Monday, September 17, 2007

Chocolate Linguistics Part 3: Couverture

My fascination with chocolate etymology is now the basis for a trilogy. The first installment of Chocolate Linguistics took on the words "Cocoa" and "Cacao." Chocolate Linguistics Part 2 probed into "Cocoa Mass" and "Cocoa Solids." This time around, I asked four industry experts:

In your own words, how do you define "couverture"?

Clay Gordon
Self-made chocolate expert and author of the upcoming book, Discover Chocolate

Couverture comes from the French for cover, "couvre." Couverture chocolates are used mainly by professionals and contain a high ratio of cocoa butter to cocoa powder so they possess a lower viscosity (they are thinner) when melted and are thus capable of creating thin shells around the center of a bon bon, truffle, or other confection. Because they contain so much cocoa butter, couverture chocolates have a very luscious mouth feel, and for this reason, many chocophiles prefer them to non-couverture chocolates.

Seneca Klassen
Co-owner of Bay Area chocolate cafe Bittersweet and a voice of the Bittersweet blog

Couverture is finished chocolate, usually in button or disc shapes, that chocolatiers and other remelters use to make confections, drink blends, flavored bars, and other remolded chocolate products.

Chuck Siegel
Chocolate entrepreneur behind the Bay Area's Charles Chocolates and (as of July) a chocolate blogger

Couverture is chocolate that is, owing to it's high cocoa butter content (lower viscosity), ideal for using as a coating for confections. As recently as 10 years ago, there was a substantial difference between couverture and the chocolate bars that could be purchased at most stores. The difference between the two is no longer that pronounced, with high cacao content bars, with their higher cocoa butter content, readily available.

Many bars made by better chocolate makers are, in fact, the same as the commercial couverture products that they make available to chocolatiers and pastry chefs.

David Lebovitz
Former Chez Panisse pastry chef, author of The Great Book of Chocolate and (more recently) The Perfect Scoop, and an expat American blogger in Paris

I'm afraid that even I don't know what's couverture anymore! It used to be anything with a higher-than-normal cocoa butter content, but now I can't tell and no one seems to know.


Blogger Unknown said...

I do have to agree with David here in the sense that many current eating chocolates have the same high proportion of cocoa butter found in couvertures ... in fact, many high-end bars are simply couverture chocolates that have been melted down, tempered, and molded into bar form.

At the high end, certainly, the difference between an eating chocolate and a couverture is hard to distinguish.

The same cannot be said for many mass-market chocolate bars which have lower quantities of cocoa butter and often substitute other forms of fat (e.g., butter oil) that are on the accepted list of ingredients that can be in chocolate and still call it chocolate.

Clay Gordon
author, Discover Chocolate

8:02 AM GMT-5  

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