It’s happened to every chocolate lover. You unwrap old Easter or Halloween candy and it’s misshapen or covered with a white powder. Is it okay to eat? Must you pitch it?
Thankfully, you can eat that chocolate without fear of getting sick. But it won’t be nearly as good. Here’s why, plus why it looks like that in the first place.
What Is Chocolate Bloom?
There’s always foil-wrapped chocolate balls in a basket in the lobby of my office building, but when the sun shines on it through the windows, it gets soft and melty. Then when the sun sets, the chocolate re-hardens. Peeling off the foil reveals chocolate that’s markedly different from the delightful treat it was pre-sunbeam.
A large percentage of solid chocolate is made up of cocoa butter, which begins to melt at 88°F (31°C). If it’s in direct light or a hot car, the cocoa butter melts. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right?
But when the ambient temperature drops and the chocolate becomes solid again, the cocoa butter crystals tend to re-form in random patterns that change the texture of the chocolate. The powdery white stuff on the surface of the chocolate is simply cocoa butter crystals that separated out and re-solidified in an unsightly manner.
In the chocolate and confectionery industry, this is known as bloom. Bloom isn’t dangerous, but it is a bummer, because bloomed chocolate isn’t as fun to eat. It melts unevenly, has a crumbly texture, and loses much of its visual appeal.
If you melt chocolate on purpose for coating or dipping, you may experience bloom as well. In order for melted chocolate to be smooth and shiny and break with a clean snap, it must be tempered–a process that involves taking the chocolate to a range of specific temperatures and stirring to promote the spreading of ideal cocoa butter crystals.
Can I Eat Old Chocolate?
You can eat bloomed chocolate to your heart’s content. From a food safety standpoint, it’s a-okay. But it’s not the best chocolate to eat. The crumbly texture will resist even melting, leading to a gritty mouthfeel.
I am not the kind of person to throw away chocolate, and I can tell you that not all is lost. Bloomed chocolate is not worth eating out of hand if you have standards, but you can cook and bake with it.
How To Store Chocolate to Keep It Fresh
Chocolate is a low-moisture food packed with antioxidants, and when stored properly, it’ll be good for years, though its flavor will mellow with time.
Keep chocolate in a cool, dark place like a cupboard. If your kitchen gets hot in the summertime, consider refrigerating or freezing your chocolate and letting it come to room temperature before you eat it.
When traveling with chocolate in a hot car, keep it out of direct light. If you have lots of chocolate on a long trip in the summer, stick it in a cooler.