I Need Your Help… [UPDATED]

I had a really exciting post planned for today. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks. I could hardly wait to get it done and show everyone, because I just knew that you would all love it!

Then life happened.

I try to stay ahead of the game on here and have my recipes made, tested, photographed, and detailed in advance, but for seasonal treats, I tend to make them closer to the holiday I’m celebrating. That way, I get to share them at parties, school events, etc. However, when I had to travel back to the States recently, it really threw me for a loop. I had at least five great Halloween recipes that I wanted to get in over a two week period, but suddenly only had one week to do it.

“No problem,” I thought. “I can just post every day during the week leading up to Halloween!” For some reason, almost four months of living on this island still hasn’t seemed to sink in, and I actually believed that everything would work out fine and go exactly like I wanted (naive in the best of circumstances). Needless to say, that’s not the case.

Admittedly, I knew there would be certain obstacles. With the brittle that I posted yesterday, for example. It was very, very smooth sailing, but I knew that in order to get my candy to set and become hard candy, I would need to place it in front of a fan to keep the air moving. That’s just part of dealing with this environment (I know I mention the humidity here a lot, but it is truly it’s own entity). Furthermore, once the candy was finished, mine would have to be refrigerated. In the past, that’s never been the case.

If you live in Tennessee, for example, I’m sure you deal with your share of humidity, but the thing is, your humidity comes and goes. The humidity here, or in places like Florida I’m sure, it just hangs from the sky like Spanish moss. And, quite frankly, even in Florida, you are more than likely fortunate enough to have the luxury of air conditioning. With the high rates of electricity here, it really isn’t feasible.

The humidity settles over everything in a sticky blanket. That everything includes candy. If you have children, and you’ve ever given them a sucker only to find it stuck to the back of one of your living room throw pillows covered in dog hair, lint, and other household debris, then you have a good idea of what the humidity here does to hard candy. It’s like one giant, invisible, sticky toddler mouth.

So, here I sit. Typing away, and getting ready to tell you all about how discouraged I am. About 50% of the work I do in this tiny, stifling kitchen, either fails or falls far below my standard, and it is wearing on me. And it’s not just my inability to create the confections I envision, like I’ve nearly always been able to do in the past. It’s also the completely inescapable reality that I am so very limited.

I am admitting, here and now, that I have been incredibly spoiled while living in the States, and I blithely took it all for granted. Need some gluten-free flour? Sure! Just head on over to Whole Foods! Candy melts in every color imaginable? No problem! Michael’s is right around the corner. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of the isolation of many U.S. towns and cities. But even then, there is that possibility to get in your car, drive to a bigger city, and get what you need…if you really want it bad enough. I live on an island. I can only drive as far as the edge of the water before I have to turn back towards home with head hanging.

Suddenly, I’m lucky to have white chocolate to add color to (and only after ordering the candy coloring well in advance). Don’t even think about ordering the candy melts, they only have a 50/50 chance of surviving the trip…if you can get them on time. The mail system here is ridiculous.

Except, here’s the real kicker…the lesson I learned today that I can’t seem to find a solution to: I’m not even lucky enough to have white chocolate. Yes, it’s available here, for an exorbitant price, but beyond that, it just won’t melt properly! I can only assume that once again, it’s the ever present moisture in the air. What’s more, this category of ‘white chocolate’ appears to include candy melts (which are, in fact, basically white chocolate).

My depressingly unmelted white chocolate.

That’s right, folks. I write a food blog based primarily around baking, and not just baking, but what I’d like to think is creative baking-fun, cute, and clever ways to decorate the things we like to bake-and I can’t use white chocolate or candy melts in their melted forms. Goodbye cake bites (a la Bakerella), sayonara candy coated pretzels, hast la vista white chocolate frosting. I could seriously cry.

I apologize for my absolute negativity. I guess I just wanted to get on here and have the freedom to whine. And, after all, it’s my blog, isn’t it? I can do what I want on here. Except that I am a naturally positive person, so this is so going against the grain for me.

Allow me, then, to end this on a more positive note. I am asking you, my wonderful friends and readers, does anyone know why this is happening? Is it in fact the humidity, or something else? Something more easily tamed. Could any one of you please help me solve my puzzle? At this point, I am resigned to holding off on all white chocolate/candy melt recipes and ideas until I return to the States (Summer 2012), but my gratitude would know no bounds if you, best followers in the whole blogoshpere, could help me get to the bottom of this!

Some important facts:

I have melted white chocolate, as well as candy melts, successfully dozens and dozens of times in the past.

I attempted to melt the chocolate in a bowl set over barely simmering water. This is how I have always melted chocolate, and my preferred method (also my version of a double boiler).

I prepared the chocolate both with, and without, additives (like shortening) that help prevent seizing.

I have not attempted to melt the chocolate in a microwave, because we don’t own one. However, my husband is going to test the chocolate in the microwave where he works. This may be a poor test, though, as the building he works in is also air conditioned, thereby negating the humidity and possibly giving skewed results. (Man! That was a geeky sentence…)

Finally, milk, semi-sweet, and bittersweet chocolate have all melted beautifully for me here (Weird, huh?).

I hope we can put our heads together and solve this!

Sincerely,
Sugarbear (Darla)


UPDATE: Thank you to everyone for all of your tips and advice! And also for your questions as to what I’m doing/ using…they have helped me examine a lot of what may be happening. IThe answer definitely to be the humidity. Apparently (according to several chocolate companies), the moisture in the air attaches itself to the sugar in the chocolate causing it to crystallize. A friend of mine that lives here on the island has shared with me that the only way she’s been able to successfully melt white chocolate and candy melts is in the microwave. This makes sense, since a microwave would zap all the humidity right out of the air.

I don’t have a microwave yet, but I’m getting one soon, and I’ll let you all know how it does!

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    for starters, white chocolate isn't actually chocolate so that'll answer your "milk, semi-sweet, and bittersweet chocolate have all melted beautifully for me here" question.

    if not humidity, maybe it's heat? i've botched white chocolate in the past because I just assumed I burned it in the microwave. barely simmer your water in your double broiler maybe?

  2. Sugarbear says

    Thanks…I know white chocolate isn't actually chocolate, but I wanted to make sure, for anyone who might need the information, that it is the "chocolate" giving me any difficulty. :)

    I thought it might be the heat, too. I've also botched a batch of white chocolate by seizing it in high heat! So annoying!! But I already cook this like you suggested…over barely simmering water. And I'm very vigilant too. The problem here is that the chips won't melt at all, really. They start to, sort of, but almost as soon as they start to melt, the chocolate seizes again. It's very mysterious.

    Thanks for the advice!

  3. Anonymous says

    I haven't posted a comment here before, but just wanted to let you know that I love your blog (and check it daily, if not more)…so even if you botched what you were going to blog about, I love reading about how you botched it! And I know from experience, working with chocolate of any sort can be a pain in the rear sometimes.

  4. C&C Cakery says

    That's funny – I had white chocolate seize on me a couple of days ago. My problem was that my chocolate was a bit old and I had previously melted and re-hardened it before. Perhaps your heat and humidity had melted your white chocolate before, and it re-hardened in its container before you had a chance to use it?

  5. Cheryl says

    I live in Texas and the humidity here is ridiculous and I have had trouble melting chocolate on very humid days. I also have quite a bit of trouble making candy…some of the same recipes I have successfully made in the past. Milk, semi and dark chocolate don't seem to be affected by the humidity like white chocolate, but I occasionally have problems with it on very humid days.

    Good luck and I love your blog!

  6. Michelle says

    I live in the UK where we have zero humidity issues…and still cannot melt white chocolate successfully! I have tried everything that I can think of but can see that it is an issue that others have too, so I am glad its not my baking skills!

    I am desperate to get tips on this as I refuse to let it beat me!!!!! ;-)

    Have only recently discovered this blog…but can honestly say that I love it so far and can't wait to start trying things!!

  7. Julia says

    I understand your humidity problem, and due to the lack of climate controlling A/C, that may be your problem because of the moisture issue. But, did you try chopping the white chocolate as small as possible? I noticed you were trying for a small amount at a time, which helps too. From experience, I know using chips, unless they are melting chips, do not necessarily melt as well as a bar–for chocolate or white chocolate. Also, did you need to use milk or cream? If you heat those and then add the white chocolate on the counter, it might work better as well. But as a last resort, have you looked into getting a dehumidifier for your kitchen? It sounds like it wouldn't solve your problem completely, but it would make a difference if you can afford it…and if you are like me, it would make you laugh every time you stepped in the kitchen because who's that obsessed with baking? Oh yeah, people like us. :) Good luck!

  8. Anonymous says

    Hi :) I live in Townsville, Australia, where we have ridiculous humidity too. I have struggled with white choc too, but it seems that most stores here keep it refrigerated, or in air con, so that when it comes out to my kitchen/sauna, it sweats. Any water at all will cause the chocolate to seize. I have had most success with leaving the chocolate out on the bench for a few hours (at night or first thing in the morning so it acclimatized slowly) until it reaches room temp. I then melt it in the microwave, 15-20sec at a time, stirring between blasts. Though I'm sure the double boiler thing would be just as good. Hope that helps :)
    Rita

  9. Anonymous says

    Are you using the real white chocolate made with cocoa butter? Or the confectionary coating made with sugar and hydrogenated fats? I wonder if there would be a difference with the melting in your area.

  10. Alyssa says

    Hi! I like out in Okinawa, Japan, so I truly understand the heat and humidity. Even though I do live in a climate controlled building, I have still found that melting chocolate or white chocolate is less than fun. I suspect that the chocolate available to us has melted and solidified again at least once and that's what causes the issues.

    I'm not sure how to avoid it, since I don't really know anybody here that does much baking other than from a box. Sorry! =\ I hope you figure it out.

  11. Sugarbear says

    Thank you to everyone for all of your tips and advice! And also for your questions as to what I'm doing/ using…they have helped me examine a lot of what may be happening. I'm pretty sure that the answer has definitely been narrowed down to humidity. Apparently, the moisture in the air attaches itself to the sugar in the chocolate causing it to crystallize (or something more technical!). A friend of mine that lives here on the island has shared with me that the only way she's been able to successfully melt white chocolate and candy melts is in the microwave. I guess that makes sense, since a microwave would zap all the humidity right out of the air.

    At this point, I don't have a microwave, but you can bet that there's one on it's way! So, yay!!! Now I don't have t miss out on all the fun of candy melts for the next 20 months!!

    @K. – Thank you so much! We are currently stationed on St. Croix.

  12. bttrflybabydoll says

    I was going to mention a dehumidifier like Julia said. Glad you're getting your microwave! Hope it does the trick. I know how frustrated you'll be if you have to wait 2 years to be able to fulfill all the ideas in your head that use white chocolate! LOL If you're anything like me at all that's all you'll really want to make until you get back to the states! :)

    Just remember if you still can't get it to work you can come visit me and bake in my kitchen for a little while! ;)

  13. Anonymous says

    Hiya,

    It could also be the type of white choc you are using. Not too long ago they changed the recipe for Dream white choc here (in Australia) and you can no longer melt it to coat things but its still fine to use in ganache and stuff. Good luck with whole white choc thing!

  14. Nevr_norml_123 says

    Humidity is one of chocolate's greatest enemies. you could try eliminating all contact with water (e.g. your double boiler) by using a heating pad to melt the chocolate. it will take longer, but it reduces the amount of ambient humidity. also a gentle simmer can be far too much heat for white chocolate, white chocolate should never be heated above 100 degrees or you risk seizing and sometimes the chocolate will seize even before it finishes melting. if you can find pure cocoa butter on your little island, that sometimes can be used to fix fluidity problems.

    remember, every batch of chocolate is different, even if it is from the same company and was bought at the same time.

  15. thecoffeesnob says

    I have the same issues with white chocolate! Recently made a white chocolate and green tea cheesecake- attempted to melt my white chocolate twice only to have it seized, threw both batches out before I decided to just wing it by adding a little cream to the white chocolate and melting it over really low heat.

    It worked out for me but I guess that method wouldn't really work if you needed thick melted white chocolate to dip stuff in.

    Just discovered your blog by the way through Kitchen Simplicity and am absolutely loving it!

  16. Brandee says

    I have a problem with white chocolate all the time, and I find that, if I add some vegetable or canola oil (a tablespoon or so) into the partially melted chocolate, and stir like mad, it tends to unseize, and I can melt it some more if it isn't totally melted at that point.

    Maybe that'll help you!

  17. chefbexter says

    According to the textbook I have from culinary school, some types of white chocolate have cheaper fats substituted for the cocoa butter. These will melt at different temps, or not at all. So blame it on the chocolate.

    I don't know how humidity would come into play, though, since I live in Pennsylvania.

    Adding oil to chocolate when melting can help keep it smooth, as is usually recommended for chocolate fountains which need to flow smoothly and not harden.

  18. Anonymous says

    i agree I think its the chocolate itself. I have found that the better quality works better and yet it can sieze if not careful! it drives me nuts… but I do love using white chocolate. also the pastry gods have to be with you!

  19. Nevr_norml_123 says

    The two quality indicators for chocolate are snap and shine. If your chocolate only has one or has neither of these, replace it. It's not worth your time.

  20. says

    hi I know this is an old post but I was reviewing your october posts. when melting white chocolate add a little crisco and stir the devil out of it let it. heat a little and if it still isn’t creamy then add a little more crisco and stir again. I love blogs. its so neat to see the evolution of ones life! Hve fun melting white chocolate!