Like Ketchup for Chocolate

posted by Dave Arnold

Ketchup couverture

A couple of years ago I got interested in alternative chocolates. I wanted to create foods that were hard and shiny like chocolate, melted in your mouth like chocolate, were impeccably smooth like chocolate, but didn’t taste like chocolate. I wanted them to taste like other things – so we made mustard “chocolate” and ketchup “chocolate.”

 “Ketchup chocolate sounds disgusting,” is what most people say. Yes, it does. But I’m not talking about chocolate mixed with ketchup.  I’m talking about ketchup prepared in the style of chocolate –ketchup couverture. People are still suspicious.

Here’s how it works:

Chocolate is a mixture of cocoa solids and cocoa butter (with sugar, lecithin, flavors, milk powder, etc),  ground so finely that all the solid particles are too small for your tongue to detect. The surfaces of the particles are evenly coated and surrounded by cocoa butter — this arrangement gives chocolate its fluidity and texture. Water is the enemy of chocolate; all ingredients must be dry and relatively non-hygroscopic.

To make ketchup-chocolate we start with de-odorized cocoa butter, which provides the essential texture, fluid, and melting properties of chocolate but has very little taste. We add  freeze-dried tomato powder, spray-dried malt-vinegar powder, powdered salt, sugar, powdered spices, and lecithin.

No standard piece of kitchen equipment can produce chocolate – the ketchup kind or any kind. For home or restaurant production you need a wet grinder. They are designed to grind pulses and lentils, but can be re-tasked to make chocolate or nut pastes. Ours is made by Santha; you can learn about them at Chocolate Alchemy — if you are interested in making your own traditional chocolate, go there.

One of our two Santhas cranking out ketchup couverture

Essentially, the Santha is a gentle stone grinders. Melt the cocoa butter and add it to the Santha. Slowly add the solids and wait for them to be incorporated and broken down. If you add all the powder at once the machine will seize up. Be patient. If the machine starts to seize, use your hands to get it going again and wait a while before adding more powder.

After all your solids are added, let the machine run without the cover for an hour or so to get rid of any moisture in your product (the grinding action keeps everything warm to the touch, making sure the cocoa butter stays liquid and helping to flash-off moisture). After an hour, put the lid on the machine. If there are volatile compounds you want to get rid of, leave the lid off longer. If you want to preserve all the volatile compounds, leave the lid on. Let the machine run for 2 or 3 days. Every day your mix will get smoother. When you are finished, immediately temper the mix by bringing the temperature to 87 or 90 F and stirring in Mycryo powderd cocoa butter. If you don’t temper right away the couverture won’t set properly.

And then what ?

We’ve  dipped potato chips:

Tater chip dipped in hard ketchup

Dipping egg yolks (these were pretty darned good):

Ketchup egg yolk bon-bons

And our piece de resistance, cold fried chicken ketchup bon bons.

Chicken ketchup bon-bons.

The trick is dipping products that aren’t wet, and that are good cold.

The chicken bon-bon recipe:

Ketchup Couverture:

1 kg de-odorized cocoa butter
325 g powdered tomato (spray dried or freeze dryed)
60 grams malt vinegar powder
25 grams salt
Spices to taste (onion powder, garlic powder, etc)
60 grams mycryo (to temper)

Melt cocoa butter and put in Santha. Turn Santha on and slowly add powdered ingredients in small amounts. Adding the powder should take about 20 minutes. If you go too fast the Santha will stop spinning. If that happens, get the machine spinning by hand a wait a few minutes before adding more. Leave the lid off the Santha for 1 hour. Put the lid on the Santha and continue to run for 2-3 days. The product will get smoother every day. After it is done, bring the temperature of the couverture to 89 degrees F and stir in the Mycryo to temper.

Fried Chicken:

Skinless chicken breasts
Baking soda
Baking powder

Add salt to milk till it tastes like the ocean. Add sugar to the milk till you can taste sweetness (don’t make it too sweet). You should use approximately 3/4 cup of Diamond kosher salt and a half cup granulated sugar per quart of milk. Soak the chicken breasts in this mix for 3-4 hours. Cut up chicken into bon-bon shapes. Dry off chicken (its best to air dry in fridge for 2 hours).

Make the batter: For every cup of buttermilk add 1 egg, 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Add salt and pepper (and paprika and hot sauce if desired). Mix thoroughly.

Dip chicken in flour, then batter, then flour again. Fry at 350 F. Let cool then refrigerate.

Dip the cold chicken in tempered couverture and allow to set.

23 thoughts on “Like Ketchup for Chocolate

  1. Absolutely awesome.
    BTW how does spray dried vinegar work, is is still sour? Cause I´d assume you also evaporate the acetic acid off?
    I always thought salt and vinegar chips (crisps)in the UK have a dry coating of some solid organic acid (like citric) for the sourness and a salt of acetic acid (like NaOAc) that reacts in your wet mouth with the citric acid to free acetic acid for the vinegar taste? (This was my speculation never actually checke on it poperly.)
    Anyways, wouldn´t your ketchupolade benefit from some solid acid as well?

  2. *gapes*

    Wow, I really wish I could do that someday… I used to work in a chocolate shop and the idea of making food chocolate absolutely amazes me. So cool!!!!

  3. it would be fantastic to make it spicy. Maybe add alternative “chocolate chips”. Sichuan peppercorn. Or coating or filling fries.
    Mustard chocolate with mustard seed chips to pop. etc etc. i love how many doors this opens.

    -gastronaut jones-

  4. Nice. I like the whole idea of building flavors from scratch and delivering them a novel environment. It seems as though this is really what Herve This has started to preach: one-note cooking.
    The conching process is also key. I would love a machine like that which could decimate almost any solid to such small particles that they couldn’t be detected. This seems like it could have many applications outside the realm of making “chocolate”.
    So Dave, if I was thinking about purchasing one of these Santhas (I noticed they were as little as $400), is it hard to clean very well, and/or would it also be able to be used for wet ingredients (or maybe even alcohol). Also- how big is it? Its hard to get a good idea from the website.


    1. Hi Jimmy,
      They aren’t too difficult to clean. If you are running chocolate make sure the unit is dry before running it again. The Santha’s flaw is that it has a square shaft that engages the rollers. The square part wears down and eventually causes the unit to jam (after a long time). Its kinda the size of a Kitchen-Aid or one of those Lello countertop ice cream machines.

  5. and appropriate to chadzilla’s comment-
    the patent on Magic Shell contains a section on savory developments: cheese and seafood were specifically cited.

    My mouth is simply watering dreaming of your Ketchup Couverture’s potential applications.

    1. Hi Wohali,
      interesting you should say wasabi. Our new intern, Hanna, just suggested wasabi yesterday. Maybe we’ll try.

  6. tell me more! OMG I want to eat this RIGHT NOW!

    I LOVE french fries dipped in mustard. Will you please make mustard coverture and dip a french fry into it and send me a picture so that I can drool all over it forever!? Thank you!

  7. Awesome! I am a ketchup fiend, and Love, Love it on steak! If I could do this myself I’d be doing it all day . Is it transportable, and can I order some – Please?! How about stock?

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