Question about spices and dairy

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Joined Jan 3, 2005
I have a very simple hot chocolate I make at work that is just Valrhona chocolate and half-and-half.  I use natural flavorings like mint leaves, orange zest or coffee beans, but for Autumn I have been trying some spice varieties and have run into an issue.

When I have tried using cinnamon and clove to infuse the half-and-half it becomes quite thick.  I thought perhaps the cinnamon oil was interacting with the dairy, but then I tried toasting and then steeping the spices in water first and the water thickened and had a bit of a gelatinous quality to it.  

I have never encountered something like this and wonder if anyone knows what is happening?  I know I can make chai tea with milk and not have a problem from the spices, but this mixture needs to be stronger so that it is not overpowered by the chocolate.

Any suggestions or explanation?
 

chefpeon

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Why take the trouble to infuse the cinnamon and cloves? Why not just sprinkle the ground spices into the hot chocolate at the end of the heating period?
 
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I have to hold the hot chocolate throughout a 6 hour service and I don't want to leave the flavoring up to the servers.  I think because this hot chocolate has such a high ratio of chocolate that I need the flavors to be a bit assertive to balance out.  Whether I leave the spices in or strain them out, I still experience the texture change I mentioned above.  I have tried looking online but am just puzzled about the cause.
 

phatch

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Are you using whole spices or ground?

If ground, there might be something like corn starch in them as an anti-caking agent that might impart the gelatinous effect you've been experiencing.
 

chefpeon

Kitchen Dork
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Perhaps try using just whole milk instead of half and half? If you start with a thinner liquid, perhaps it won't gelatinize so much by the end of service. I looked online for the cause of thickening in relation to spices and dairy, and couldn't find an answer either........

Phatch......that's a good answer......anti caking agents. Never thought of that. I'd suggest using cinnamon stick and whole clove also, instead of the ground.......
 
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A lot of ground spices have  calcium silicate added to prevent caking. This could be problem.
 
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Thank you very much.  I will try this with whole spices and see how it turns out.  I appreciate all your input.
 
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