Rule of Thumb:
” BUY TO BEST YOU CAN FIND… AND THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD”
You truly get what you pay for when buying chocolate. When choosing the right chocolate consider what you are using it for, i.e. truffle centers, children’s lollipops, or elegant molded chocolates for an assortment. You want the best chocolate for your recipe but also the best value too. You certainly don’t need to buy high end “couverture” chocolate @ 12.00/# for a cake recipe!!
COMMON GRADES OF CHOCOLATE
Coco-Buttons. Often called “melty’s”, “coco-lites” or “coco buttons”, the colorful and sweet candy buttons you find in every craft-hobby store are not chocolate at all! Extremely easy to use, and very affordable, they are actually just a sweet candy product made with sugar products and vegetable fat. They are missing one, if not all three ingredients required to be true chocolate; Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Liquor. Use these for quick tasty crafts, colorful table favors or children’s lollipops, but NEVER assume they are to be used in your prized gourmet confections. The big take away here is, if the directions say “NO tempering required”… it’s NOT chocolate!
Chocolate Chips. Basic recipes from magazines, on the side of food packaging etc. may call for “chocolate chips” as the chocolate ingredient. While these yummy morsels are great in cookies and delicious eaten by the handfuls, they are no substitute for pure, high quality chocolate. They contain a high concentrate of vegetable fats in place of cocoa butter, yielding them great for high heat recipes but unsatisfactory for the “melt in your mouth” experience of fine chocolate.
Bakers chocolate, often sold as bittersweet chocolate or dark chocolate, bakers chocolate is another grade of chocolate wonderful for baking but NOT great for gourmet candy making. It offers a strong, rich flavor but the texture is coarse and grainy and is very dry.
Baking bar. Catering to gourmet foodies, many companies have introduced their own version of the baking bar. Nestle, and Hershey have introduced 3-4 ounce chocolate bars (for baking) that are very nice but again, NOT the quality you are looking for to make great custom chocolate confections. Also, the cost of these convenient bars when multiplied is over $12.00 per pound!!
Good old candy bar. Yes, these in many cases are real chocolate but the grade is inferior and the price is high! I once heard of a toffee maker melting chocolate bars for his chocolate topping. When it’s all said and done he was paying over $5.00 per pound for less than excellent chocolate!
Premium chocolate, REAL chocolate. Wonderful to work with, and yes, it does require tempering. Smooth, rich and of superior quality for any gourmet candy recipe. Melt, temper and use it for molded products, use it as dipping or coating chocolate for truffles, cream centers, or dipped fruits and nuts. Delicious on every level, you will love the results every time when you use a premium professional chocolate. Find it in fine food stores, gourmet delis and through numerous online sources. Purchased in blocks, buttons or big chunks by the pound or ounce, this is the “real deal”. In gourmet food stores and fine delis, 10 pound blocks are broken into assorted size chunks and sold by the ounce like fine cheese. Online you can purchase blocks or slabs in 10 pound increments and buttons or pellets in 1 pound increments. Very popular and easily found brands to consider are Merckens, Peters made by Nestle, Guittard and Ghiradelli, to name just a few. Expect to pay between $4.50-$15.00 per pound depending on the resource and brand.
Pure chocolate, couverture. Couverture means “coating” in French and represents the highest grade of chocolate available. High percentages of cocoa butter, 32-39% and cocoa liquor, as high as 70% are the hallmarks of couverture. You can feel the silky smooth texture on your tongue. It has a very low melting point. It is rich and distinctive in flavor. Chocolate connoisseurs can often define a specific region of origin and certainly can detect the brand and often the blend at this level of chocolate. Reserved for the “serious” chocolatier and especially wonderful for dipping and coating look for this product mainly online. Callebaut, Sharfen Berger, Veliche, and Valrhona are just three of the more easily found. The price point is between $8.00-15.00 per pound.
There are several excellent ONLINE resources for confectionery supplies. The following are just a few:
P.S. When ordering from them, please tell them The GOURMET CANDY MAKER.COM sent you!! Thanks…
WINE AND CAKE.COM Just discovered this website. they carry CALLEBAUT (to die for) PURE chocolate that is amazing! They also carry GUITTARD. If you purchase from them, let us know about the experience.
CHOCOLEY Candy Making Supplies. While they specialize in a private label brand of quick melt, compound coating or confectioners coating-not pure chocolate, they do carry a nice assortment of REAL chocolate as well as a fully stocked store of tools, packaging, and confectioners gadgets.
AN OCCASIONAL CHOCOLATE Specializing in Guittard and Van Leer REAL chocolate they also carry a large assortment of supplies and confectioners chocolate
KITCHENCRAFTS Carrying everything for candy making, canning and even gardening ? they do have an assortment of chocolate to choose from. Heads up: When you see the term “Coco lite and NOT chocolate, you know it is NOT real chocolate. Look for MERCKEN’S Yucatan Dark… That’s the real deal and is delicious!
COCOA SUPPLY This supplier is a premier source for the Gourmet Candy Maker. Pure chocolate, cocoa powders, organic products, nuts, sweeteners, dried fruits. Very specialized.
CHOCO SPHERE Carring all sorts of fine confections from around the word they DO carry bulk candy making couverture by CALLEBAUT and VALRHONA.
CHOCOLATE TRADING COMPANY This is a UK based company so shipping may be cost prohibitive. Just another option for review and price comparison. By the way… They carry a line of GORGEOUS chocolate transfer sheets!!
Your local specialty food store: Trader Joes, Whole Foods etc. When looking for couverture-REAL chocolate ask for PURE chocolate.
Craft-Hobby stores: While these stores stock lots of candy making supplies they DO NOT carry REAL chocolate. You will find a full assortment of cocoa buttons, meltys that are sweet colorful and great for kids treats or decorative additions to cakes and cookies. They are super easy to use but make no mistake, they will not deliver the taste or quality results your are wanting when creating gourmet confections.