We talk a lot about how emulsifiers work. Two ingredients that don’t get along living together in harmony. But are oil and water the only ingredients that will work with an emulsifier? How about chocolate? Chocolate is cocoa butter and dry solids, it contains no water. How does an emulsifier work when there is no water present? Is there a specific kind of lecithin that will work best when making chocolate?
“What role does lecithin play in chocolate?”
Chocolate as we stated has no water. Technically chocolate is classified as a suspension rather than an emulsion. The solids are dispersed within the cocoa butter. The solids that are present in the cocoa butter are cocoa, sugar, and sometimes milk. As chocolate is heated, it softens and begins to flow. If the amount of solids is too high the flowability can be slowed. This is where soy lecithin can help. Soy lecithin comes in two different types, liquid and powdered. The liquid soy lecithin and powdered have different HLB values. HLB stands for Hydrophilic Lipophilic balance and it is a 14 point scale. This is the scale that is used to show how water loving (hydrophilic) or oil loving (lipophilic) an emulsifier is. Soy lecithin powder is known as a “deoiled” product and therefore will not mix in as easily into foods with a high fat content. Soy lecithin powder falls around a 7 which is dead center. This makes it great for mixing oils and water for dressing and breads. But what it doesn’t work great for is making chocolate flow more freely. Liquid soy lecithin falls around a 4 on the scale, the lower the HLB value the more it is oil loving. So liquid soy lecithin will work best for chocolate. That is not the only thing that soy lecithin does for chocolate. Just because liquid soy lecithin is more lipophilic doesn’t mean it only attaches to fats. Each liquid soy lecithin molecule can still attach to water or water based ingredients, it’s just not as good at it as soy lecithin powder. But what they are good at is adhering to milk solids and sugars. When the little particles that our tongue can detect are covered up it makes the chocolate feel smoother when it is eaten. It also prevents unsightly fat bloom on the exterior of chocolate bars. If you are looking to improve the melting, texture and appearance of your chocolate then liquid soy lecithin is the way to go.