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I wanted to make mint-chocolate-covered candy. I never worked with couverture, but yesterday it was all I had.

I melted the chocolate, cooled it, reheated a bit (tempered), added peppermint extract (homemade, pure vodka and peppermint) and when I tried to gently mix it to incorporate the extract, everything turned into thick shoe-polish-like-paste. I had to add some butter to be able to melt it again, but now, when it is all cool again, the chocolate is quite sticky (I suppose because of the butter) and my candy doesn't look good enough for anybody exept immediate family.

What happened? Did alcohol do something to the couverture? How to prevent this from happening again should I try this again?

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1 Answer 1

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I am assuming your couverture was real chocolate, since you haven't said.

While I don't know the effect of alchohol on chocolate, small quantities of water can easily seize chocolate. It becomes a nasty, pasty, stiff mess.

Typical 80 proof vodka would be 40% alcohol by volume, and so approximately 60% water, so your homemade extract would have had significant water in it.

According to Harold McGee as related in The Kitchn, this sounds like what happened:

The process of refining cocoa beans into chocolate gets rid of all the moisture, and so the final product is actually incredibly dry. Technically, even melted chocolate can be considered a 'dry' ingredient despite its liquid state.

For this reason, adding water to melted chocolate has the same effect as adding water to flour--it turns into a paste. Food science Harold McGee explains that "the small amount of water acts as a kind of glue, wetting the many millions of sugar and cocoa particles just enough to make patches of syrup that stick the particles together..."

You may be able to still use the chocolate for ganache by adding cream, or adding more water so it becomes smooth again, and use it as sauce... but it almost certainly cannot be recovered for covering confections any more.

To prevent this from happening in the future, don't get your couverture wet--from any source.

Note that the flavoring in truffles is normally in the ganache filling, not the couverture; you haven't said you are making truffles, but this gives you a hint:

One way to keep the couverture dry and still have your mint flavor is to add your mint flavoring to the filling.

Another would be to make your homemade mint extract with grain alcohol rather than vodka, so that there is no water in it.

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Yes, of course... It was a regular, drinkable rye vodka... And I was thinking that maybe the couverture was bad (it was italian, so I have no idea what was written on the package exept 53% cocoa) –  jkadlubowska Jan 15 '13 at 14:35
    
But regular butter also contains up to about 20% water. I've never had problems melting butter and chocolate together. If adding even smallest amounts of water to melted chocolate, why is it no problem to mix butter and chocolate? –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 15 '13 at 16:27
    
It is a matter of proportion. A little butter could seize chocolate; a lot of butter, which adds enough water to suspend the cocoa solid particles and fat globules in a water/syrup phase would be fine. This is why, for example, ganache works. Very few recipes include just a little butter--its either some cream and butter, liquer and butter, or lots of butter; but in any case, it adds enough water to get past the seizing stage. –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 15 '13 at 17:27

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