The discovery that could revolutionize chocolate production

Chocolate Industry

The best chocolate is creamysmooth, and the one that melts in your mouth, not in your hands. Now, a scientific team claims to have found a way to create that “perfect chocolate” that simplifies the traditional tempering process (heating and cooling it repeatedly).

Specifically, researchers at the Canadian University of Guelph found that adding a key component of cocoa butterfat to molten chocolate helps to hold it together and give it an “ideal, simple and inexpensive” structure.

The method, whose description was published in the journal Nature Communications, could simplify and “revolutionize” the manufacture of this product.

The characteristics of high-quality chocolate depend on the crystalline structures of cocoa butter, and creating a well-textured, shiny, perfectly cracking chocolate is not easy.

This requires “tempering“, a time-consuming process in which chocolatiers slowly heat and cool the melted chocolate several times to get the fatty acid crystals in the cocoa butter to acquire a stable shape, says a statement from the university.

“If you’ve ever eaten spoiled chocolate, you’ll know it right away. It is crumblygrainy and soft, it is a chocolate that has not been properly tempered”, explains Alejandro Marangoni, author of the study.

Normally, chocolatiers use the “seed” during the tempering process to promote the crystallization of the chocolate. This usually consists of chunks or grates of already tempered chocolate that act as magnets to attract loose fatty acid crystals and align them.

Marangoni details that a good chocolatier can do this by eye: “His experience tells him when the chocolate is ready and he can make adjustments when it is not, but that cannot be done in large-scale chocolate manufacturing.”

Manufacturers use specialized equipment called tempering units, but even these are not foolproof, and they often find large variabilities between batches of cocoa butter.

Marangoni’s team tried to simplify the process by finding an ingredient that could more easily help form the correct crystal structure.

He tested various components naturally present in cocoa butter and selected a specific molecule, a saturated phospholipid, to “seed” the formation of suitable cocoa butter crystals.

They found that adding the phospholipid to melted chocolate and rapidly cooling it accelerated crystallization without the need to temper it; the resulting chocolate had an optimal microstructure, with the ideal gloss and resistance on the surface.

To confirm their finding, the researchers used synchrotron technology (a type of particle accelerator) from the University of Saskatchewan and the bright light from the facility, and imaged the chocolate’s interior microstructure in detail, confirming the positive effect. that its ingredient had in the structure.

“It is exciting that a phospholipid – a natural component already present in cocoa butter – can be added to achieve the necessary tempering, emphasizes Marangoni.