Chocolate is a Bean

chocolate

Vegan Chcolate by Fran CostiganI used a lot of chocolate, at least 100 pounds, and maybe more, when I was writing Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, Running Press. That means I ate a lot of greens, fruit and beans too!!

 

photo of bloomed chocolateShortly after sending the final pages off to the publisher, I wanted to inventory the bars, nibs, chips and assorted bags of chocolate in my pantry. Among the treasures, I found two bags of “bloomed” chocolate. Bloom is just a cosmetic problem, which can be fixed. Bloomed chocolate looks mottled with a dusty whitish or beige rough film. Bloom happens when chocolate is stored incorrectly, generally above 85%, causing the cocoa butter, the fat in the chocolate (it’s not dairy butter) to rise to the surface. Luckily, I was able to fix it.

 chocolate
Choosing Chocolate

Evaluating Chocolate – It should have an even and glossy surface. If it is dull or whitish, it may be stale or have bloomed. Good chocolate should have a decisive break, which is referred to as snap. If it is hard to break, it may be too waxy and if it splinters, it is too dry.

Mouthfeel refers to the texture if chocolate. Is the chocolate dry or gritty or moist and smooth? The texture of the chocolate depends on many factors but it should melt in your mouth.

Arguably, the most important factor in choosing fine chocolate is the taste. Unless the chocolate is spoiled, and that can happen, taste is personal. Perceived sweetness, or lack of, depends not only on the amount of sugar added to the chocolate but the beans themselves, and the often propriety processes of the bean to bar makers, such as fermentation, roasting, winnowing, conching and the other steps taken to process chocolate from the craft chocolatiers, have proprietary formulas for these processes.

Choose a chocolate that tastes good to you. Don’t expect chocolates labeled with the same percentages to taste the same. They don’t. Some 70% chocolates taste  sweet and some taste bitter. Do read the label,  as it’s legal for up to 12% milk or a milk product to be in dark chocolate. This will be disclosed, but it is annoying, disappointing or dangerous, depending upon the reason you choose to avoid dairy. This is different from chocolate made on shared equipment.

To keep Chocolate fresh, be mindful of its environment.

Chocolate is sensitive to temperature. Don’t store chocolate in your refrigerator. That’s too cold. Instead, store chocolate well wrapped in a cool, dry pantry, not next to your stove.

Don’t store chocolate near strongly flavored foods. In other words, keep your turmeric and ginger and ancho chili spices and chocolate apart unless you are infusing a ganache.

 

Melting ChocolateNow the Bloom Fix

  • Pour a few inches of water into a saucepan and heat the water to the lowest simmer.
  • Set a heatproof bowl on the pan, making sure the bottom of the bowl sits above the water.
  • Chop the chocolate and put it into the bowl.
  • Place the bowl on the saucepan.
  • Wait until the chocolate has melted halfway to the center and start stirring with a silicone spatula.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat when the chocolate is nearly, but not completely melted and stir gently until the chocolate is fully melted.

Sure enough the bloom was gone and now I had lots of shiny dark, streak-free melted chocolate. I poured the liquid chocolate onto a parchment-lined quarter sheet pan, and rotated the pan until the chocolate was spread evenly. The sheet pan went into the refrigerator briefly to allow the chocolate to set.

After the chocolate had hardened, I broke it into uneven pieces and shards and placed then in an airtight container. The chocolate will stay shiny and crisp in the freezer for at least three months. Serve them on puddings, cakes, ice cream, etc, or just nibble.

 

Don’t forget to check for slavery free chocolate using the information on EmpowermentProject.com. They even have an app.

I would love to know the names of your favorite chocolates, the kinds you like best, sweet, semi, dark, super dark.

 

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