The Baked Chocolate Double Bind

Reader Amy writes:

Joe — you said in your most recent post that chocolate goes grainy when you bake it, but that doesn’t seem to happen to chips in chocolate chip cookies. Maybe they’re an exception?

Nice, Amy! That’s correct to some extent. Different chocolates respond to heat differently. It all has to do with the amount of chocolate solids they contain. Chocolate chips are are loaded with non-chocolate, non-cocoa butter ingredients like sugar and powdered milk. As a result they don’t suffer as much from heat exposure. They lose their temper, as it were, and that’s pretty much it. Their shape and texture mostly hold.

It’s the higher cocoa solid (dark) chocolates that suffer the most. As I’ve mentioned before, chocolate solids are extremely absorbent. When they’re exposed to small amounts of moisture in the form of say, steam, they swell. As they swell they start to stick together. Soon they form clumps that separate out from the cocoa butter and the result is “seized”, grainy chocolate. It’s really not all bad if the chocolate is inside a chocolate croissant, but there’s no question that the texture of baked “eating” chocolate is generally less than perfect.

Which raises the question: why not just use lower quality bar or chip chocolates in things like croissants and kringles? It’s not a bad idea, save for the fact that lower quality chocolates are lower in both chocolate solids and cocoa butter. That means they bring a lot less chocolate flavor to the application. A milk chocolate stick baked inside a croissant would taste like almost nothing up against all that butter and dough. Semi-sweet would be better, but it still wouldn’t give you the good strong kick that a dark chocolate stick will.

So it’s a bit of a conundrum, really. What do you choose: the flavor or the texture? Since there are a lot of textures going on in croissants and kringles, most bakers come down on the side of flavor, and that makes sense to me.

2 thoughts on “The Baked Chocolate Double Bind”

  1. Interestingly enough, the chocolate chips and chocolate chunks from Enjoy Life Foods have neither soy lecithin nor dairy, and yet the chocolate chips hold up well in chocolate chip cookies, staying creamy and not tasting “siezed”.

    I find that even when I melt the Enjoy Life chocolate for, say, dipping pretzels, or making molded chocolates, they don’t lose their temper easily. I have no idea why.

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