Chocolate 101 – What’s a Bloom?

This chocolate was intentionally abused to induce a bloom - the whitish area to the left.  On the right some condensation has not yet evaporated into a sugar bloom.

This chocolate was intentionally abused to induce a bloom - the whitish area to the left. On the right some condensation has not yet evaporated into a sugar bloom.

Chocolate 101 – What’s a Bloom?

More importantly, should you care?  The short answer is yes and no.  First, let’s take a look at one of the final steps in chocolate making and one that can give chocolatiers the most headaches: tempering.  The cocoa butter (fat) in chocolate can exist in six different crystalline states, but only one of these, the beta-form, is stable at room temperature.  Tempering is achieved by heating the chocolate above the melting point for all the crystalline forms, and then carefully cooling it in the presence of a beta seed crystal. ** check – heat, cool, heat or….? By keeping these fat molecules in a crystalline form, you can make chocolate with a beautiful sheen and a nice crisp snap.  This is especially important for chocolatiers doing enrobing or coating of filled confections so that the coating can form a nice shell that won’t break apart.
Most, but not all, chocolate makers also go to great lengths to be sure that the cocoa butter and cocoa particles are intimately mixed so that the cocoa butter surrounds the cocoa particle.  This happens during refining and conching where the sugar is also broken down to a very fine particle size (below ** microns).  All of this just so you can enjoy a smooth, sensual mouth-feel in your favorite chocolate.
Now, when a bloom occurs, some of this hard work is undone.  If chocolate gets too warm, the cocoa butter will start to separate out and you will get a whitish, grey-white or tan haze the surface.  This is a fat bloom or cocoa butter bloom.  Don’t panic! It won’t hurt you nor will it affect the taste of the chocolate.  It just doesn’t look too pretty.  If we’re talking about a chocolate bar, go ahead and eat it. OK, were not talking about leaving it in the sun for days – then it may be oxidized and for milk chocolate or filled chocolates start to go bad.  On the other hand, just getting too warm for a while or going from cold to warm too fast might produce a fat bloom that in itself is no big deal.
** can also occur due to inpromper tempering.
On the other hand, should you store your precious chocolate in a humid place or, more likely, you’ve kept it in the fridge and then move it out, unprotected to a warm, humid room.  Under these conditions, moisture will form on the surface of the chocolate and may result in a sugar bloom.   The reasons for this are simple:  sugar is very soluble in water – it likes to be in water.  So, the water “pulls” the sugar out to the surface and when it evaporates, nice little sugar crystals are left behind.  No big deal.  The bar should taste fine except the texture maybe altered since SOME of the sugar is not where is was meant to be.  Go ahead and eat it.  No worries.
In the end, bloom won’t hurt you.  Sure, it may diminish your ***experience somewhat since the texture may change to be more grainy or in the extreme, dry and chalky.  So, it’s best to handle and store your chocolate carefully to avoid bloom as much as possible.
You’re probably wondering: “how can I avoid blooming chocolate?”  Stay tuned for a post in the next week or two where you will learn the best ways to handle and store chocolate.
Photo: don’t run…it’s just a bloom!

More importantly, should you care?  The short answer is yes and no.  First, let’s take a look at one of the final steps in chocolate making and one that can give chocolatiers the most headaches:  tempering.  The cocoa butter (fat) in chocolate can exist in six different crystalline states, but only one of these, the beta-1 form, is stable at room temperature.  Tempering is achieved by heating the chocolate above the melting point for all the crystalline forms, and then carefully cooling it (this is a simplified explanation).   By keeping these fat molecules in a stable crystalline form, you can make chocolate with a beautiful sheen and a nice crisp snap.  This is especially important for chocolatiers doing enrobing or coating of filled confections so that the coating can form a nice shell that won’t break apart.

This chocolate was intentionally abused to induce a bloom - the whitish area to the left.  On the right some condensation has not yet evaporated into a sugar bloom.

This chocolate was intentionally abused to induce a bloom - the whitish area to the left. On the right some condensation has not yet evaporated into a sugar bloom.

Most, but not all, chocolate makers also go to great lengths to be sure that the cocoa butter and cocoa particles are very tiny and intimately mixed so that the cocoa butter surrounds the cocoa particle.  This happens during refining and conching where the sugar is also broken down to a very fine particle size (typically below about 50 microns).  All of this just so you can enjoy a smooth, sensual mouth-feel in your favorite chocolate.

Now, when a bloom occurs, some of this hard work is undone.  If chocolate gets too warm for too long, the cocoa butter will start to separate out and you will get a whitish, grey-white or tan haze the surface.  This is a fat bloom or cocoa butter bloom.  Don’t panic! It won’t hurt you and, in all but the most extreme cases, it won’t affect the taste of the chocolate.  It just doesn’t look too pretty.  If we’re talking about a chocolate bar, go ahead and eat it. OK, were not talking about leaving it in the sun for days – then it may be oxidized and for milk chocolate or filled chocolates start to go bad.  Just letting it sit above 75 degrees F for too long or going from cold to warm too fast might produce a minor fat bloom that, in itself, is no big deal.  Besides, properly-tempered, high quality chocolate will be more resistant to bloom.

On the other hand, should you store your precious chocolate in a humid place or, more likely, you’ve kept it in the fridge and then move it out unprotected to a warm, humid room, you could produce a sugar bloom.  Moisture forms on the cool surface of the chocolate and and “pulls” some sugar out to the surface.   The reasons for this are simple:  sugar is very soluble in water – it likes to be in water more than in the chocolate.  When the water evaporates, nice little sugar crystals are left behind.  No big deal.  The bar should taste fine except the texture maybe altered since SOME of the sugar is not where is was meant to be.  Go ahead and eat it.  No worries.

In the end, bloom won’t hurt you.  But, it may diminish your tasting experience somewhat since the texture may change to be more grainy or in the extreme, dry and chalky.  So, it’s best to handle and store your chocolate carefully to avoid bloom as much as possible.  Don’t do what I did and try to induce a bloom by repeated freezing and moving chocolate to a warm (80 degree F) room over a few days.  You’ll get the ugly mess in the photo.

Although my self-induced blooming disaster took quite a bit of effort on my part, you’re still probably wondering: “how can I avoid accidentally blooming chocolate?”  Stay tuned for a post in the next week or two where you will learn the best ways to handle and store chocolate.

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6 responses to “Chocolate 101 – What’s a Bloom?

  1. this is so informative. thanks for sharing

  2. Question: I have lots….lots of “dark chocolate” bars and squares that are for eating only. They all have expired, based on wrapping’s dates.
    Some were made with oranges mixed in, etc. There is some bloom on them, but I did try one the other day. Do you think they are all still good, even though expired and can I eat them ?
    Please respond via e-mail. Thanks !

    • Harlin, the short answer is: if it tastes good, eat it. There is nothing in dark chocolate bars that will go bad and hurt you. If you have some filled bars, say with creamy liquid fillings or some form of dairy, then I would be more cautious. When you really have to worry is when we are talking about creme-filled truffles. In the best case, they will turn cheesy, in the worst case, moldy.

      I eat so-called “expired” chocolate all the time. Chocolate makers are required by food labeling laws to put some best by date on the wrapper, but many of them struggle with what to put on dark chocolate. So, they use a default shelf life of 1-2 years. The fact is that a bar can keep excellent flavor beyond 2 years if stored well. If it doesn’t taste great, but is still enjoyable, I put it in my oatmeal. Enjoy, Walter

  3. I take my bloomed chocolate bars and bake with them. Some are well past their “expiration date” but still turn out great. Chop it up and stick it in some cookies. Nobody will know how old it is, and it will be delicious. If the texture of bloomed chocolate bothers you, melting it into a cooking project is GREAT. I’ve tried it with “flavored” bars too, and it’s still good, just as long as the flavor would mesh with the other flavors in your dessert.

  4. Pingback: 10 Tips for Keeping Chocolate Fresh | Koko Buzz

  5. Pingback: Vanha suklaa jalostaa | Onnen tongintaa

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