Many confectioners prefer the beautiful glossy sheen, crisp snap and delectably unctuous mouthfeel of couverture chocolate, and use it in all of their baking and candy making. However, high quality couverture chocolates, which are carefully formulated and concocted by extremely experienced chocolatiers (such as those as Callebaut) are made with a sensitive balance of cocoa solids and cocoa liquids.
Precise recommendations follow couverture chocolates regarding how they must be stored, handled, heated and tempered. One simply cannot choose a couverture blend as a candy making chocolate, heat it in a double boiler, mold it, and expect the results to unfold in accordance with expectations. The use of couverture chocolate requires more precise observation of a few key pointers. When it is not managed or tempered properly, couverture chocolate is host to a number of problems, notably blooming.
What Is Blooming?
If you aren’t familiar with the term blooming, you would probably recognize its effects. Blooming manifests in chocolate as what appear to be tiny white dots, splotches of discoloration, or even as a whitish haze that covers the surface of the chocolate. It occurs when chocolate has not been tempered properly.
What you’re actually seeing is little bits of cocoa butter (which appears to be white) that have heated up and separated from the rest of the solids and other ingredients in the chocolate blend. Blooming can occur in chocolate that has heated up on its own, but it most often occurs when chocolate has not been tempered.
Tempering is a process by which chocolate is heated and cooled under stringent control in order to ensure that the blend will remain homogeneous. The process helps to prevent blooming in couverture chocolate, and it also provides a smooth, glossy finish, a crisp snap and a pleasant mouthfeel.
The need for tempering to prevent these issues is where compound chocolates like Merckens chocolates really shine. Whereas couverture chocolate is made with a mix of cocoa solids and cocoa liquids, including cocoa butter, in compound chocolate blends, the cocoa butter has been replaced with a vegetable oil, such as palm oil, instead.
While this does change the consistency and flavor of the chocolate slightly, compound chocolates, like Merckens chocolates, can be melted multiple times, poured, formed and molded, all without the need for tempering. Because the cocoa butter has been removed, there is little chance of a bloom occurring. This makes compound chocolates like Merckens the prime choice for DIY and at-home confectioners.
Why Do I Need to Use a Double Boiler?
One note that you’ll have to keep in mind here is that, even though compound chocolate is not prone to blooming, you must still use a double boiler when you melt it. The double boiler is not intended to protect chocolate against blooming, it is intended to protect chocolate against burning.
Incidental contact with the hot metal on the underside of a pan will cause couverture chocolate to burn, and it will make compound chocolate burn as well. Even if you cut the chocolate with additional oil or cream, you still need to use a double boiler to protect your chocolate from burning.
The double boiler will enable you to heat the chocolate up slowly, to prevent it from burning. It will also enable you to melt the chocolate to an evenly fluid consistency without risk. Whether you choose a compound candy making chocolate like Merckens chocolate wafers or a couverture chocolate, a double boiler is not a suggestion.
What Will I Need to Make Chocolate Candies?
If you want to get started making chocolate candies, there are a few basic essentials you will need and then a few others that are nice to have. Depending on what you intend to make, you will need some of the following.
-The Merckens candy making chocolate wafers themselves
-A double boiler (which you may be able to improvise)
-A spatula for manipulating or spreading the chocolate
-Oil-based food colorings (if you want to change the color)
-Flavoring oils (if you wish to add flavor)
-Candy molds, depending on if you want to create shaped or molded candies
-Cups and holders
-Foil or other wrapping essentials
-A candy thermometer is useful for tempering chocolates, but not essential with compound blends. You simply need to melt and mix it thoroughly.
There are a few other essential ingredients and accouterments that you might want to have on hand depending on your specific project, but for most at-home chocolate crafting, this list of essentials will serve you well.
Candy Making Chocolate Tips
Creating enjoyable, quality candies is not particularly difficult with this type of chocolate, but there are still a few tips we can offer to shorten the learning curve in order to help you on the road to success. Working with Merckens chocolates is easy, but a few pointers can still help. Pretty soon, you’ll be quality chocolate creations without a second thought.
●Cut the chocolate into uniforms pieces (not a concern with Merckens)
If you’re using Merckens candy making chocolates or compound chocolate chips, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern, but any other chocolates need to be grated or cut to relatively uniform sizes before you add them to the double boiler. This will help to ensure that they melt evenly and consistently.
●Melt the chocolate slowly, this isn’t a race
When you turn the heat up, do so very slowly. There’s no benefit whatsoever to rushing through the melting and mixing process, and the best thing that can happen is that the chocolates will burn, which isn’t a very good thing at all. Take your time, be ginger about the heat, and allow the chocolates to melt slowly to ensure an even consistency and fluid texture before molding or pouring.
●Stir the chocolates as you melt them
Another way to ensure that the chocolates melt evenly is to stir them as you melt them. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the chocolate as it melts in order to ensure there are no lumps or unmelted pieces. Even compound chocolate tends to lump up a little, which can make it difficult to create a smooth, velvety liquid texture. Stirring can help combat this.
●Add liquids with care, they can cause chocolate to seize
If you’re going to be adding oil based food colorings or liquid flavorings in the form of oil (or any other liquids, for that matter) make sure you add them a little bit at a time and very carefully. Also, don’t put cold liquids into melted chocolate as it can cause them to seize and will hinder your efforts to get them to mix properly, which will cost extra time and will get in the way of you and your finished product.
●If you wish, you can thin your chocolate with paramount crystals, vegetable oil or cream
Depending on what you’re going to be doing with your melted Merckens chocolate, you may wish to thin it out slightly with Paramount crystals, vegetable oil or cream. For example, if you wish to make a runny chocolate for a garnish or a chocolate dipping sauce, you might wish to thin them with oil or cream.
The same rules apply here, especially if you are going to add cream; allow it to come to room temperature or heat it up a little before adding it to the melted chocolate, or it will seize and the chocolate will “tear” into little shreds that will take longer to mix together with the rest of the liquid.
Paramount crystals are made of a blend of partially hydrogenated oils that help to keep the chocolate liquid; they can be used to thin chocolate for any of the purposes mentioned here and can be easier to work in for a more even consistency.
●Chocolate absorbs odors - store it sealed and away from other ingredients if you must
If you are going to be storing your Merckens chocolate wafers for a prolonged period of time, be sure to store them in a cool, dry location, away from light, in a sealed container. Chocolate, especially compound chocolate, can absorb moisture, flavors, and odors, so if you want your chocolate wafers to be fresh and unencumbered by unwanted flavors when you open them, be sure to keep them stored properly.
●Follow the instructions of your recipe closely
Finally, if you’re going to be following a recipe for the creation of your chocolate candies, make sure you follow it as closely as possible. Confectionery, like baking, is more of a science than the other culinary arts, and there isn’t a lot of room for flexibility, especially for someone new to it. Follow even the minute details of the recipe - they’re there for a reason, and until you can draw from experience, you will have to lean on the experience of the confectioners whose words you’re following.
Ideas for Creations Using Merckens Chocolates
Since Merckens chocolates can be used to create candy confections easily at home, even by beginners, there are tons of different things you can do with them. Here are some popular ideas to offer you some inspiration as you get started!
●Create your own candy bars or chocolate bars
Merckens chocolates can be used to create your own candy chocolate bars at home, especially themed, colored, and flavored chocolate bars. All you need is a mold, some flavorings, and colorings, although Merckens sells pre-colored chocolate wafers that make this step easier!
●Chocolate drops and melts
With a simple themed mold - and there are plenty of them out there - you can make your own chocolate candy drops and melts right at home. This is actually one of the easiest techniques for making your own chocolate candies. Just melt, color, flavor, mold, and serve!
●Chocolates with candy centers
You can also create your own chocolate drops and molds with candy centers using Merckens chocolates, a mold, and some flavored candy centers such as the ones that we carry here at Stover & Company from B&K!
●Chocolate covered candy clusters
You don’t need candy centers to make a delectable chocolate treat! You can also create candy clusters at home very easily - you don’t really even need a mold. With your favorite nuts, peanut butter chips, pretzels, or whatever else you like, simply arrange them on a wax paper sheet and drizzle the chocolate over them until they are covered. They may not be as pretty as molded chocolates, but they are delicious.
●Chocolate candy cups
Using a simple mold and little paper or aluminum foil cups, you can make chocolate candy cups filled with candy centers, coconuts, fruit, peanut butter, or whatever else you love.
Chocolate pops, sometimes also known as suckers, are extremely popular and easy to make. You just need a mold and a stick for the pop.
●Create a dipping chocolate or a dipping sauce
You can also create a chocolate dipping sauce from Merckens chocolate, using cream or oil. If you thin out the chocolate enough, it will remain runny enough to use as a drizzle or as a dipping sauce!
●Chocolate as a garnish
Finally, you can color, flavor, and mold Merckens chocolates into blocks that can be used to create chocolate garnish for other dishes. For example, you can grate chocolate onto baked goods or fruits for a colorful, tactical, and gustatory effect. You can also use a fruit peeler to cut thin slivers of chocolate for use as a garnish as well.
Creating Colorful Chocolate Candies
A note on creating chocolate candies that are colored - you have two options for this. One is to use an oil based food coloring that can be added to Merckens white chocolate wafers. Just be sure to use oil based colors or they won’t mix into the chocolate well. The other is even more convenient - Merckens chocolate wafers are made in a variety of colors that are ideal for confectionery.
For more inspiration, make sure you follow us on our social media accounts, Facebook and Instagram, where you can keep up with news, specials, and other developments. If you have any questions regarding our products or would like some more candy making tips, get in touch with us directly at 724-274-6314.