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How to Fix Seized Chocolate

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2010

What causes chocolate to seize? Is there any way to undo it?

Seizing describes the nearly instantaneous transformation of chocolate from a fluid state to a stiff, grainy one. When chocolate is melted, its ingredients—mainly cocoa powder, sugar, and cocoa butter—disperse evenly, creating a fluid mass. But if even a tiny amount of moisture is introduced, the liquid and the sugar will form a syrup to which the cocoa particles will cling, thereby creating grainy clumps. How much liquid it actually takes to trigger this reaction depends mostly on the amount of chocolate and its sugar content. (Even in the absence of sugar, however, such as in unsweetened chocolate, the cocoa particles will still cling together if liquid is introduced.) Surprisingly, the addition of more liquid can actually reverse the seizing and bring the chocolate back to a fluid state.

Reversing the reaction means adding just enough water (or other liquid) to dissolve most of the sugar and cocoa particles in the seized chocolate clumps. The water will dilute the chocolate slightly, so it can no longer reliably be used for baking. Use it instead for making chocolate sauce or hot chocolate or drizzling on cookies.

To prevent seizing, follow these guidelines: In recipes that contain no liquid, take great care not to let any moisture into the chocolate. In recipes that do contain liquids such as melted butter, liqueur, or water, always melt the chocolate along with these ingredients to keep the cocoa and sugar particles sufficiently wet.

If your chocolate does seize, add boiling water to it, 1 teaspoon at a time, and stir vigorously after each addition until the chocolate is smooth.

SEIZED UP

Even a drop of water added to melted chocolate will form a syrup with the sugar and cause the cocoa particles to cling and form lumps.

SATINY SMOOTH

Adding more liquid can actually restore melted chocolate to its liquid state. Stir boiling water into the seized chocolate 1 teaspoon at a time to smooth it out.