Caring for chocolate in hot (and cold) weather1629
Chocolate melts at our body temperature which is one of the reasons we find chocolate so sensuous and lovely. That does create challenges, however, in storing chocolate in hot weather as, like ice-cream, it can melt easily!
The best storage conditions for chocolate are 15-18 degree Celsius and 50° humidity. That does sound rather exact but chocolate is a sensitive product. When melted chocolate sets into solid chocolate, it is similar to water becoming ice. It sets in a crystal formation (like a snow flake) which interlocks. Indeed, it can set in over 30 different crystal formations but only one crystal structure provides nice, shiny chocolate with a good snap. At our kitchens we ensure that the chocolate sets in this shiny crystal formation but if chocolate warms then cools again before you eat it, the crystal formation can change making it look dull.
When warmed, the cocoa fats can also migrate to the surface, then dry, leaving a white reside which is known as ‘blooming’.
The temptation is to put chocolate in a fridge but unfortunately this is not a good environment for chocolate. It is too cold (fridges being typically between 2°-6° degrees Celsius) and fridges also suffer quite steep variations in temperature as the door opens and closes. The humidity in a fridge is high (hence the condensation that you will see on the back of the fridge), which can cause a second form of blooming as water particles condense and then evaporate on the chocolate leaving a white residue.
Perhaps as bad as all of the above, fridges trap strong food odours within them and chocolate is a like a sponge which absorbs other flavours. If you put chocolate in a room with a strong mint or rose smell, the chocolate will quickly have a mint or rose flavour. Put it in a fridge with cheese and a kipper and you will quickly transform a nice chocolate into one which tastes of slightly cheesy, smoked fish!
The best advice in summer is never to leave chocolate in a warm car – only a few minutes and the chocolate can begin to melt – and try to find a cool, dry place in the house to store it. In winter, don’t put chocolate outside to keep it cool as it will be too cold and the chocolate will suffer.
There’s no easy solution but hopefully we can forgive chocolate for being a bit of a diva as it’s so delicious.