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What is soy lecithin? Why is it used in chocolate?

What is soy lecithin?

Soy lecithin is a fat by-product from soy beans and is often used by chocolate makers and chocolatiers as an emulsifier between chocolate and cream in the formation of ganaches.

How do chocolatiers use soy lecithin?

1. As an emulsifier

Because soy lecithin is a fat, it is able to bond well with the fat found in chocolate. This bond helps create an emulsification between the chocolate and liquid when chocolatiers create ganaches. The soy lecithin allows the moisture from cream, fruit puree or water to emulsify with chocolate easily, creating a smooth ganache. The end result from this process creates a shiny, homogeneous ganache that will melt in your mouth.

2. To lower viscosity

Soy lecithin and cocoa butter provide the same function: they both lower the viscosity of chocolate. Many chocolatiers prefer to add soy lecithin over cocoa butter because less lecithin is needed than cocoa butter to provide the same end result. This is important for chocolatiers if they wish to create thin shells for molded chocolate truffles or thin coatings on confections. The lower the viscosity is on chocolate, the easier it is to temper chocolate. A lower viscosity chocolate will be more fluid and easier to work with to develop Beta 5 crystals during the tempering process. Depending on the needs of the chocolatier, they may need to manipulate the fluidity (viscosity) of the chocolate to achieve the best results in their creations. 

3. To improve crystallization

A thinner chocolate (low viscosity) will be easier to maneuver over a slab of marble during the tabletop tempering process. For this reason, many chocolatiers choose to use soy lecithin. It allows the chocolate to become more fluid and easier to move across the cold marble to create Beta 5 crystals. Beta 5 crystals are the most stable form of cocoa butter, achieved only through tempering. These stable crystals enable chocolate to have a beautiful shine, snap and melt at body temperature.

Please note: Soy lecitihin found in chocolate is usually one of the last ingredients added and accounts for less than 0.5% of the total chocolate weight.

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