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Old 03-07-2016, 01:33 PM   #1
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Melting Chocolate - Serious help needed!

Hey folks,
I'm coming here in a moment of pure desperation. I've literally ran our of ideas and I need some expert help. Here's the story.

I'm making a chocolate tart, one from a Hairy Bikers Book and one which I've actually made a couple of times in the past. Pastry base turned out great, never had any issues with that, now I've got to melt the chocolate. I've never had much luck with melting chocolate but this is driving me insane..

The recipe calls for 200g White chocolate to be melted with 50ml of double cream (which I took out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit before using) and a further 50ml to be added once the chocolate has melted.

Attempt no.1
Put roughly an inch of hot water into a saucepan and gradually bought it to a simmer. Placed a glass bowl with the chocolate and cream on top (making sure it didn't touch the water) and began to keep an eye on it and stir occasionally. The chocolate started melting nicely then at around 5-10 mins it started getting oily around the sides and the chocolate became "gritty". It now resembles scrambled egg in oil .. Fail.

Attempt no.2
So maybe it got too hot or had water in the bowl? So washed everything and dried it very thoroughly. Set the hob on its lowest setting and took extra care in making sure the water only stayed at a very gently simmer. Same thing happened again .. Fail.

Attempt no.3
We didn't have a small bowl so I had to use a large glass bowl and saucepan, so maybe the surface area was too large and it still got too hot? (I knew chocolate was sensitive but I didn't think it was THAT sensitive). Anyway bought a smaller bowl, used a smaller saucepan.. Same thing happened agin .. Fail.

Attempt no.4
Okay so maybe it was just a really poor quality chocolate? (Sainsbury's) So tried tescos finest at about £3 per bar, couldn't find a much better quality. Same thing happened again .. Fail.

This is driving me nuts now. I know chocolate is sensitive to the correct cooking conditions but this is crazy! I've never been brilliant at melting chocolate but I've never had this much of an issue. I'd have given up if it wasn't driving me so crazy to find out why it wasn't working. It's already cost much more than it's worth. The thing that really annoys me is that I've made this tart several times before and never done anything different or had any problems.

Anyway now I'm handing it over to you. Where am I going wrong? :)

Thanks

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Old 03-07-2016, 01:48 PM   #2
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Welcome to DC.

It sure is aggravating, isn't it!?

I think you got the chocolate too hot.

Try this. Set up the double boiler as you have been and heat the cream in it. It just has to be warm, not boiling. Add the white chocolate and take the bowl off the heat. Stir constantly to melt the choc. If there isn't enough heat to melt all the chocolate, put the bowl back on the pan and stir a bit.

Be patient and use just enough heat to melt. Doing it this way may take longer but gives you a much better chance of success.
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Old 03-07-2016, 01:51 PM   #3
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Hey thanks for the reply!

Yeah it's driving me insane!

In the end the bowl was about 2 inches from the water and it wasn't even simmering. The 3rd and 4th attempt took a lot longer but still started to separate before even half the chocolate had melted.

Maybe I'll try that method of taking it off the heat. It's just driving my crazy, I knew it's sensitive to heat but I've never had THIS much trouble with it.
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Old 03-07-2016, 01:56 PM   #4
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Hi S7ewie, welcome to DC! Sorry to hear you're having problems with your chocolate. She's a fickle ingredient; it's easy to either overheat it or have water find its way into the chocolate.

Is there any chance you have a microwave oven? Whenever I melted chocolate (a mid-grade variety), I always did it in the microwave with no problem. If you do have a microwave, I suggest you put your measure of chocolate into the microwave (in a bowl large enough to accommodate all of the chocolate plus cream, then microwave it slowly at 50% power. Start at one minute, and as the chocolate begins to melt reduce the cooking time (take it down to 30 seconds, then 15, etc, each time you put it back into the microwave). I've never added cream to chocolate, though, so I can only guess when you would add it if melting chocolate in the microwave. Wait long enough, and someone else will wander along here and give you (their version of) the right information.

Good luck and let us know how it finally works out.
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Old 03-07-2016, 02:06 PM   #5
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I've seen where chefs melt chocolate by bringing cream to just below boil, pour over chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, let it sit for a minute or 2 and then stir until melted. I've done it that way a time or 2 myself and it seems to work fine.

I've always let just the very bottom of my double boiler insert touch the top of the water and have never had a problem unless the water got too hot or I left it sitting too long and the chocolate started to cook.
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Old 03-07-2016, 02:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S7ewie View Post
Attempt no.1
The chocolate started melting nicely then at around 5-10 mins it started getting oily around the sides and the chocolate became "gritty".
What exactly is the method you are following? It seems to me it should be well melted before five minutes are up and there's a long time between five and ten minutes. When did you add the cream, or did you?

How quickly you bring the water to a boil has no bearing on how the chocolate melts. The temperature of the chocolate and the time it's heated determine that.
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Old 03-07-2016, 02:17 PM   #7
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I'll start by saying that I've never cooked with chocolate, I don't do desserts, so if this sounds stupid, just ignore it.

I'm wondering if the OP is doing anything with the chocolate before melting. I'm thinking that the smaller the pieces are the more readily they will melt and the less time there will be for it to separate. Seems like it might make sense to try grating it coarsely, then add gradually to the warmed cream, stirring it in constantly as it melts.

Like I said, I know nothing, so you can place precisely that value on this if it's not a valid idea.
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Old 03-07-2016, 02:21 PM   #8
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Use the microwave! Put the chocolate in a bowl and heat it at 10 second intervals until it is melted.
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Old 03-07-2016, 02:26 PM   #9
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Wow this picked up quickly!!

I could try the microwave method but a part of me with never be completely happy until I know why this isn't working. After all we've melted chocolate loads of times before without problems. My mother even said she usually does it with the bowl touching the water and never has an issue. But even she can't seem to do it now.

I'm half tempted to believe it's something to do with the cream, but as I said I've done it before. I added the cream (well 50ml of it anyway) at the same time as the chocolate so that they heated up together.

When I said 5-10 mins I was referring to putting the chocolate in the bowl before the water was at a simmer. In later times it took less time because I got the water to a simmer before. But at the same time I made extra afford to keep the heat very low. Which makes it seem almost impossibly that I could be overheating it.

The chocolate was broken into the 5g chunks that the bar breaks into. I couldn't get it any smaller without using a grater or a knife.
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Old 03-07-2016, 02:37 PM   #10
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I think the chocolate seizes up because it was too hot.
I would take the method of heating it for a couple minutes in your double boiler, then take it off, stir it, stir it until everything that is going to melt does melt. Take your time. Then if it is not all melted, put it back on the double boiler for a minute or two, then remove, stir again, wait until everything that is going to melt, does melt. Try to keep the outside edges (where you said it was separating) the same temperature as the middle chocolate/cream. [once chocolate starts to crystalize even in one small part of your bowl, it will spread to the rest, seizing it up]

I use this method except I use a microwave in 20 second increments. I melted semi sweet chocolate with a tablespoon of coconut oil (you can use shortening or butter), it was about 3/4 of a cup, it took at least 5 times, of heating, stirring, heating, stirring, until it was liquid enough to put on turtles.
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Old 03-07-2016, 02:41 PM   #11
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Thanks, I might give that a try then.
I just find it amazing that with the water barely even simmering, the bowl about 2 inches from the water so it's basically just steam heating the bowl and it taking sooo long to melt, how can I possibly still be overheating it? My mother usually melts it in simmering water with the bowl touching the water and even she can't do it now. That must have been much hotter than it is now.

It's just baffling. I started to think it was the cream but then I couldn't scientifically thing of a reason why that would be a problem either.
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Old 03-07-2016, 02:43 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sir_Loin_of_Beef View Post
Use the microwave! Put the chocolate in a bowl and heat it at 10 second intervals until it is melted.
This is what I do and it works fantastic!
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Old 03-07-2016, 03:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S7ewie View Post
Thanks, I might give that a try then.
I just find it amazing that with the water barely even simmering, the bowl about 2 inches from the water so it's basically just steam heating the bowl and it taking sooo long to melt, how can I possibly still be overheating it? My mother usually melts it in simmering water with the bowl touching the water and even she can't do it now. That must have been much hotter than it is now.

It's just baffling. I started to think it was the cream but then I couldn't scientifically thing of a reason why that would be a problem either.
Water turns to steam when it boils at 212°F, so it can't ever get hotter than that. Simmering water is about 205. The steam is a little hotter, but not much in this scenario. When the chocolate stays at a high temperature for too long, it breaks.
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Old 03-07-2016, 03:56 PM   #14
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Well I guess I didn't mean actual "steam", just the heat coming off of it. During the 3rd and 4th attempt the water wasn't even simmering really .. It was just "hot". It took a long time to even start to melt. To be honest I wasn't really tracking the clock, but it must have been around 10 mins from start to scrambled egg. Im just utterly mind blown how I could have possibly overheated it. If anything to me it seemed like it wasn't hot enough :/ especially considering I've done it before with the water touching the bowl.
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Old 03-07-2016, 03:58 PM   #15
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This link will give you much more specific information. How To Temper Chocolate, How To Melt Chocolate, Guidelines For Tempering Chocolate, Whats Cooking America
It talks about tempering chocolate, and melting chocolate (further down the page).

Quote:
Always melt chocolate slowly, at a low temperature. The melting point of chocolate is between 86° F. (30° C) and 90° F. (32° C), lower than body temperature. Using high heat is very risky and the most common cause of grainy and/or lumpy chocolate. Chocolate melts better and faster when using lower temperatures. Never let the temperature of your chocolate get above 115° F. Milk and white chocolates, which are more heat sensitive, should not be heated above 110° F. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the chocolate's temperature while melting.
S7ewie, I have confidence you can do this. As you can imagine, the 212°F steam or even the residual warmth of the boiling water, is almost twice what is needed to melt the chocolate. It looks like white chocolate is even more sensitive than dark, so a patient gentle touch is needed.
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Old 03-07-2016, 05:26 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
Water turns to steam when it boils at 212°F, so it can't ever get hotter than that. Simmering water is about 205. The steam is a little hotter, but not much in this scenario. When the chocolate stays at a high temperature for too long, it breaks.
Chocolate melts at human body temperature, about 98 degrees F. Don't know what that is in centigrade. To temper chocolate, you bring it to no more than 112' F, then remove it from the heat and stir the molten chocolate until it dips back down to 98' or so. It aligns the sugar molecules and gives you that crisp chocolate that melts so smoothly in you mouth.

If you get chocolate much over 110 degrees, then it will break and give you grainy chocolate that has separated in the way you describe. the idea of heating just the cream (again to no more than around 110, and pouring it over the chocolate sitting in a seperate bowl just works. Both white and brown chocolates derive their textures from cocoa butter mixed with the solids. The cocoa butter is the fat that hardens in chocolate. Some cheaper chocolates add other fats, such as coconut, or palm. Some even add paraphin wax to the chocolate.

For melting chocolate, look for couverture chocolate. It must be tempered if you are making candy. but since what you are making is a ganache, it can simply be melted in the ratios given in your recipe. Candy bars are very expensive for a lesser quality. The melting buttons and cocolate chips are made with vegetable fats rather than cocoa butter. The baker's chocolates are grainy by nature and are great to use as a flavoring, but not for melting into a silky-smooth ganache. Look up chocolate grades on the internet. There is a wealth of info out there. There are also great sites for purchasing premium couverture chocolate when you want to make something sublime.

Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 03-07-2016, 05:37 PM   #17
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Thanks for the reply. I like the scientific answers :D

I'm just finding it hard to believe I overheated it after trying 4 separate times and each time being more careful. The instructions on the pack imply that, with the method I was using, it should take about 4 minutes. Well it took more than that before it was even half melted. And I've melted chocolate before a lot less carefully without any issues.

I'm wondering if maybe the cream was still a little too cold and this wasn't allowing it to melt very quickly?

Still .. If this kind of separation is only ever related to overheating then I guess that's what I must be doing. Just seems strange .. Maybe I'll try heating the cream or using the microwave method.

Thanks for all the contributions :)
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Old 03-07-2016, 05:47 PM   #18
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One quick question: is this the same chocolate brand you have used in the past? If it's a different kind, that could be the problem.
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Old 03-07-2016, 06:00 PM   #19
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Yeah it's the same brand of cooking chocolate. But we tried with a different brand in the fourth test to be sure.

Just realised 110 Fahrenheit is only 43 Celsius which really isn't very hot at all .. A simmer is technically too hot .. So I guess it is very possible that but leaving it on the heat for too long it built up to go above that heat..
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Old 03-08-2016, 06:51 AM   #20
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First, remember that white chocolate is not true chocolate. It is cocoa butter and sugar, with powdered milk and flavorings added. Therefore it can be trickier to melt than dark chocolate. Heat is its enemy. Large pieces do not melt well.

You will get better results if you chop or grate it into small pieces. If the recipe calls for milk, use the milk to melt the cocoa butter gently. Use the same technique you would for making ganache. Put the chopped chocolate into a small bowl. Heat the milk until it's hot, but not boiling. Pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate and let it stand for a minute or two to soften the chocolate. Then stir it gently until smooth.

If the recipe does not call for milk, use the microwave, but do so gently. TURN THE POWER LEVEL DOWN to below 50%. Nuke it for 20 seconds, then stir. Repeat until smooth. As it gets close to being melted, shorten to 10 or 15 seconds at a time.

Skip the double boiler entirely.
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