Scientists May Have Just Found a Way to Make Chocolate Tempering Much Easier

Home chefs are well aware that tempering chocolate is a difficult task. Even if you're a master of the art, small variations in ingredients quality, temperature, mixing, and timing can cause you to fail.
A new study by Canadian food scientists at the University of Guelph suggests that chocolate tempering might be less risky if two common, naturally occurring fats are added in the right amounts.

You can find milk chocolate in almost any store. It's made from the same ingredients as cocoa butter, cocoa liquor (or chocolate liquor), for the form and sweetness, and add-ins such as sugar and vanilla for flavor and sweetness.

It is important to encourage the distribution and size of crystals in order to create a solid chocolate bar. The crystalline cocoa butter triglycerides, also known as TAGs, are what give chocolate its distinctive shine, texture, and melting point.

It is not enough to have any type of crystalline structure. Out of the six possible configurations of this class molecule, Form V gives us the perfect temper.

The art of transforming a diverse mixture of molecules into something that will resist your bite and feel heavenly smooth on the tongue is a culinary technique that has been refined over time. It relies on a carefully-tuned sequence in heating, mixing, cooling, and then tempering.

Researchers have examined the impact of TAG composition on the success of tempering. However, very little is known about the role of minor components in cocoa butter, such as free fatty acids or phospholipids.

They make up only a small percentage of the chemicals in cocoa butter. Differences in the origin and refinement of these key ingredients could significantly affect the composition of this ingredient. This can either help the right crystals to grow or hinder their growth.

Research has previously indicated that certain components played a role in the formation and maintenance of the "seed" crystals. A high level of free fatty acid seems to slow down crystallization. On the other hand, phospholipids appeared to aid them in growing.

Researchers analyzed a sample cocoa butter to determine the chemical composition and exact proportions of the components. They also modified the composition of the cocoa butter by adding new ingredients or bleaching existing ones.

Then, they put it through a series of tests to see how fat content could affect growth time and proportions of crystal types. They also tested for micro-structure, surface reflection, melting point, and flexibility.

While the amount of molecules such as free fatty acids had some effect, the real game-changer was the proportion of phospholipids, specifically saturated phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine. These are not the kind of names that make you laugh: they are biological molecules that can be found in living cells' membranes.

These two molecules were present in greater concentrations and led to the formation Form V crystals. This gives cocoa butter its optimal glass, microstructure, and mechanical properties.

The right amount of each ingredient to chocolate can help ease the process of tempering, or make it simpler.

However, this won't make us all home-cooks. Professionals who rely on reliable recipes may find the right formula by learning more about the chemical structure of chocolate creations.

Nature Communications published this research.