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Why There’s White Stuff on Your Candy Bar

Olga Filonenko via Flickr

You’ve decided to dip into your hidden stash of chocolate treats – the ones you don’t like to share – only to discover something’s wrong. No, it’s not the size or amount that’s off. And no, it’s not that heat has deformed your precious goods either.

Duh-duh-duh. Your chocolate is discolored. It’s either lightened or has weird whitish spots on the surface that makes it look like it has dry, ashy skin. Does your candy have the plague? Have your chocolate chips failed inspection? You do a sniff test: pass. But you’re scared to take a lick. Hold on.

No need to ring the alarm just yet, it just means your chocolate has bloomed. Not in a new romance or May flowers sort of way, but through a chemical process. Two different types of chocolate bloom can occur, and both affect its appearance.

Salino01 via Commons WikimediaFat bloom normally happens when chocolate is exposed to warm temperatures. It looks like a white film or powder is on the chocolate, and is caused by the cocoa butter fats. When subjected to warm conditions that cause it to melt or soften, the fats in chocolate separate. Streaks or spots can appear.
 
As it hardens or comes back to room temperature, the fats crystallize and move to the surface, causing the whitening effect. Those fluctuations between warm and cold get the fat blooming ball rolling. Another cause of fat bloom is improper tempering when it’s being made.
 
You may notice that higher quality gourmet chocolate doesn’t have problems with fat blooming. Usually, that’s because it has undergone a tempering process that will keep the fats stable. Chocolate makers that do a poor job of tempering create conditions for an unstable crystallization process. Fat blooming is bound to happen, no matter what.
 
Sugar bloom is recognized by its white grainy or bumpy appearance. If chocolate is exposed to moisture or humidity, sugar separates and crystallizes on the chocolate. After the sweat beads evaporate, you’re left with sugar grains. The specks on your candy bar are generally caused by poor storage or condensation.
 
Wikimedia ImagesNow the big question: can you eat it? Yes. Though your chocolate may look ugly you can still eat, bake, or cook it. Blooming chocolate will “reset” once it melts and is baked into your favorite recipe. Specifically with fat blooms, the taste won’t be affected since the cocoa butter fat is simply being reabsorbed. Sugar blooms might taste a bit gritty.
 
If you want to prevent blooming, store your chocolate in an airtight container (or wrapper), but not in the refrigerator where humidity can get to it. You want to keep the temperature around 65 – 70°, so a shelf or stash closet will do fine.
 
Both blooms are safe to eat, but keep in mind sugar blooms may not taste the greatest. Word to the wise: don’t let it sit for long. Watch out for cold, watch for heat, store your chocolate right and it’ll be good to eat.
 
Did you already know about chocolate bloom? Are you a candy maker who knows about tempering? Do you eat blooming chocolate or chuck it? Tell us in the comments!

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