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By Lia Blanchard

This is the sixth in a series of articles about chocolate, the main ingredient of many of Art of Appreciation’s most popular gift baskets.

We’ve covered chocolate from its beginnings on a cacao tree through processing to its various final forms.  The final two articles explore the things that can happen to chocolate after its final processing that may or may not affect its palatability.

Why do some chocolates melt more easily than others?

The melting point of a given blend of chocolate depends upon its cocoa butter content. Cocoa butter completely melts at about 95 degrees, so the higher percentage of cocoa butter in the chocolate, the more likely it will soften or melt in warm temperatures – but it will always melt in your mouth. White chocolate, by definition, has at least 20% cocoa butter and is therefore very sensitive to warm temperatures.

Cocoa Butter

Incidentally, the fact that cocoa butter melts at body temperature makes its velvety emollience a particularly coveted ingredient for moisturizing cosmetics and pharmaceutical suppositories, although making chocolate remains its primary use.

If it melts so easily, why does it sometimes get really thick and sticky when I melt it?

One minute it’s liquid heaven, and the next it’s grainy paste. Ugh. The chocolate has “seized”.

Seized Chocolate

Seizing is caused either by heating too rapidly or by the addition of moisture into the mixture. The reason that moisture is such a problem is that chocolate is a very “dry” product – its own moisture content is very low. The addition of outside moisture makes the “dry” cocoa particles and the sugar particles all stick together – much like adding water to flour. Some tips to prevent seizing:

  • Melt the chocolate over warm temperatures, not hot.
  • Stir frequently, slowly, and evenly.
  • Use perfectly dry, non-wooden utensils – wooden ones may retain moisture from the air.
  • If using a double boiler, don’t allow the water to boil while chocolate is in the top portion. Boiling water may splash or cause steam to get into the chocolate. Wipe the pan the chocolate is in often; keep it dry.
  • NEVER cover warm chocolate with a lid, to prevent condensation from forming on the inside of the lid and dripping into – and seizing – the chocolate.
  • Pay special attention to the dish into which the chocolate is poured; make sure it is perfectly dry.

Help!

If your melted chocolate seizes, you may be able to rescue it by adding some cream and using it as a chocolate sauce, or slowly melting vegetable shortening into it and using it for brownies or other baked goods. About.com has a great video detailing how to save seized chocolate.

Next: Bloomin’ Chocolate!

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