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Deteriorating chocolate quality in summer stores
August 10, 2007
3:20 pm
johnp.
Oslo, Norway
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May 21, 2007
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I've been quite disheartened this summer to discover that a lot of the good and interesting chocolate available in Oslo, and generally sold in smaller stores, has been abysmal. I blame this on the heat. What exactly happens when a chocolate gets ruined by heat?

As an example, I bought a Cluizel Los Ancones, one of my favourites. Visually it seemed okay, but I couldn't eat it. One bite, and I had to throw it away. It was incredibly dry and bitter.

Later in the summer, I bought some Valrhona bars in a small coffee shop, same experience, completely unedible. This time I tried to figure out what was wrong, and I now think something happens to the cocoa butter in the heat. Does it evaporate? The Valrhonas didn't melt in my mouth at all, which I would guess was due to some problem with the cocoa butter. Standing there with a foul-tasting, dry, non-melting piece of dark chocolate in my mouth, I imagine I must have looked quite miserable :(

So don't buy your summer chocolate from places with no air condition! I hope not too many people are trying "artisan chocolate" for the first time and having the same experiences I did, would probably put them off the good stuff forever :)

August 10, 2007
5:51 pm
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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October 13, 2009
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quote:


Originally posted by johnp.

I've been quite disheartened this summer to discover that a lot of the good and interesting chocolate available in Oslo, and generally sold in smaller stores, has been abysmal. I blame this on the heat. What exactly happens when a chocolate gets ruined by heat?


This is a classic condition, known as "bloom". What happens is, the cocoa butter rises to the surface, i.e. falls out of emulsion with the chocolate. The effect is identical to that of pure peanut butter separating into oil and solids - and for the same reason, heat (btw, this gives you a simple solution for separating PB - just put it in the fridge after mixing.) This drives off volatiles and as you've seen also ruins the texture because you no longer have a homogeneous emulsion.

Many shops seem to be completely oblivious to this effect. Even places that should know better, who specialise in chocolate, don't seem to grasp the fundamental point: chocolate is ruined in the heat, even if it doesn't melt. Strangely, I've also encountered a peculiar obstinacy: when I've talked to shop owners about the problem they immediately become *completely resistant* to the idea that it might be an issue. Usually I get the eyes-rolling look of someone who dismisses me as some lunatic fanatic.

I think some of it may be due to industry misinformation, even today one sees literally everywhere, on labels and even in books references to chocolate bloom, clearly identifying what it is, and yet claiming that the quality of the chocolate is unaffected. How it can be that people clearly knowledgeable about the process of chocolate bloom can possibly imagine the quality is unaffected is something that I'm at a total loss to explain, other than the possibility that some companies may not want to be obligated to provide a refund to the customer in the event of a bloomed bar.

Nonetheless, I think the greater proportion of the problem lies in not being aware that bloom is a problem at all. Most people tend to view solid objects as something with pretty static properties unaffected by such things as heat, so that if an object isn't obviously deformed in the heat there's probably nothing wrong with it. Materials scientists of course know better, but that requires technical knowledge most people won't have access to.

I've seen worse offences, too, like shops that routinely stock their chocolate right next to prominent heat sources like ovens or heat lamps without any sense that this might be problematic. It's, as I say, particularly baffling when one sees this behaviour at really high-quality stockists who've obviously taken some time to understand the quality of the chocolates they're selling.

Anyway, I think the time is long overdue for a strong publicity campaign aimed at retailers that makes them aware of chocolate's sensitive storage needs. Sometimes only small adjustments to shelf position can have an enormous effect on shelf life. And it might also help to weed out suspicious distributors: even the very most conscientious stockists sometimes get a bloomed batch not through their own inattention but because the distributor wasn't careful. In the very long run, such a campaign might also help to create a sorely needed item: the dedicated chocolate cooler, a box that can retain ~15c temperatures in a small space with controlled humidity. Anybody have any ideas?

Btw, to your stockists you might want to mention individually the problem of bloom and see if they respond.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
August 10, 2007
10:29 pm
ellie
london, United Kingdom
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March 17, 2005
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I completely agree with all that, Alex. Had a bloom problem one time at my corner supplier, where I used to buy M.Cluizel chocolate, in the hot weather - and they didn't have air conditioning in the shop, did feel warm, and all the heat from coffee machine.. When I found the first bloomed bar at home, I left it at that, but passing by few day after, told them about the problem with the heat at the shop. They shrugged it off, so I bought another one on the spot, opened it in front of the salespeople - and it was very obviously paled with bloom, and even crumbled on the counter.. Got a refund and excuse. To be fair, the batch was removed when I passed few days later again...

Any other strategies? I think it is a wide-spread retailers ignorance.

August 13, 2007
5:25 pm
ChemicalMachine
USA
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June 5, 2005
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quote:


This drives off volatiles and as you've seen also ruins the texture because you no longer have a homogeneous emulsion.


Drives of volatiles? So the chocolate will taste noticeably different even after re-tempering?
August 13, 2007
5:59 pm
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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October 13, 2009
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quote:


Originally posted by ChemicalMachine

quote:

This drives off volatiles and as you've seen also ruins the texture because you no longer have a homogeneous emulsion.


Drives of volatiles? So the chocolate will taste noticeably different even after re-tempering?

Yes - it will taste faded and lifeless, like old chocolate. One way of looking at the bloom process is that it's a bit like accelerated aging. Think of what an old chocolate tastes like. That gives you the idea of what retempered bloomed chocolate is like.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
February 18, 2008
9:47 am
jeff_z
Tokyo (also SF), Japan
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January 10, 2007
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Ah, this saved me a load of trouble. Thanks guys.

I recently bought some bulk Pralus Java online, but it had very obviously bloomed. Knowing nothing about making chocolate, I thought it might have been possible to return it to its original (delicious) state by retemperting. Loss of volatiles... makes sense. The taste certainly didn't seem like it had any of the "vitality" that the previous batch had.

btw, check out this article on chocolate bloom from the journal Chemsoc I found on google.

http://www.chemsoc.org/chembyt....._jun01.htm

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