Recover a chocolate fondue

It’s the weekend. You just finished a sumptuous meal and plan to top it off with a delicious 100% chocolate fondue. The chocolate is melted and perfectly smooth, but you find it too thick. You add a little cream. It turns into a disaster! The chocolate becomes a thick, grainy mass as you stir. What happened? Let’s take a look…

The perfect fondue

There are as many chocolate fondue recipes as there are kinds of fruit to dip in them. Some people love 100% chocolate, others add cream or liqueur to sweeten and flavour the taste. In this case, prevent the chocolate from seizing by using a minimum of 60 ml (1/4 cup) of 15% or 35% cream for every 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of dark chocolate. If you use chocolate with 60% or more cocoa, use at least 75 ml (1/3 cup) of cream for every 100 g of chocolate. This volume of liquid contains enough water to prevent the chocolate from thickening.

The technique for adding cream to the chocolate is just as important. Do not add cream bit by bit into melted chocolate as the first drops of cream that fall may cause it to thicken, just like in our photo. It is better to pour all the hot cream over chopped chocolate in one shot, wait one to two minutes for the chocolate to melt and stir. Another solution is to heat chopped chocolate and cream at the same time.

Step 1: Melted chocolate

Dark chocolate is a blend of cocoa butter (a fat) and two dry ingredients: fine cocoa particles and tiny sugar crystals. Chocolate does not contain water. The sugar does not dissolve in it but is present in crystal form. When you heat the chocolate, the cocoa butter melts and the chocolate turns to liquid.

Step 2: Melted chocolate with a little cream added

When you add a little cream to melted chocolate, sugar crystals (that are dry) become wet and attach to each other (think of what happens when you dip a wet spoon in a sugar bowl… the sugar sticks to the spoon). The sugar dissolves in that bit of liquid added to the chocolate and turns into gooey syrup on which cocoa particles stick. It all forms a thick and lumpy mass that separates from the cocoa butter. The separated cocoa butter gives the mass its oily appearance.

Step 3: Can you recover the chocolate? Absolutely!

Simply add a bit more hot cream, gradually stirring until the chocolate becomes smooth again. Adding water or a little liqueur would be even more effective, since it lacks water and not fat. Why? The extra water dilutes the sugar syrup, making it less sticky. It also gets in between cocoa particles, allowing the chocolate to regain its fluid consistency. It’s like when you add water to a paste that is too thick to make it more liquid.

Christina Blais

For Christina Blais, explaining food chemistry to the masses is as simple as making a good omelet. Holding a Bachelor and Master degree in Nutrition, she has been a part-time lecturer for over 30 years in the Department of Nutrition at the Université de Montréal, where she teaches food science courses. She has been sharing the fruits of her experience with Ricardo since 2001, during his daily show broadcast on ICI Radio-Canada Télé. And diehards can also read her Food Chemistry on our website. You can follow her on Facebook at @Encuisineavecchristinablais.