What is a Soy-Free Chocolate?
Today, more and more labels appear on chocolate packaging: vegan, organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, or fair-trade. This positive trend means that both consumers and chocolate companies have become aware of the necessity to protect our health, and our planet. However, have you ever heard about the soy-free label? What does it mean? Why some chocolate makers choose not to use soy in their creations and why some others do? Cluizel’s team will answer this question.
I – What is soy-lecithin?
When we speak about soy in food, we mean soy-lecithin, more precisely. Soy lecithin is one of the most common food additive in the food market today. Coming from soja, it is generally used in food as an emulsifier or a lubricant, but also as an antioxidant and a food protector.
Soy lecithin can be found in some products like dietary supplements, ice cream and dairy products, infant formulas, breads, margarine, and other convenience foods. You can find it and use it as a liquid, but also as granules.
Soy lecithin is extracted from raw soybeans. First of all, the oil is extracted using a chemical solvent, like hexane, and then the oil is processed so the lecithin is separated and dried.
Researchers all agree that soy lecithin only contains trace levels of soy proteins, which means that it will not provoke allergic reactions in the majority of soy-allergic consumers because it does not contain sufficient soy protein residues.
II – Why do chocolate makers use it in chocolate?
Most chocolate makers use soy-lecithin (or other lecithins) for one main reason: lowering the viscosity of chocolate (in simplest terms, making it more liquid/fluid). Soy-lecithin helps chocolate makers to temper and to mold chocolate more easily (see the “Focus” part bellow). The same result can be achieved with a higher cocoa butter content, but it is much more expensive. Indeed, cocoa butter is the more expensive part of cocoa. Generally, chocolate makers do not use more than 0.5% of soy-lecithin in their creations, at the risk of having the opposite effect: a more viscous and unworkable chocolate.
Focus on “tempering”
Just like candy-making itself, chocolate tempering is all about controlling crystals. The fat molecules inside chocolate (cocoa butter) can stack into said crystals in not one, not two, but six different configurations. When creating a chocolate bar or a chocolate coating for candy, we want a stable, shiny snap that doesn’t melt quickly in the hands, and that means maximizing form five while limiting one through four, which make chocolate either crumbly or gooey with a dull matte or grey finish (this is also called “bloom”). If we have too many form six crystals, your chocolate will be overly viscous (like thick and gloopy). When we have a bunch of fives, the chocolate is referred to as being “in temper” — smooth, shiny, and delicious.
The traditional method of tempering requires that we melt the chocolate to a temperature at which all the crystals have melted. We then lower the temperature and agitate to grow new crystals, both good and bad. Then, we raise the temperature slightly to melt out just the bad ones.
The ideal tempering temperature for milk chocolate is 88°F and for dark chocolate, 91°F. Why those different and highly specific temperatures? Milk chocolate contains milk powder; ergo, butterfat. Those fat molecules tangle up with those of cocoa butter to form an alloy that actually has a lower melting point than either of the crystals would have on their own. Because this melting temperature is so low, it’s easy to overshoot our target temperature. Dark chocolates don’t contain this extra milk fat, so the temperature at which we achieve temper is just a touch warmer, 91°F to be exact.
Chocolate flowing at the Cluizel chocolate factory, Damville (Normandy)
III – Why did Cluizel decided not to use soy-lecithin in its chocolate?
When Michel Cluizel began to create chocolate “couverture”, he decided to use only cocoa butter for these main reasons.
Pure cocoa butter
- Create the purest chocolate possible with the noblest ingredients, and cocoa butter is a part of them. It confers an onctuous mouth feel and an inimitable texture to chocolate, full of creaminess, onctuosity, and roundness.
- Even if soy-lecithin comes from a plant, its manufacturing process is not natural at all. To get it from the soybeans, it needs to be extracted with harsh chemical solvents, like hexane and acetone. Moreover, soy lecithin is bleached to transform the color from a dirty brownish hue to a light yellow, and we do not want that in our chocolate.
- Soy is almost always genetically modified, (GMOs) which is again a good reason not to use it.
- Finally, soy is a strong allergen which is dangerous for allergy sufferers. We do not want to prevent them from enjoying delicious chocolates... Because everybody deserves chocolate!