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Dec 17, 2007 02:46 PM

Food science help for chocolate, please

I'm trying to re-create Grandmom's Hot Chocolate Sauce for gifts. Here is the recipe as written:
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
7 blocks of Baker's unsweetened Baker's chocolate
1 tblsp butter
1 tsp.vanilla (after taking off heat)

Boil water and sugar for a few minutes. Add chocolate and butter.

As I remember this, the sauce hits the ice cream and gets a bit chewy.

I've now made 3 batches and the sauce seems grainy. Is it because I cooked sugar and water too long? too short? or something else? Should I continue over heat with the chocolate and butter and for how long. Grandmom is no longer with us and Mom hasn't made it in years and can't remember. I don't want to give sauce that isn't what I remembered. Can I solve the problem post cooking?

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  1. Did you leave the sugar syrup on the stove when you added the chocolate? You might have heated the chocolate too high and that can cause graininess. I don't know anything about this recipe but you might try making it like ganache where you finely chop the chocolate and then pour the hot syrup over it to melt it and then add butter. Or, put the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and add the sugar syrup over that to melt it. I don't think there is anything you can do if you did scorch the chocolate but I don't know if that's what you did. If not, it might be possible to heat it (gently) and add a little vegetable oil or shortening. I've never tried it but have been told it sometimes works.

    1. Wish I had the answer...but...remember that chocolate melts at a low temp and the sugar and the boiled-for-five-minutes syrup will be a LOT hotter...maybe you want the sugar syrup to be a little cooler before pouring over the choc...maybe melt the choc in the m/w and mix them together when the syrup has cooled down...
      I think you are describing a chocolate fudge sauce. I'd look that out online.

      I'd appreciate knowing your next results


      1. I'm guessing the "boil for a few minutes" means to boil the water and sugar to soft ball stage. Then, remove from heat and stir in butter, then chocolate. Finish with vanilla.

        Good luck!

        1. OK, when I think graininess, I think undissolved sugar. I would say, start with cold water and add sugar...heat over low-med heat until a slow rolling boil, not stirring, but as they say...washing the sugar off the sides of the pan with a small brush. OK, I know that already sounds complicated...but what you really are doing is producing a soft-ball candy mix, that you allow the choclate to be melted into.

          Look at candy making, google it. The melting of the sugar and heating it is very very much the huge part of this. And yes, the chocolate has a much lower than soft-ball ( it is a specfic temp), melting stage. And I do find that the addition of even a tad little bit of heavy cream makes a diff in texture....just smoothness. The graininess is a different deal.

          4 Replies
            1. re: Non Cognomina

              And what's the melting temp of chocolate please?

              1. re: scuzzo

                That is sort of a trick question. The cocoa butter in chocolate contains six types of crystals that all melt at different temperatures. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate and "white" chocolate all "melt" at different temperatures, too.

            2. Heirloom recipes can be problems. We have three different versions of one from my mother, all in her own hand, all different, and my sister and I remember helping her do it in yet entirely other ways. She just made minor changes here and there over the years.

              There is a recipe similar to the one you posted in the old version of Joy of Cooking - pre-WWII - that differs in the proportion of sugar to water, calling for equal amounts, which yields a thick syrup. Assuming that this is the proportion that your grandmother and mother used (and there wasn't an error on the amount of water: could it have been 2 cups?), try using the procedure in the Joy of Cooking.
              Boil the sugar and water for about 5 minutes without stirring which should be to the syrup stage. Let cool. Melt the chocolate with the butter and add it to the cooled syrup. Then add the vanilla.
              The "grainy" texture could also be crystalization of the sugar. You could add a teaspoon or two of light corn syrup to the sugar/water mix before boiling it to prevent that. A little insurance.
              If the problems were with the sugar/water syrup, you can't undo that once the chocolate has been added.

              6 Replies
              1. re: MakingSense

                Interesting that the Joy of Cooking calls for the "syrup" stage, which is about 230 F, very close to soft ball stage. The amount of water is somewhat arbitrary by the time the mixture reaches 230 F, the water has boiled off. The more water you start with, the longer it will take to boil off.

                1. re: Non Cognomina

                  Remember that the JoC I used was old and the recipe the OP has was one his grandmother had likely used over a period of years and may have gotten from somebody and lots of changes could have been made. She knew what she was doing so never wrote specific instructions. Many cooks never had thermometers, had no idea of what the science was, etc. Our grandmothers and mothers often relied on glasses of water or cold plates to check for stages when making sugar syrups, candies, and jellies. That's how I learned.
                  As you say, the amount of water is arbitrary. Maybe the OP's grandmother cut down the amount of water to get the syrup to the stage she wanted more quickly.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    I learned how to make jam, candy, etc by using a cold glass of water, too! That's how my Grandma taught me. I still go by the size of the bubbles in the sugar syrup to tell what stage it is at. I had started a post about it, but decided that it's much harder to explain if you can't show someone the pot of boiling sugar. Having worked with people who rely on thermometers, I find I have an advantage by knowing what to look/listen for rather than just waiting for a thermometer to hit a certain mark.

                    The "interesting" comment was more about my guess (further up) about "boil [the sugar and water] for a few minutes" meaning to the soft ball stage. If the J of C recipe says to boil to the syrup stage, then I wasn't far off. (My Grandma would be proud.)

                    1. re: Non Cognomina

                      The old JoC does have a section defining the various stages. "Thread" is "when the sirup [sic] dropped from a spoon spins a thread of three inches." It does give temperatures for those who have candy thermometers - 238 F for thread and soft ball stage which it says means when the syrup that has been dropped into the cup of cold water "can be gathered up in the fingers into a soft ball that will almost hold its shape."

                      I learned so many of my recipes and techniques from watching. Now I'm trying to write them down for my daughters and realizing how hard it is. So much depends on sight, sound and smell. Hard to explain, huh?

                  2. re: Non Cognomina

                    My thinking is similar to Non Cognomina's -- it's the water that is the problem.

                    The only reason for water being combined with the sugar is to get the sugar to melt and then begin cooking to a syrup/soft ball stage...if the water has not entirely evaporated, the chocolate will seize when the water hits it and form the graininess. Chocolate and water do not get along. You could use 1/4 cup of water instead of a 1/2 cup just to get the sugar going but all the water has to evaporate. This will take a little time.

           mustn't stir the pan of sugar and water -- that will create crystals. Just swirl the pan. It's the same rule for making caramel. If you do create sugar crystals, when the chocolate cools, the tiny sugar crystals will appear. But I'm really guessing it's the water.

                    By the way, Baker's chocolate doesn't mean chocolate for bakers. Baker was actually the name of a man. You can use any unsweetened chocolate, and many brands are better than Baker's, though that might be a convenient one for you to buy.

                    Good luck.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Another possibility for the graininess...

             might have used beet sugar instead of cane sugar. Because beet sugar will cause a funky crystallized mess. Cane sugar won't. This just came up in another thread so I'm repeating myself here...

                      Cane and beet sugar react far differently in recipes, and perhaps the chocolate just cooled the mixture down enough so the crystallization could appear.

                      From "Sugar, Sugar, Cane and beet share the same chemistry but act differently in the kitchen" from the San Francisco Chronicle:

                      'Carolyn Weil and her crew at The Bake Shop in Berkeley were hard at work one morning, boiling down large pots of sugar syrup to make buttercream for the day's buns, cakes and confections. It was a task the staff had done hundreds of times. But this morning the normally silky syrup crystallized into large, chunky granules. Weil tossed it, along with plans for most of the baked goods she wanted to sell that day. Not happy with a day's work and income wasted, Weil investigated, checking her equipment and ingredients and determining the one variable. Sugar. Weil's supplier had substituted another brand and, as it turns out, another type of sugar altogether. Weil thought she was getting cane sugar, but instead she got beet. Despite what sugar industry officials claim, beet and cane sugar are not alike. And the sugar industry isn't bothering to tell.'"