Candy Making : How to Select Chocolate

Karla Everett


Here are some techniques and facts about chocolate when dealing with chocolates in your candy making this season.

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1The quality of chocolate you use will be the primary determining factor of how your finished chocolate candies taste. Chocolates are not all created equal, and in general, there is a strong correlation between quality and price. This is not to say that you should always buy the most expensive chocolate, but be aware that high-quality chocolates with large amounts of cocoa butter and cocoa solids will cost more than their inferior counterparts.
2Selecting chocolate should primarily be a sensory experience. Before you taste the chocolate, look at it closely. You want chocolate that has a glossy surface and is free from blemishes. If the surface is scarred, cloudy, or gray, this may be a sign that the chocolate is old or has been subject to extremes in temperature or handling. Next, break the chocolate in pieces. You want a chocolate with a clean, hard “snap” to it. If it bends or crumbles, either the quality is low or the chocolate is old.
3Good chocolate will smell strongly of chocolate. Rub your fingers over the surface to warm the chocolate, and then smell the bar. If it doesn’t smell like chocolate, or if it smells primarily of vanilla or other added ingredients, it probably won’t taste very much like chocolate either. Chocolate easily picks up odors from its environment, so be aware if your chocolate smells like coffee, tea, or other aromatic foodstuffs.
4Finally, taste the chocolate. Pay attention to the way it melts in your mouth: does it feel waxy? Unpleasantly chewy or dense? Does it leave a slightly slippery feeling? Does it feel sandy, or smooth? In general, a smooth, velvety mouthfeel is preferred. Also notice what flavors you can find in the chocolate. Common descriptions of chocolate notes include floral, citrus, berry, coffee, and wine undertones. Notice if the flavor bursts out all at once, or if it gradually builds in intensity and lingers after the chocolate has left. Above all, trust your own tastebuds. Chocolate preference is very personal, and you know what tastes good to you, so select chocolate that you will enjoy eating.
5In candymaking, chocolate is second only to sugar in importance and frequency of use. Chocolate is unique in that it can be both a fundamental ingredient and a finished candy by itself. Knowing how to handle chocolate, including proper techniques for storing, cutting, melting, and tempering this mercurial substance, can greatly increase your chances of making successful chocolate candies.
6How Do I Handle Chocolate?
Chocolate is an amazing substance that can be manipulated in remarkable ways, but it must be treated carefully. It is very sensitive to changes in temperature, and care should be taken in its handling and melting to ensure the best texture and taste in the finished product.
There are two main rules to handling chocolate: do not let it come into contact with water while melting, and do not put it over direct heat. Water droplets that fall into a pan of melting chocolate will cause it to "seize," or turn into a hard, chunky lump. Similarly, overheating chocolate will ruin the taste and texture of the final product, which is why chocolate should always be melted over indirect heat or in small intervals in a microwave. The following articles will explain how to select and handle chocolate for optimum results.
7What is Tempering, and How Do I Do It?
Many chocolate candy recipes call for the chocolate to be "tempered" before use. Tempering refers to a process of heating and cooling the chocolate to specific temperatures so that the cocoa butter in the chocolate forms even crystals. Tempering is not a mysterious or difficult process, but it can take a little practice before it becomes second nature.
Tempered chocolate has a shiny appearance, a hard, crisp snap when broken, and stays stable at room temperature. Chocolate that is out of temper might look streaky or gray on the surface, and have a crumbly or densely chewy texture. Chocolate does not always need to be tempered; for instance, tempering is unnecessary when chocolate will be combined with other ingredients for baking or when being melted for ganache. However, if you are going to be dipping centers in chocolate, or making solid chocolate candies, you will want to temper your chocolate to produce a stable, beautiful, appetizing candy.
8Why Chocolate Turns Gray or Discolored Sometimes
There's nothing quite like opening a much-anticipated box of chocolates only to find discolored, slightly gray candy. When chocolate turns gray like that, one of two things could be the culprit: Sugar Bloom or Fat Bloom.
9Sugar Bloom
Sugar bloom is normally caused by surface moisture. The moisture causes the sugar in the chocolate to dissolve. Once the moisture evaporates, sugar crystals remain on the surface. If this process is repeated, the surface can become sticky and even more discolored. Although sugar bloom is most often the result of overly humid storage, it can happen when the chocolate has been stored at a relatively cool temperature and is then moved too quickly into much warmer surroundings. When this happens, the chocolate sweats, producing surface moisture.
10Fat Bloom
Fat bloom is similar to sugar bloom, except that it is fat or cocoa butter that is separating from the chocolate and depositing itself on the outside of the candy. As with sugar bloom, the most common causes of fat bloom are quick temperature changes and overly-warm storage.
Although it might look a little less appetizing than a lustrous, rich chocolatey-brown piece of candy, chocolate that has suffered bloom is still okay to eat. You may find the texture of sugar-bloomed chocolate to be a bit grainy on the outside, but it should still taste good. To prevent this from happening to your chocolate, simply use proper storage methods.
11How to Store Chocolate
Whether it is white chocolate, baking chocolate, milk chocolate or some kind of chocolate confection, proper storage is key. Since it can easily absorb flavors from food or other products situated nearby, chocolate should be tightly wrapped and stored away from pungent odors. The ideal temperature for storage is somewhere between 65 - 68 degrees F (18 - 20 degrees C), with no more than 50 percent to 55 percent relative humidity. If stored properly, you can expect milk chocolate and white chocolate to be good for up to six months. Other types of chocolate can have an even longer shelf life.

About this Recipe

Course/Dish: Candies, Chocolate
Main Ingredient: Sugar
Regional Style: American