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Choosing and Storing Chocolate

There are excellent foreign and domestic brands of chocolate on the market today.  Each manufacturer produces a chocolate with its own unique texture and flavor using a special formula involving a certain type and/or mix of beans, processing technique, and ingredients.  What chocolate you buy and use should be dependent on flavor but also on what you are making.  For example, in making an American style layer cake where there are so many other competing flavors, cheaper brands found in grocery stores (Baker's, Hershey's, or Ghirardelli) are adequate.  The more expensive American brand (Scharffen Berger) or European brands (Lindt, Callebaut, Valrhona, Cacao Barry) have such depth and nuances of flavor that are better showcased in desserts where there are less ingredients that won't diminish or mask their fine taste. 

The best way to choose the brand of chocolate to use in both your baking and eating is to buy a few brands and taste them using the following factors to rate the different chocolates.  (Remember that the flavor of the chocolate does not change when its melted, so make sure you like the taste of the chocolate when eaten out-of-hand.)

Appearance - the chocolate should have a smooth, even, and glossy unblemished appearance.  The surface should not be dull or have grayish-white streaks and dots (called chocolate bloom or fat bloom).  Bloom is when the cocoa butter has separated causing it to rise to the surface of the chocolate.    This happens when the chocolate is stored in too humid or too warm a temperature.  The chocolate can still be used as it only minimally affects the taste and texture.

Aroma - the chocolate should have a rich chocolately smell with no chemical or musty scent.  Smell the chocolate as it has a tendency to pick up odors of other foods if it is not wrapped and stored properly.

Snap - the chocolate should break with a 'snap', that is, firmly and cleanly.  It should not crumble, bend, or splinter.

Texture - the chocolate should have a smooth and velvety texture, not grainy or overly greasy on the palate.  It should melt almost immediately in your mouth.

Flavor - the main flavor should be the  chocolate, not the other ingredients (vanilla, nuts, spices) and it should have a rich, well-balanced, pleasing flavor.  It should not be too sweet or too bitter. 

Aftertaste - the chocolate should leave a pleasant chocolate flavor (not burnt) in your mouth.

STORING:  Chocolate should be stored in a cool (60 - 70 degrees F) (15 - 21 degrees C), dry (less than 50% humidity), and odor-free environment away from direct heat and sunlight. 

If stored properly, dark chocolate and cocoa will last for years.  White and milk chocolate can only be stored for about 10 months because of the milk solids they contain.  When chocolate is not stored properly grayish-white streaks will appear on the surface of the chocolate, called bloom (see above).

For Information On:

History and Making of Chocolate

There are many good brands of chocolate on the market today, both domestic and foreign.  Some popular brands are:

Baker's, Callebaut, Cocao Barry, El Rey, Ghirardelli, Guittard, Hersheys, Lindt, Nestle, Perugina, Scharffen Berger, and Valrhona