes were the only people allowed to drink it.
As globalization began, the spread of chocolate hit Europe. Noblemen and women, royalty and the rich were the only people who could afford to purchase cocoa, though the industrial revolution brought much cheaper prices and new packaging and cooking options. Experimentation with chocolate has been going full force since the early 1800’s.
Without a doubt, the last four millennia of chocolate history have culminated into brilliant and delicious chocolate inventions. Couverture chocolate is incredibly versatile, high-quality chocolate that can be used for an amalgam of recipes. Because it is delicate and making delicious desserts can be tricky, a cooking course is recommended before undertaking any projects. These courses teach about everything from how to make chocolate to how to incorporate chocolate into desserts to tips and tricks on making chocolate desserts that are unforgettable.
How to Use Couverture Chocolate
This type of chocolate may be served on its own, and is the same chocolate used in fountains at formal events. True gourmet restaurants use it to cover strawberries, pineapple, dessert cakes, pralines, truffles and more. It is also used to molded figurines, such as edible animals, toy cars and people that often grace to tops of themed cakes. Frosted cakes can benefit from the use of couverture chocolate cutouts, such as flowers, landscape scenes or even names. Learn more ways to use couverture chocolate to create amazing desserts with an online gourmet cooking course.
Heating the Chocolate
The texture of couverture chocolate is very important. In order to get a sleek, shiny finish, the hard chocolate will have to be re-tempered. Tempering entails gentle and slow temperature adjustments performed on a cool stone cutting board.
Place chocolate squares into a double boiler and place on the range at low to medium low heat. Stir the melting chocolate occasionally and pay close attention to temperatures. At 48 degrees Celsius, all of the sugar crystals within the chocolate dissolve and begin moving around fluidly. Remove the chocolate from the double boiler and bring it to a cool stone slab.
At 28 degrees Celsius, this chocolate is the consistency of cooked custard. The working temperature for dark couverture chocolate is 31 – 32 degrees Celsius. Do not cool the chocolate too much. Pour about ⅔ of hot chocolate onto the board and “table it” by scraping spatulas back and forth across the board, allowing the air and cool stone to lower the temperature of the chocolate.
When the chocolate feels cool to the touch, but still malleable, add it to the bowl and stir the chocolates together. Add this slightly warm mixture back to the double boiler and warm it up again by just a few degrees. The texture and temperature are perfect when a spatula is dipped into the chocolate, held up above the bowl and waved back and forth so that a stream flows down and rests on top of the chocolate in the bowl. The chocolate must be flowing, but not too fluid.
The chocolate will cool and harden after two to three minutes, so working quickly is important. Spread the chocolate over cakes with a spatula and allow gravity to do half of the work. When tempered properly, this chocolate coating will have a very shiny finish. Adding a teaspoon of brewed coffee to each bowl of chocolate will result in an even shinier finish with absolutely no coffee flavor detectible.
When using the chocolate for a project and running low in the bowl, keep in mind that the new chocolate will also need to be tempered. Begin by heating the bowl of chocolate back up to about 48 degrees Celsius with the use of a double boiler. Add chunks or buttons of couverture chocolate. There should be a ratio of hot to cold chocolate of 2:1. Stir the chocolate until it is fully incorporated. Check the temperature of the chocolate and table it as needed.
Where to get Couverture Chocolate
Couverture chocolate is very difficult to make, and there are limited quantities available. For these reasons, it is more difficult to find than other types of chocolate. Cocoa beans of the quality necessary to make true couverture chocolate are rare, and only 50 chocolate makers worldwide deal in this type of chocolate. Working with this chocolate is as much of a treat as eating it. Find online distributors or visit high-end baking stores or wholesale distributors that carry this type of chocolate. Be careful to read the fine print on labels. Many products are labeled couverture, but they are anything but. Expect to pay upwards of $40 per five pound bag of true couverture chocolate at wholesale prices. If it is much cheaper than that price, it is probably not genuine couverture chocolate and will not give the desired results in recipes.
Couverture chocolate is a sumptuous addition to desserts or fabulous on its own. Heavy amounts of cocoa butter keep this chocolate fluffy, thick and rich. The texture is so perfect it literally melts on the tongue. Not only is this a delicious dessert, dark couverture chocolate can even boost health. Learn how to cook with gourmet chocolate at home, start hunting locally and bring this rare chocolate home now.