Serious Chocolate: Meltaways, and the Science Behind Eutectics
As you may have noticed, I like science. And, as with pretty much anything, science is even better when it happens to be delicious.
Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite words: eutectic. A eutectic, in confectionery terms, is a combination of fats that melts at a lower temperature than any one of the fats by itself. The eutectic you probably most often encounter on a day-to-day basis is milk chocolate.
The milk fat forms a eutectic with the cocoa butter, which is why milk chocolate is softer and has a lower working temperature than dark chocolate. However, the magical power of the eutectic is particularly well (and tastily) illustrated in the center known as a meltaway.
Meltaway centers are made by mixing chocolate and a lauric fat (like coconut or palm oil) with some flavoring and letting it set, kind of a dairyless ganache.
What makes them unique is the way they, well, melt away in your mouth. The combined melting point is well below both that of chocolate (94 °F) and coconut oil (my tropical fat of choice, 92 °F), and both of those are below body temperature.
Peter Greweling puts it best in Chocolates & Confections when he says: "...the transition from solid to liquid state happens so quickly that it is possible to feel the heat being absorbed from the mouth. This is the reason that [eutectics] actually leave a cool feeling on the palate as they rapidly melt."
Fascinating, right? This meltaway recipe is hilariously easy too: melt, stir, and set.
About the author: Liz Gutman co-owns the Brooklyn-based candy business Liddabit Sweets, which means she spends a lot of time around chocolate (and a lot of time eating it). She moved to New York in 2001 to go to, wait for it, acting school. But when the acting life wasn't for her, she wound up in the French Culinary Institute's pastry program while working at Roni-Sue's Chocolates in Manhattan's Lower East Side. She befriended Jen King, aka the other half of Liddabit, at FCI and founded Liddabit in May of 2009.