Advice from a Master Chocolatier
Have you ever found a half-eaten bar of chocolate hidden behind a few boxes in your pantry or at the back of a drawer tucked away long ago? If so, you may be wondering “can I still eat this, even though I don’t remember when I bought it?” The answer is…. Yes, at least most of the time. The real question is will the chocolate still taste great? Let’s find out!
To answer one of the most common questions “does chocolate go bad, or how long does chocolate last, or does chocolate expire?”, first you need to determine if your bar should be tossed or devoured. Just keep in mind that this info is strictly for solid chocolate bars, not truffles or any other chocolate products.
Is that mold on my chocolate?
Odds are, your chocolate isn’t moldy. Typically, there isn’t enough water in a chocolate bar for bacteria to grow and form mold, (truffles are another story altogether!) What you’re probably seeing is called “bloom” and there are two types: Fat Bloom and Sugar Bloom.
If you read the ingredients of your chocolate bar, it most likely will list Cocoa Butter. This is a natural fat from the cacao beans. This butter is just as much a natural part of your chocolate as the cocoa mass is (mass is the part that makes dark chocolate a rich brown in color). Typically, fat bloom on chocolate bars will have a fine powdered look to it and be light brown or white in color. This powder is kinda fun to play with as the bloom should magically disappear when you touch/rub the chocolate! The heat or friction from your hand will melt the cocoa butter. Magic! Chocolate that has fat bloom on it is still ok to eat though the texture, melt, and flavor will definitely be altered. If so, don’t worry, it is still good to melt into a hot chocolate or to add to baked goods!
Unless you are eating a bar that is 100% cacao, your chocolate contains sugar. If the chocolate is exposed to moisture, your chocolate may later develop a white grainy texture known as sugar bloom. Chocolate that has sugar bloom on it is still ok to eat though the texture can be quite rough/grainy on the surface and the flavor will be altered since sugar will be the first thing you taste.
What if my chocolate doesn’t smell right?
Chocolate absorbs scent like a sponge and lets go of some of it’s flavor in return! If your chocolate was stored next to any scented items such a scented candle, perfume, or an array of flavors that are found in a typical fridge, it will lose its yummy chocolate notes and taste like scent(s) that it was stored near instead. This is a potential big YUK! Your chocolate will taste the way it smells, so if you don’t like the way it smells, I suggest you avoid eating it.
How about when my chocolate looks and smells fine, but it just doesn’t taste right?
This is a problem… The fats from ingredients such as nuts or milk powder present in the bar may have gone rancid. If you suspect this, do not eat the bar! Seeds, berries, and candy incorporated in the chocolate can also go bad or stale and ruin an otherwise great chocolate bar. If you taste any unnatural flavors such as chemicals, gasoline, or plastic, this means that the chocolate was likely processed, shipped, or stored incorrectly at some point. It can also be an indicator that the chocolate may have been packaged in materials that are not food safe. A bar with an unnatural flavor should be tossed for your safety.
What if the chocolate tastes like cardboard or paper?
If the chocolate tastes stale or cardboard-like, the chocolate is likely old but it is still safe to eat. Here’s a little secret… I like to keep older chocolate bars (stale tasting but still safe to eat) and set them around the house as decoys to ward off any potential chocolate thieves (especially my chocoholic husband) from gobbling up my fabulously flavored chocolate bars before I am willing to share them!
What’s my Recommendation?
Seek out artisan chocolatiers and bean to bar chocolate makers and regularly explore their chocolate offerings! Once you find a variety of chocolate companies you enjoy, I suggest buying only the chocolates that will be used or eaten within a month, even though solid chocolate bars do not spoil quickly. Consider signing up to a Chocolate of the Month Club or a chocolate subscription box to get fresh chocolates delivered to you regularly. As with most good foods, chocolate rarely gets better with age, so why not get the maximum flavors and enjoyment that only the freshest chocolates can deliver! Your taste buds will thank you for it. If you are interested in trying some of the most beautiful and luxurious tasting chocolates in the world, check out my award winning chocolates at www.fortechocolates.com
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Karen Neugebauer is internationally recognized as being a leader in the artisan chocolate industry and is the owner and Master Chocolatier of Forte Chocolates, located about an hour north of Seattle in beautiful Mount Vernon, Washington. To get more information or to contact Chef Karen for custom projects/consulting services please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-982-2159.