(Un)Melted Chocolate

Reader Amanda writes:

I received a gift of some good quality, too-dark-for-me-to-want-to-eat chocolate and I decided to turn it into hot chocolate instead of eating it straight. I followed some recipes from the internet and the advice was to heat up a bit of milk, melt chocolate into it and then add more milk and heat the whole thing up. The taste was actually great but there were lots of tiny flecks of chocolate that wouldn’t melt into the milk with the rest of the chocolate and I was wondering what was up with that. I was hoping you might, as the only guy who answers questions about the science of ingredients that I’m familiar with, be able to answer my question.

Thanks Amanda! I’ll try. I can think of two possibilities. One is that they were simply little bits of chocolate that didn’t entirely melt when you added the chocolate to the warm milk. If the second addition of milk was cold, right from the refrigerator, then you may not have built up enough heat in the pan to thoroughly melt everything.

The second possibility is that those were pieces of cocoa nibs. If it was really some brand of ultra-dark chocolate, it’s possible that it was somewhat coarsely ground. These days “rustic” lightly-processed chocolate is in vogue. I’ve seen brands of bar chocolate with chunks of cocoa nibs (dried fermented cocoa beans) right in them. If that was the case, no amount of heat would have melted them.

I bet the hot chocolate was delicious either way, Amanda! Thanks for the question.

9 thoughts on “(Un)Melted Chocolate”

  1. What comes to my mind in case if the chocolate was not melted completely, is that a blender would have been help – as in making ganache. There also you see chocolate chunks in heavy cream, but after blending it is nice and smooth.

  2. I rather like the speckled look. Makes it more interesting but the blender idea sounds like an easy solution. I’d imagine one of those “death machines” an immersion blender would do the same. Totally off the track from chocolate but I have always had a problem with cheesecakes having little pebbles of cream cheese in the batter no matter how much I soften it or try to add the liquid like eggs slow enough to blend properly but I have found a food processor does a better job of blending the cream cheese even if it is on the cool side and you seem to get fewer air bubbles in the cheesecake batter that pop and ruin the top appearance (though a topping always takes care of that eyesore). Thanks for another science lesson, Joe!

  3. Is it possible to add too much heat, thereby not allowing the chocolate to melt? I once burned hot chocolate because my chocolate didn’t seem to be melting, so I kept turning up the heat… embarrassing, and I also ruined a pot 🙁

    1. That does happen on occasion…burning the cocoa solids. But then they usually in big clumps as you probably know! 😉

      – Joe

  4. This has happened to me, and I think it’s the result of trying to melt the (fat-based) chocolate in a too-large volume of (water-based) milk. You get little globules of melted chocolate suspended in the milk, and no amount of stirring or whisking will totally emulsify it (although a blender might do the trick). I’ve been able to prevent this by melting the chocolate in a small amount of milk (like making a ganache) and then adding more hot milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired consistency.

    1. Good suggestion, Ronnie. I’ll try that next time to avoid ruining another pot!

  5. I often buy the high percent cocoa content dark chocolates instead of unsweetened to use in chocolate sauces, beverages, as chips for cookies and have even use it to make fudge. Ghiradelli Chocolate is the only one that seems to have grains of either nibs or pieces of chocolate that won’t melt to ruin the texture of my concoctions. I don’t even buy it anymore for that very reason. I though maybe it was something I was doing.. I guess maybe not!

  6. As with a ganache, you’re better off either melting the chocolate completely in a double boiler before adding it to the warm milk, or as someone has suggested, you may reheat the mixture and then put the hand-held food blender into the mixture (and make sure to use a deep vessel so you don’t up with cocoa all over your clothes). It is just my opinion but the worst advice you get in so many chocolate / baking books is to heat the milk / cream first and then add it to the chocolate. From my experience, this method always ends up resulting in tiny flecks that refuse to melt in the mixture and lots of boring and unnecessary work in the kitchen. Melt chocolate first then add to fat. So much easier.

  7. ?”?

    I’ve noticed when making chocolate ice cream that if you use 99% chocolate (I use sharfenbergers) than you get no specks. If you use 60% or 30% than you get specks. The higher the % the less specks when you melt the chocolate.

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