Define your Couverture

This post is in reply to the question from Nehul Gautam : 

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How does one decide what flavours or spices or fruit purees go well with different cocoa % in chocolates?

The first step in selecting a chocolate for an application is to ‘DEFINE‘ what you expect from it. You have to be sure of what you want your chocolate to do & what properties are you looking for in your chocolate. Each species (Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario) or hybrid will exhibit different flavour characteristics. The region, soil, air, humidity etc. will play a role in the flavour development. Moreover, the processes on the plantation (harvest, fermentation, natural drying) will contribute to the flavour development of the cacao. On the manufacturing side, the roasting process will enhance & contribute to these flavour dimensions. Other process like conching too will impact flavour. In short, if assuming all processes are undertaken well, a good dark chocolate could exhibit the following characteristics:

  1. Fruity (as cacao is a fruit) could be citrus, berry, plums, prunes, raisins etc.
  2. Acidic ( by nature and/or fermentation ).
  3. Cocoa (Combination of factors- over 600 aromas).
  4. Sweet (Sugar content).
  5. Bitter ( Some undertones of Roasting).

In case of  milk & white chocolate, the quality of milk powder is crucial for a good flavour profile. When we talk of percentages, we are talking of bean content in a chocolate. A 70% couverture means 70% of that couverture comprises of cacao beans(without shell), 30% will be sugar, vanilla, lecithin. However, this does not suggest the region from where the beans are from, how they were processed, is it a single bean couverture or blended bean couverture. So, for a chef just knowing the % is not enough information. For a chef, it is important to know what he’s combining the chocolate with & what the outcome that he’s looking for is. For e.g, Is it a Chocolate Raspberry dessert or a Raspberry Chocolate dessert- Which one is the predominant flavour profile? One’s selection of texture & chocolate will be dependent on that. If I’m making a Hazelnut Chocolate praline with Chocolate as my dominating flavour , I would look for :

  • A high % Dark chocolate – about 70%.
  • Good fruity notes as they bring freshness to creation.
  • Good acidic notes as these notes help cut through fats & sugars. If I was using an acidic ingredient, I would prefer a chocolate that was not strongly acidic in nature.
  • Strong cocoa notes.(Prerequisite for my praline).
  • Low bitter notes ( strong bitter notes are undesirable)
  • Good cocoa pleasing finish.

I would define my chocolate requirements first & then proceed to source it & not the other way round.