Barbecue, bubbles and bottles: You’ll find plenty of those in the Food section today. By barbecue, we mean the Smoke Signals column, which gives you three foolproof ways to cook pork ribs. By bubbles, we mean the Gastronomer, who explains why foam foods aren’t the modern creation you might think they are. And by bottles, we mean Washington Cooks, about an Arlington man who has interesting ways of cooking with wine.
To that impressive lineup, let’s add bloom. Oh, but first, I have to remind you about today’s Free Range chat, where you can join Food staffers and honored guests to discuss any of the aforementioned B’s, plus anything else you have in mind. Be there at noon,
Back to bloom. It’s the topic of a leftover question we couldn’t get to during last week’s chat:
I bought some decently nice chocolate to bake with, and then the weather got hot. Since my apartment doesn't have air conditioning, the milk solids separated. It's still edible (I tried), but the texture is a bit off. Will it heal itself if I melt it? Can I still bake with it?
You’ve asked the perfect hot-weather question. I’ll bet just about everyone has unwrapped a bar of chocolate and discovered the chalky haze called bloom, indicating that the cocoa butter has separated out and risen to the surface. The texture is grainy, and the chocolate is unpleasant to eat out of hand.
The good news is that yes, you can still bake with it (more on that later). The bad news: The answer to your first question is no, your chocolate won’t “heal itself” for non-cooking uses unless you put it through a process called tempering.
Your formerly glossy, uniform bar of chocolate didn’t just get that way by itself. It was professionally tempered, meaning that it was exposed to specific temperatures in such a way as to line up the chocolate’s crystalline structure to create a smooth, crisp texture. When the chocolate melted, the crystals went out of alignment — out of temper, in the chocolate world — and created the mess before you. Or the mess before me, as you can see from the accompanying photo of what used to be a nice piece of chocolate until I left it in my car.
You can re-temper chocolate yourself, but it’s a finicky and exacting operation, unless you are a pro or own a special tempering machine.
So let’s forget about tempering, shall we? I asked Nick Malgieri — pastry chef, writer, teacher and occasional Washington Post contributor — about the best way to handle your bloomed bar. Clearly, he was the guy for the job; he wrote the book “Chocolate,” whose cover alone is enough to make any chocoholic’s heart fly into palpitations. His advice:
“Cut the chocolate into 1 / 4-inch pieces; place in a dry, heatproof bowl. Bring a small pan of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Set the bowl on the pan of water and stir occasionally until melted. Or nuke gently at full power for 20 seconds at a time in a glass bowl. It can then be used in any recipe that calls for chocolate.”
Notice how he specified a dry bowl? Your chocolate can’t touch so much as a drop of water or other liquid as it melts, or it’s likely to seize, or stiffen and become grainy and unworkable. So make sure your bowl and spoon are bone dry before you begin this process.
We’ve got many more hot days to come, so unless you buy an air conditioner for your kitchen, any other chocolate you bring home will probably suffer the same fate. But now that you know how to get it back into shape for cooking, your bloom won’t mean a bust.