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Tips for Melting Chocolate

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" Provided you don't cover the bowl and allow condensation to drop in, microwaves can be very effective at melting chocolate as they eliminate the risk of seizing it with liquid. However, chocolate's low melting point means you have to heat it gently to prevent it overheating, which in most microwaves means keeping your eye on it and stopping to stir every 30 seconds. The Breville Quick Touch has a 'Melt Chocolate' setting which calculates the correct power level and time based on how much chocolate you are using so you don't have to stay glued to the microwave. Because chocolate is a poor conductor of heat you will notice a few semi-formed pieces in the bowl at the end of the cycle which can be combined by stirring with a metal spoon".

In the wake of World War II, scientists were testing magnetrons in hopes of creating better radar detectors when an engineer named Percy Spencer noticed the chocolate bar he had in his pocket began to melt. From this, he quickly realised that magnetrons could potentially be used to cook food and the beginnings of the modern microwave were born.

Using the microwave is still one of the most effective techniques when it comes to melting chocolate, but the confectionary’s unique characteristics tend to make people wary of working with it.

Chocolate is technically an emulsion, or a mixture of liquids that would otherwise naturally separate. The sugar, fat and starch molecules are held together by the emulsifier lecithin, but this bond is extremely fragile and can be easily upset. Most recipes which use chocolate require melting it first, but if the heat is too high it can make it split or "seize", go grainy or burn and because cocoa butter has a melting point below body temperature (around 34°C) you can go from chocolate to chalk in a matter of seconds!

Most people use a double-boiler (bowl over a pan of hot water) to melt chocolate but if you’re not watching, or a bit heavy handed with the heat, the water from the saucepan below can bubble over into your chocolate causing it to seize.

This is because the process of refining cocoa beans into chocolate removes all the moisture making the final product incredibly dry, even in its melted state. Adding the smallest bit of water to melted chocolate is just like adding water to flour and you end up with a paste.

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Guest Sunday, 20 January 2019