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Chocolate Tips

All About Chocolate:

There are two main rules to Handling Chocolate:

1. Do not let it come into contact with water while melting, and do not put it over direct heat. Water droplets that fall into a pan of melting chocolate will cause it to "seize," or turn into a hard, chunky lump.

2. Similarly, overheating chocolate will ruin the taste and texture of the final product, which is why chocolate should always be melted over indirect heat or in small intervals in a microwave.

 

Melting Chocolate in the Microwave:

The microwave is a great tool for melting chocolate. If used properly, it can melt chocolate more quickly than a double boiler with minimal effort and mess. The most critical part of melting chocolate in the microwave is choosing an appropriate container. Ideally, you want to melt your chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl that remains cool or only slightly warm after several minutes of near-continuous microwaving. If the bowl is too hot for you to handle after it has been microwaved, it is too hot for your chocolate. If you have overheated your chocolate, immediately pour it into a cool bowl add chunks of unmelted chocolate, and stir continuously.

It is preferable to melt your chocolate on a low (50%) power setting, to avoid scorching or burning it. If your microwave does not have this option, heat the chocolate in shorter intervals and stir between each bout of heat. Additionally, if your microwave does not have a turntable that rotates the bowl of chocolate, manually turn the bowl each time you stop and stir the chocolate.

It is very difficult to determine exact microwaving times, as it can vary depending on microwave wattage, quantity of chocolate, and even the cocoa butter content of the chocolate. However, as a rough guide, estimate about 1 minute for 1 ounce of chocolate, 3 minutes for 8 ounces of chocolate, 3.5 minutes for 1 pound of chocolate, and 4 minutes for 2 pounds. Run the microwave in 30 second-1 minute increments, stirring in between and rotating the bowl if necessary. Finish heating when most, but not all, of the chocolate is melted. Stir the chocolate continuously until it is smooth, shiny, and completely melted.

 

Melting Chocolate With Liquids

Many recipes call for melting chocolate along with liquids like milk, cream, water, or liqueurs. Melting chocolate with liquids is often faster and more convenient, since it often speeds melting times and prevents common chocolate problems like overheating. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when melting chocolate with other substances.

Chocolate should never be melted with very small amounts of liquid. Always use at least 1 tablespoon of liquid for every 2 ounces of chocolate. This prevents the dry particles (cocoa and sugar) in the chocolate from binding together and becoming lumpy. Very dark chocolates may require more than this guideline, so be prepared to add another spoonful or two of liquid if necessary. When adding large quantities of liquid, add it all at once, rather than in small amounts, to prevent the chocolate from thickening.

Cold liquids should never be added to melted chocolate, as it can cause the chocolate to seize. Instead, ensure that your liquids are warm (but not boiling) when you add them to chocolate. Additionally, many recipes, like ganache, call for hot liquids to be poured over chopped chocolate. The heat from the liquid melts the chocolate, while the room temperature chocolate cools down the liquid. If you are following this method, allow the hot liquid and chocolate mixture to sit for a few minutes, then gently whisk them together until completely incorporated. Another useful tool for combining chocolate and hot liquids is an immersion blender. This handheld gadget does an excellent job of creating a smooth emulsion without incorporating air bubbles. Food processors, blenders, and electric mixers can also be used at low speeds.

 

 

Fixing Chocolate Mistakes

When chocolate melts, it is ideally a smooth, satiny, homogenous mixture. However, if it comes into contact with even a small amount of water, it will “seize,” or turn into a grainy, clumpy mess in the bowl.  If chocolate is overheated, it will be quite thick and lumpy. Seized chocolate cannot be fixed, but it can be put to other uses. It is sometimes possible to save overheated chocolate.

Why Does Chocolate Seize?

Chocolate is a mixture of fat (from cocoa butter) and dry particles (cocoa and sugar). When the melted chocolate comes into contact with water, the dry particles become moist and begin to stick together, quickly forming a gritty, rough mass of chocolate.

How Can I Prevent Seizing?

The most important thing you can do to prevent chocolate from seizing is to eliminate any chance of the chocolate coming into contact with water. Always make sure the bowls and utensils you are using are perfectly dry. Avoid using wooden spoons or boards, as they might retain moisture and impart this moisture to your chocolate. If you are using a double boiler to melt your chocolate, keep the water hot but not boiling, or turn off the heat before the chocolate is placed on top. Boiling water might splash above the rim of the saucepan and cause droplets to fall in the chocolate. In addition, boiling water gives off a great deal of steam, and steam can also cause chocolate to seize. Be sure to wipe the bottom of the bowl the chocolate is melting in on a regular basis, to remove water and condensation. Finally, nevercover warm chocolate with a lid, as the heat of the chocolate might form condensation on the inside of the bowl, which will cause the chocolate to seize.

My Chocolate Has Seized! Can I Fix It?

If your beautiful melted chocolate has turned into a sodden mess, don’t throw it out! It can’t be used for dipping, but it can still be used for baking projects. Stir solid vegetable shortening into the chocolate, using 1 tablespoon for every 6 ounces of chocolate. Stir gently and evenly until the chocolate has loosened and the shortening is incorporated. You can now use this chocolate for brownies, cakes, cookies, or other recipes that call for melted chocolate.

What is Overheated Chocolate?

Chocolate is very sensitive to high temperatures. Dark chocolate should never be heated above 120 degrees, while milk and white chocolates should never be heated about 110 degrees. It is quite easy to exceed these temperatures if using a double boiler with boiling water, or if microwaving on full power. Overheated chocolate will lose the silky shine of melted chocolate and become thick and muddy. The best way to melt chocolate is to keep the water in a double boiler hot (but not boiling), and to employ a chocolate or instant-read thermometer while melting the chocolate.

How Can I Save Overheated Chocolate?

First, you will want to cool the chocolate, as it is harder to save overheated chocolate that has been at a high temperature for a long time. To cool the chocolate, remove the bowl from the heat source, transfer the chocolate to a dry, cool bowl, and stir in a handful of solid chocolate chunks. Stir constantly and allow the solid chocolate to bring down the temperature of the melted chocolate.

If the chocolate remains thick or lumpy, try straining it through a sieve first. If this doesn’t solve the problem, add a spoonful of vegetable oil or melted vegetable shortening and stir thoroughly. You can also try adding some freshly melted chocolate with a few drops of soya liquid lecithin (an emulsifier, available at health food stores), or using a handheld immersion blender to smooth the chocolate. If none of these tricks helps your chocolate, save it for use in baking recipes and begin again with a fresh batch of chocolate.

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