Chocolate Comes is Various Grades. Not all chocolate is alike (or even chocolate for that matter). A lot of people get confused about this when starting out so here is a list of common grades of chocolate:
- Melty’s: These are the chocolates you can find in the craft store. They make great molded chocolate treats! However, they aren’t really chocolate because they typically lack Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Powder, and Cocoa Liquor. It isn’t really chocolate, so you don’t have to temper it.
- Chocolate Chips: These are the drops of chocolate sold in every grocery store. They’re fabulous in baked goods, like cookies, because they do well in high temperatures. A high concentrate of vegetable fats replace the Cocoa Butter that is used to make high quality chocolates: making them inexpensive and able to take those high baking temperatures.
- Baker’s Chocolate and Baking Bars: Again, you can find these in your grocery store (probably in the baking aisle). They are fabulous for baking and because they lack Cocoa Butter you can expose the chocolate to high heat and still get excellent results in baked goods. They aren’t good for making custom confections and, truth be told, they’re quite expensive! When you calculate the per pound cost it is usually over $12/lb. No tempering necessary.
- Candy Bar: This favorite treat can be found in grocery stores also. However, the quality is inferior and the price is very high compared to the per pound price of Premium Chocolate.
- Premium Chocolate: Honestly, this chocolate is superior to the aforementioned chocolates for dipping and general candy making. These chocolates are found in specialty stores and you can also purchase them online. They contain the required ingredients of cocoa butter, Cocoa Powder, and Cocoa Liquor and are manufactured in 10 lb. slabs and pellets. The pellets get confusing because many people confuse them with the Melty’s pellets mentioned above so you have to pay attention when making your purchases. Popular brands of Premium Chocolate include Guittard, Merckens, Peters (made by the Nestlé company), and Ghiradelli. This chocolate typically costs between $4.50-$15.00/lb. It’s the chocolate you will learn to temper and use to make specialty confections in the next few days as you follow our website
- Couverture: This is the gold standard for chocolate. It contains high percentages of cocoa butter (32%-39%) and Cocoa Liquor (as high as 70%) that give it its rich, distinctive taste as well as its low melting point. Couverture chocolate is largely available online and the popular brands are Valrhona, Callebaut, Veliche, and Sharfen Berger. They are expensive, ranging from $8 - $15/lb and well worth every penny to the true chocolate connoisseur. The word, Couverture, means covering in French and is used for dipping some of the best chocolate confections made. You would temper this chocolate just as you would the Premium Chocolate.
- Water is the enemy of chocolate. Even one drop of water getting into your melted chocolate can cause it to seize (i.e., it’s ruined). Never put a lid on a pan of melting chocolate to hasten the process because the steam hits the lid of the pan and becomes (you guessed it) water; that drip onto your chocolate.
- Double Boilers are the best friends of chocolate. You need one. You can rig one up with a metal bowl set over a pan filled with 2 inches of water but the double boiler is will make your tempering less risky.
- Chocolate comes in two basic forms: dark and milk. If you are tempering dark chocolate, your temperature goal is 118°F (48C). If you are tempering milk chocolate, your temperature goal is 112° (45C). We won’t even get into white chocolate as it must be handled differently.
- Obtaining Premium or Couverture chocolate is completely worth the money when making confections. What’s the difference? Remember true chocolate will be made of cocoa butter (as opposed to some other type of fat), cocoa powder, and cocoa liquor.
- You want either want a silicon spatula or a dedicated wooden spoon to use when tempering your chocolate. Metal spoons conduct heat and are not recommended. What is a dedicated wooden spoon? It’s one that has never touched any other type of food. The wood can pick up flavors from other foods so purchasing a wooden spoon that will be used only for chocolate tempering is a good idea.
Tomorrow: Tempering Your Chocolate