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Chocolate disaster

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm a decent cook, but dreadful at baking. Nevertheless, I'm trying to perfect a flourless chocolate cake recipe. It has come out pretty good a few times, but I've also had a couple unmitigated disasters. I'm hoping somebody here can tell me what I'm doing wrong. Here's what happens...

I melt my butter and chocolate in a bain marie, whisking gently until it reaches the consistency of a thick sauce. I let it cool a bit, then whisk in my egg yolks. This is the point where it all goes wonky. The mixture simultaneously adheres and separates according to some chemistry I don't understand, and in just a few seconds, I end up with a big granular glob of chocolate swimming in a sea of melted butter. No matter what I do, I can never get it homogeneous again. This mess will not properly fold into my stiffened egg whites, so I've twice ended up just throwing the whole thing out. It's frustrating.

I'm thinking that the chocolate mixture may be too hot when I add the eggs, or perhaps I'm adding them too late, but I'm not sure. I have an instant-read thermometer, so I can easily monitor the mixture as I go, but I'm not sure what the temperatures should be at the various points.

I don't want to make another attempt until I really understand what's going wrong, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 9

Your chocolate is doing what normal chocolate does when it's melted and gets a little bit of water in it-it seizes! The water is either coming from the egg yolks (yes, there is a little water in them) or you might have a little water on your whisk or steam condensing and dripping in from the bain marie. It also could be complicated by the temperature of the egg yolks if they are too cold. 

Without seeing your recipe, the proportions and the method, it's hard to tell what is really happening here, especially since you said the recipe has worked before. 

I've made a lot of these type cakes and have never seen a recipe that calls for you to add straight egg yolks directly to melted chocolate and butter. Actually, the butter should inhibit the seizing if you use enough butter, but just a little might not work. 

When I've made them before, I beat the egg yolks and sugar until very thick, then temper in the melted chocolate and butter. Then, I fold in the meringue, pour into the pan and bake.

 

There are some other very experienced pastry chefs on these boards. You should post the whole recipe including directions. We can then best assess how to improve the process and thus, your outcome.

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post #3 of 9

It could be that the chocolate your using isnt good enough. What you should do id melt the unsalted butter and chocolate, lightly whisk the egg yolks and suger, then once the choc/butter is melted and incorparated it should be fine )as its been in a baine that shouldnt make it stupidly hot) to pour onto the egg yolks whilst whisking. Then mix part of this mixture ( use only a bit and dont fold, mix it. This will make folding the rest of the mixture in easier) into the whisked egg whites, then fold in the remaining mixture.

 

Hope this helps

 

Aaron Maclaren Aranchini Baron :)

post #4 of 9

As foodnfoto writes, your chocolate is siezing up.

 

The "chemistry" in chocolate is pretty amazing.  Cocoa butter, which makes up over 50% of the cocoa bean is "polymorphic", meaning it changes crystal structure at different temperatures.  This is why when you melt chocolate above 32 C and let it cool, it goes all grey and streaky, then white and crumbly. Do not fear, you can melt this and temper it with no trouble what so ever.

 

Chocolate contains no water. None.  The sugar in chocolate--which may be over 50%, is not dissolved--and with cheaper chocolates you can feel the sugar in it.  Chocolate also contains cocoa butter, a fat.  So when you introduce water to chocolate, it "goes crazy" or siezes up, the sugar wants to bind with the water and the fat prevents it from doing so.

 

As foodnfoto writes, you may have had some steam introduced into the chocolate if you used a double boiler, or from other ingredients.  If you do use a double boiler always make sure it never boils--or you'll get steam, which usually condenses right over the bowl....  A microwave is pretty handy, and every day I melt kilos and kilos of couverture in the nuker, using 30-45 second blasts and stirring inbetween.

 

Hope this helps

 

Don't gie up on chocolate just yet--it's too good to give up on......   

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post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks to everyone for the detailed replies. I'm new to this community, but this is a great first experience. I'll address the points brought up below and I've included the recipe at the end for reference.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Maclaren View Post

It could be that the chocolate your using isnt good enough. What you should do id melt the unsalted butter and chocolate, lightly whisk the egg yolks and suger, then once the choc/butter is melted and incorparated it should be fine )as its been in a baine that shouldnt make it stupidly hot) to pour onto the egg yolks whilst whisking. Then mix part of this mixture ( use only a bit and dont fold, mix it. This will make folding the rest of the mixture in easier) into the whisked egg whites, then fold in the remaining mixture.

 

Hope this helps

 

Aaron Maclaren Aranchini Baron :)


OK, I think my bain marie might be too hot. I usually bring the water to a boil in the bottom portion, then turn off the heat and put the top portion on to get the ingredients melting.

 

I'm using Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking chips. They're not ideal, but it's the best I can find where I live. Still, I think the quality should be sufficient to prevent problems like this, no?


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by foodnfoto View Post

Your chocolate is doing what normal chocolate does when it's melted and gets a little bit of water in it-it seizes! The water is either coming from the egg yolks (yes, there is a little water in them) or you might have a little water on your whisk or steam condensing and dripping in from the bain marie. It also could be complicated by the temperature of the egg yolks if they are too cold. 

Without seeing your recipe, the proportions and the method, it's hard to tell what is really happening here, especially since you said the recipe has worked before. 

I've made a lot of these type cakes and have never seen a recipe that calls for you to add straight egg yolks directly to melted chocolate and butter. Actually, the butter should inhibit the seizing if you use enough butter, but just a little might not work. 

When I've made them before, I beat the egg yolks and sugar until very thick, then temper in the melted chocolate and butter. Then, I fold in the meringue, pour into the pan and bake.

 

There are some other very experienced pastry chefs on these boards. You should post the whole recipe including directions. We can then best assess how to improve the process and thus, your outcome.

 

OK, "seizing." That's the terminology I needed. Thanks.

 

If water is the only possible cause, then I think it's got to be steam from the bain marie sneaking into the mixture. My wisk is dry and the egg yolks are at room temperature. The only thing is, I never have the problem until I put in the yolks, which is suspicious. It's also worth noting that I'm in a tropical climate, and although I keep the air conditioning on when cooking, the relative humidity is still quite high.

 

Per your suggestion, the full recipe is below.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

 

This is why when you melt chocolate above 32 C and let it cool, it goes all grey and streaky, then white and crumbly. Do not fear, you can melt this and temper it with no trouble what so ever.

 

 

A microwave is pretty handy, and every day I melt kilos and kilos of couverture in the nuker, using 30-45 second blasts and stirring inbetween.

 


I may try the microwave method, though I really like being able to whisk while monitoring the consistency. Is there an ideal temperature for the mixture to be at when I add the eggs?

 

 

----  Recipe ----

 

INGREDIENTS

3 oz (85 grams) unsalted butter
8 oz semisweet chocolate
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees with rack in center. Grease 12 ramekins.
  • Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar; beat until stiff and glossy.
  • Heat chocolate and butter in bain-marie until melted and syrupy. Let cool slightly, then whisk in yolks.
  • Whisk 1/4 of whites into chocolate mixture, then gently fold chocolate mixture into remaining whites.
  • Pour mixture into ramekins. Bake about 20 minutes, until cakes more than double in height and tops appears bulbous and dry. Cool completely on a wire rack.


NOTES

  1. As you can see, this is an entirely flourless recipe.
  2. The goal is to produce something more cake-like than typical flourless recipes, which tend to come out more like ganache.
  3. Even when they come out well, these cakes fall quite a bit as they cool. Any suggestions to have them hold their height would be welcome.
post #6 of 9

Hi Nosecohn,

  Everyone is spot on. I would check to see if there are 2 listings for sugar or split your sugar in half. Wisk half the sugar with the yolks. The yolks can even sit for a while. Sounds funny but the yolks will cook some.

Blood temp is a good guide for temps. Your temp is 98, so a little warm to touch is over a 100+. Should be enough to add room temp yolks. If it feels hot, it is too hot. I have always stirred /spoon/

the choco and butter and slowly pour in the yolks.

Good luck and enjoy.

PS Don't throw things away without checking for alternetives here at CT   :>D

pan

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post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks. I will keep an eye on the temperature, make sure I don't get any steam in the mixture, and split the sugar for my next attempt.

 

Any thoughts on how I can prevent them from falling so much as they cool?

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Well, I finally made another attempt today and the results were not entirely successful.

Per panini's suggestion, I whisked half the sugar into the yolks first and the other half into the whites. Then I melted the chocolate and butter at a lower temperature and in a larger bowl to prevent steam from entering. The chocolate didn't seize, but it also never got to the syrupy consistency I'm used to. Nevertheless, I took it off the bain marie, let it cool to 105ºF, then whisked in my sugared yolks.

Adding a quarter of my whites to the chocolate mixture per the recipe seemed to go well, but when I started to fold that back into the whites, I noticed that the meringue had turned a bit watery on the bottom. That's never happened before, and I don't know if the problem this time was because I only had half the sugar in there or because the meringue sat around for a bit while I was tending to the chocolate.

Anyway, I opted to whip it up a bit more, which may have been a mistake because I already had some of the chocolate in there. The extra whipping seemed to make it worse, so I just decided to fold the rest of the chocolate in anyway. However, at this point, the chocolate had cooled to nearly room temperature, so it didn't really fold in very easily. I didn't want to overmix the batter, but it was clear that the chocolate was settling on the bottom. I stopped folding when I thought it couldn't stand any more, but there were still streaks of chocolate in there. I decided to pour and bake anyway.

In the end, it didn't rise at all. I checked on it after 20 minutes and it was as flat as when I put it in. I ended up cooking it a full 60 percent longer in the hopes that it would grow a bit, but it never did, and in fact, never really firmed up either. I let it cool and dug in, but the consistency was all wrong, as if I had severely under-baked it, despite leaving it in for so long. Another one for the garbage bin.

For someone who has as much experience in the kitchen as I do, I often marvel at how terribly awful I am at baking. I seem to have absolutely no feel for it. If anyone thinks they can help, I'm all ears.

nosecohn

post #9 of 9

Just wanted to mention that everyone's replies helped me out, too--I made some chocolate cupcakes the other day with a recipe that told me to mix water into the chocolate as I was melting it, and I'm now pretty sure that's why it ended up so lumpy. But why would a recipe call for water mixed into melted chocolate in the first place? Seems strange.

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