Ask the Alchemist #170


Level: Novice

Reading time: 10 min

I've tried to make "just add hot water" drinking chocolate.  However I'm having two problems:

  1. When I add hot water, the chocolate has to be stirred A LOT to get it to mix and even then, there's tiny blobs of it left in the bottom of the mug.  
  2. I want it to have a creamier texture, but it's quite watery, in spite of all the milk powder and cocoa butter I added.  I've tried adding up to 44% milk powder to get more creaminess but then I lose more chocolate flavour.

How could I improve these please?  My basic recipe is:

27% sugar, 39% cocoa liquor, 9% cocoa butter, 24% milk powder, 0.7% vanilla, 0.3% sunflower lecithin 

Also, how best can I imbue caramel flavour into a milk chocolate?  I've tried caramelizing sugar, chopping it up and then conching it.  But the caramelized sugar is super hygroscopic and also gets stuck in my conche.  What else could I try please?

What you are running into are the preconceived notions of what and how hot chocolate should behave.  What it seems you are used to with "just add hot water" is very significantly processed chocolate.  I don't mean this negatively per se.  Just that you are not seeing the massive amount of work that went into making a product that will dissolve virtually instantly for the American consumer market.

My very first thought on 1) is "that sounds about right".  Chocolate is oil based and you trying to dissolve in a water.  It would be exactly the same if you were surprised if you lightly stirred an egg yolk and cup of oil together and didn't get mayonnaise.  It takes a very specific set of conditions to get oil and water to mix and be stable.....as you are seeing.

Now that I've said that, what I have had some success with is making a ganache with my chocolate and then mixing that into water.  If you combine chocolate and water (or cream) at approximately 1:1 at 100F, rather gently, then let it set up, you may well find a spoonful of that then dissolves much easier into hot water without all the stirring and blobs at the bottom.  Basically you have made an emulsion.  Just like mayonnaise.

Your second item is playing right into the first issue.  Let's go back to the egg yolk and oil.  If you just mix the two together, it would look watery and thin.  Certainly not creamy, yet mayonnaise is creamy.  It's the emulsion that is giving it its creamy texture.  Again, there is quite a bit added to instant hot chocolates to give them their creamy mouth feel instantly.  Quite often guar gum, gelatin, modified starches, and the like.  Basically a ton of food chemistry to get the mixture to behave smoothly and easily.

On to the advice now.  Where you are going to find success is developing your technique.  Basically, it is a variation of the ganache prepared on the spot.  Have a look at both of these.

http://zoomyummy.com/2010/11/11/hot-chocolate/

http://www.wellplated.com/two-ingredient-homemade-hot-chocolate/

In short, I kind of hate to tell you, is that you have to give up the idea that you can have both an instant hot chocolate and one that didn't take time to prepare.  It's sort of like a magic trick.  You are used to only seeing the final trick -  Ta-da!  just add water hot chocolate - without realizing how much behind the scenes work there is to pull it off.  i.e. pulling out a pan, heating everything just so, so that you form a nice thick, creamy emulsion.

As for the caramel flavor.  I don't have a surefire answer for you.  I can give you hints, but just like the above magic trick references, it isn't as easy as adding caramel to your chocolate as you have found.  What I've found is you need to create it in the chocolate.  Using high acid beans and elevated refining temperatures greatly increase the amount of caramel flavor in chocolate.

The hands down most caramel chocolate I ever tasted in a milk chocolate was from a Madagascar.  In this particular case the 20% cocoa butter had been pressed (using the Nutrachef Oil press) from the same Madagascar beans used to make the chocolate. It resulted in a deep caramel flavor.

It is also worth pointing out you want a full fat spray dried milk powder.  The process itself adds caramel notes.  That’s one of the main reasons I offer the milk powder that I do.  Non-fat milk powder just doesn’t seem to do it.

And I should clarify.  Do you want the caramel flavor in your chocolate or in your hot chocolate?  Making your own caramel syrup is the direction I would go if you want it in your hot chocolate.   Basically, caramelize the sugar as you did before, but then immediately dilute it with hot water.  This spells it out:

http://www.copykat.com/2015/01/19/caramel-syrup-for-coffee/

Prepare your own homemade caramel syrup for coffee (or chocolate) from scratch. It's easy to do.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water

Instructions

Heat sugar over medium high heat until it begins to melt. Stir constantly. If the sugar begins to burn, discard, and try again. When the sugar begins to brown quickly stir in boiling water. Stand back, as the mixture may steam. Stir until well blended. Cook mixture for an additional 15 to 30 seconds. Do not let the sugar burn. Remove pot from heat source, and allow mixture to cool before placing in an air tight container.

That you can even add to your ganache as the liquid portion and the sugar content will both help it keep longer (ganache is perishable when made fresh) and allow the mixture to incorporate more water or milk to turn into hot chocolate.

I hope that helps.

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