What is Couverture Chocolate?
Couverture is the name given to a certain class of high-quality chocolate. All chocolate bars contain many of the same base ingredients—cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, and perhaps additives like vanilla, soy lecithin, or milk powder. But couverture chocolate, unlike regular chocolate, is ground to a finer texture during the production process and contains a greater percentage of cocoa butter relative to the other ingredients.
These two differences produce a superior flavor and texture that makes couverture the preferred chocolate for tempering and enrobing truffles, bonbons, and other fine candies.
In America, the precise standards for couverture chocolate state that couverture chocolate must contain a minimum of 35% cocoa solids and 31% cocoa butter. (Here's a primer on how chocolate is made and what these percentages mean.) 31% is just the minimum amount, however, and some couverture chocolates contain up to 39% cocoa butter. The more cocoa butter the chocolate contains, the more fluid it is when melted, which is why it is the preferred choice for tempering.
When Should I Use Couverture Chocolate?
I've heard some argue that you should only use standard chocolate for eating and reserve couverture chocolate for tempering only. False! Couverture chocolate is delicious and makes a wonderful eating chocolate as well.
The extra cocoa butter gives it a fantastically smooth texture, and the fine quality of the cocoa beans give it a good flavor. However, it is typically more expensive than other chocolates, so economically it makes the most sense to save couverture chocolate for times when great taste and texture are paramount.
Couverture is ideal for tempering and dipping, and this is where it really shines. Use it in any candy recipe where you want a coating with a deep chocolate flavor, a beautiful shine, and a healthy "snap" when you bite into the candy. Use it to make chocolate bars, cover truffles, or make clusters or barks.
Can you bake with coverture? It depends. Because it contains a greater percentage of cocoa butter, it might behave different in recipes that call for melted chocolate, like cakes or brownies. The different proportions of fat to sugar and cocoa solids might be a problem, depending on the recipe. In most cases, it's best to bake with a chocolate intended for baking and save the couverture for dipping.
Where Should I Buy Couverture Chocolate?
Good news—thanks to the internet, you no longer need to visit a specialty store or buddy up to a gourmet food distributor to acquire couverture chocolate! You can often buy directly from a specific company's website, or visit chocolate distributors like World Wide Chocolate, Chocosphere, or Gourmail. Amazon even carries some types of couverture chocolate!
Many fine chocolate makers produce couverture chocolate, including Amano, Callebaut, El Rey, Felchlin, Guittard, Lindt, Scharffen Berger, and Valrhona.
There's not a "top" or "best" couverture chocolate to recommend, as it comes down to personal taste and preference. My recommendation is to sample different brands over time, if possible, to find your personal favorite couverture.
What Should I Make With Couverture Chocolate?
First of all, to properly appreciate couverture chocolate, you need to be comfortable tempering chocolate. Here is my guide to chocolate tempering, including a useful instructional video.
Once you've mastered tempering, take your chocolate for a spin and dip one of these truffles in it! (Don't miss my instructions on how to dip truffles, as well.)
- Pink Grapefruit Truffles
- Sparkling Truffles
- Burnt Almond Truffles
- Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
- Chocolate Orange Truffles
- Mint Fudge Truffles
- Raspberry Rose Truffles