Level: Novice

Reading time: 5 minutes

I have tried making a milk chocolate with coconut milk powder but it is really soft and it is driving me crazy.  I want the flavor really strong so I used 35% coconut power but it won’t set up.  Should I use less cocoa butter?  I put in about 8 oz to a two pound batch.  I’ve even tried tempering it and it stays soft. 

Yep, that is really soft!  I bet it would make a great mousse.  It looks like you ended up with the perfect storm of a recipe to just not behave in a cooperative fashion.  You both have too much fat in the recipe and too much of it is coconut oil.    Let’s see if we can get you a good coconut milk chocolate recipe that is still strongly flavored.

The first thing to bring up is that coconut oil doesn’t play well with cocoa butter.  It very specifically inhibits the cocoa butter from crystallizing and without crystallization you can’t temper it.  You can use some, but you are using way too much.

I talk a bit about using coconut in Ask the Alchemist 120 and 129.  I’m not going to repeat much of that here, but I will highlight some points. 

The big thing is that coconut oil (being an oil and not a butter) is a liquid at tempering temperatures since it has a melting point of 76 F.  With coconut powder being 60-65% oil, it means you have over 20% coconut oil in your chocolate.  Add that onto the 25% cocoa butter and you have a chocolate approaching, if not exceeding,  50% fat.  No wonder it is giving you trouble.

What I am going to suggest is you dial way back on the coconut powder.  Most standard milk chocolate recipes don’t get much over 20% milk powder and the milk fat in that can make for a soft chocolate (the hallmark of many milk chocolates).  So I’m going to recommend you go all the way down to 15%.  I know you want it strong, but coconut is pretty strongly flavored so I find that level comes through just fine.  That is going to give you about 10% coconut oil.

To be fair, you did take the right approach in adding more cocoa butter.  The more there, the better the chances are that it can connect up enough to crystallize.  Unfortunately it’s too close to a 50/50 mix and with coconut oil’s natural ability to disrupt tempering anyway, the cocoa butter didn’t stand a chance.  So go head and leave the cocoa butter at 25%.  At a 1:2.5 ratio, the cocoa butter might now stand a chance.

With the 10-20% cocoa you will add, the fat content  will be nearer to 40% and that is fine.

Finally you are going to have to alter how you temper.  With standard milk chocolate the milk fat disrupts the crystallization but doesn’t actively inhibit it.  Coconut oil actively goes out of its way to stop the formation.  What that means is you can’t lower the temperature and actually get seed crystals.  You will just get a solidified yet soft mass.  What you are going to want to do is add either seed chocolate or what I would really recommend is cocoa butter silk.  Silk is very aggressive and should be able to propagate enough to get you a soft, yet tempered bar.  That said, I would bump the amount on up to 2-3%. If you want you can discount that initial 25% cocoa butter to 22% knowing you will add it at the end.  

Here is the recipe I would try:

  • 20% cocoa nibs
  • 25% cocoa butter (including silk)
  • 15% coconut milk powder
  • 40% sugar

Of course feel free to adjust the nibs higher and sugar lower to your taste, and if you can bring yourself to drop it even further, I would consider the coconut powder going on down to 10%.

There you go.  I hope that helps.  Mostly you just had too much of a good thing.

Happy Holidays everyone.

No Ask the Alchemist next week.  It’s family time.