Help, my chocolate is mouldy!
Oh hello there, thanks for your inquiry but here’s the great news! no it’s not.
Am I sure? Oh yes, I am really truly sure. The even greater news is that chocolate bars basically can not grow mould – like – ever. Making them the perfect food staple to pack for Armageddon. They will last you a really long time! What you are seeing is called BLOOM, and it’s the result of a chocolate bar that went wild and lost its temper.
Any ashy or dull looking surface on a chocolate bar, streaks of white or gray, circles of what may remind you of salt crystals in winter or arsty marbled paper looking patterns are some examples of harmless bloom.
Many people wrongly assume it is mould because of its color.
We recently posted this photo to our Instagram account of some chocolate bloom.
So bloom can bloom in two ways: there is fat bloom or sugar bloom.
Fat bloom happens when the cacao butter (naturally present in cacao beans anyway) gets rebellious and “moves” about, rising to the surface in unsecured ways to create gorgeous patterns. Sugar bloom is when the sugar migrates out of the fat system, crystallizing on the surface of the chocolate bar.
Bloom is simply untempered chocolate. Untempered chocolate simply blooms because of unstable crystal structures… which is simply what tempering is and does: stabilizing those crystals.
Can you eat bloomed chocolate? Yes absolutely!
What will it taste like? Wwwwwell. Now we get into a whole other science about tasting and flavor and how our brain processes and experiences “taste” but that is a post for another day. Keeping it simple, it will essentially “taste” the same, but the mouth-feel will be different – potentially gritty and crumbly or dry and brittle. The actual “flavor” is not so much affected, but your brain will translate it as “dull” tasting, perhaps.
So now what? well: you can either (1) temper it by hand at home or (2) use it to bake with or (3) use it for hot chocolate or (4) actually enjoy it and make notes on what you are experiencing, as you would a perfectly tempered chocolate bar!
Back to tempering!
As beautiful as bloom is, a perfectly tempered chocolate bar with handsome shine, a good solid snap and a lovely melt-in-your-mouth effect offers a much nicer overall experience. Perfectly tempered won't melt in your fingers or hands very quickly - bloomed chocolate will.
Tempering - which can be done by hand (if you have the patience of a saint) or with a machine (ours was a god send!), is the process of heating and then cooling and stirring liquid chocolate to control the aforementioned final snap 'n shine.
It does this by controlling the crystallization of cacao butter (fat). A perfectly tempered bar will align the fat crystals into a very specific form, known amongst chocolate makers as Form V. This fifth form is the most stable of all the others.
And this is what makes craft chocolate making such an art & science.
A craft chocolate maker needs to find the right temper! This may read like a really simplistic statement, but if you have ever tried to temper chocolate perfectly yourself, then you will know just how complicated this process can be! Even the tiniest external factors such as humidity and room temperature will affect your tempering process.
How is this different from supermarket or commercial chocolate? Well those are made with already-existing-chocolates (couverture) which come in the form of drops or chips and have a tempering curve (instruction manual of sorts) written on the bag! They simply get melted and re-shaped. A massive short cut.
We as craft chocolate makers not only need to find the right temper, but also need to adapt our temper for different beans from different origins. Being a natural product, there is no instruction manual, nor is there a nutrition label which tells you how much fat is in that specific bean. Different beans, from different origins have slightly different amounts of cacao butter which greatly influences the adaptations needed to the tempering curve. The cacao butter by the way is something naturally present in the bean. Our chocolate is two-ingredient, meaning we do not add EXTRA cacao butter. This is also why our chocolate in liquid form is so much thicker (and yes, trickier to temper!) (and yes, we really did take the scenic route!).
Tempering really is an art form and a science. Some days are easier than others, but we have definitely had beans which were very hard to find the temper for and we spent days deep in stress adjusting the high and low temperature, waiting for the bars to set, only to realize the curve needed further adjustments. Trial. And. Error.
Annnnnnnd this is also the reason why we are so pedantic about only shipping chocolate on Mondays or Tuesdays or at the latest Wednesday: so it doesn’t get stuck in some mail truck over the weekend. This is also the reason why we only ship chocolate on cool days, and turn our Online Shop off over the summer or any stretch of time above 15 degrees Celsius.
This is also why we wrote a blog post about how to store your chocolate properly.
Because we put SO much work in tempering our bars! Days upon DAYS!
We don't stop until we find the right temper so we can produce perfectly tempered bars. But sadly what happens when those little bars go out into the wild world, via the postal system is really beyond our control.
We hope that all your chocolate days are sunny & bright and that all your bars arrived tempered just right