Coating (Compound) Chocolate vs. Couverture

A few questions on this point came in overnight. Aren’t they both used to cover stuff? In which case…are they the same thing?

They are not. But the principle is the same. Both of these kinds of chocolate are quite low in cocoa solids and quite high in fat. That allows them to melt readily, go on thinly, and create nice, even coatings.

However where “couverture” contains cocoa butter, coating chocolate contains other fats like palm or vegetable oil. This is the primary difference between them. The non-cocoa fats make coating chocolate at once less expensive and easier to work with as it doesn’t require tempering. The trade-off is that coating chocolate doesn’t provide the same nice, brittle snap of a (properly tempered) couverture. It also doesn’t have couverture’s gloss, and it tends to melt a little faster on the fingers.

Which is not the same thing as saying compound chocolate is bad stuff. There are some very high quality compound chocolates out there, and they’re useful for a great many things, like cookies, doughnuts, barks and brittles. Basically anywhere you want to add some chocolate as a component ingredient, not a star. (Remember Joe’s Inverse Law of Ingredient Dynamics: as the number of competing flavors goes up, the quality of those individual ingredients can — indeed sometimes must — go down).

Here it’s interesting to note that compound chocolate (also know by its fancy-sounding French name pâte à glacer) can’t be called “chocolate” on retail product packaging, which is why you see bursts on cookie and bar packages that says things like “contains real chocolate solids!”. It’s a pretty self-defeating, “processed”-sounding thing to put on a wrapper, but it’s the only FDA-approved way for a food packager to say “what’s in here is real chocolate, just without the cocoa butter”.

For those looking to use a real couverture on their candies or pastries, don’t bother ordering it: it’s everywhere. High quality chocolate bars are couvertures, at least the ones that aren’t over about 45% cocoa solids.

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