Serious Chocolate: Meltaways, and the Science Behind Eutectics

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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.

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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, 76 °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.