Category Archives: Un-”Seizing” Chocolate

How to “Un-Seize” Chocolate

You know how it goes. One minute you’re happily stirring a batch of melted chocolate, dum dee dum dum…

…and all of a sudden it starts to darken and thicken mysteriously. What the…? It seems to shrink in volume and looks oddly greasy.

Then in a few seconds it’s seized up into a thick, putty-like chocolate goo.

What caused this? The answer of course: a small quantity of water somehow got into the bowl. Typically this sort of thing happens when chocolate is being melted over a double boiler, and water vapor or drops of condensation find their way into the pan. It’s just one of the reasons I prefer a microwave. Can anything be done about this?

Yes indeed. More heat? Nope, the chocolate’s already melted, even though at the moment it doesn’t look that way. More heat will only burn it. The answer is more water. Are you kidding, Joe? It’s water that got me into this mess!

That’s true. A small amount of water caused the problem. A larger quantity of water will solve it by creating more syrup and allowing the molten chocolate mixture to flow again. So we just add perhaps a spoonful or so of hot water…

…stir, and a few moments later we’re pretty much back to where we were. Pretty much. The chocolate has some water in it now, so it’s not so good for something like tempering. However it’s perfectly good for ganache, a flourless chocolate cake, or any of a thousand other uses.

Whew! That was a close one…

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What happens when chocolate “seizes”?

Another good question in a long list of chocolate queries (I swear I really did make an Opera cake, shortly I’ll put up the pictures to prove it). Melted chocolate “seizes” when it comes into contact with small amounts of water. The question is: why? The answer is that melted chocolate is a flowing mixture of fat, cocoa solids and sugar that’s easily upset. It contains almost no water at all, but when a small amount is added, several things happen. First, the sugar in the matrix grabs hold of the water (sugar does that) and a syrup is created. That syrup is quite sticky and it acts like glue on the cocoa solids, causing them to clump together. The result is that the molten chocolate stops flowing and turns into a grainy paste. Can anything be done about it? Funny you asked that. It just so happens I have my camera handy…

Filed under:  Techniques, Un-"Seizing" Chocolate | 14 Comments