Chocolate, one of the world’s most popular confections, is particularly sensitive to its environment. Storing chocolate the right way is important to preserving its look, texture, and flavor. Stored correctly, chocolate can last for months and even years, in the case of milk-absent dark chocolate, especially when frozen. Below there are some basic tips, before we explain why you take these steps to protect fine gourmet chocolate.
- Store chocolate in a dry place (enclosed in glass is best) whether refrigerated or not
- Avoid exposing the chocolate to strong odors
- Out of sunlight or direct light (keep wrapping if possible)
- Bars last longer than truffles and creams
- Don’t exposure chocolate to radical temperature shifts (go from fridge to freezer, not directly to freezer)
- Give chocolate an hour to warm up if chilled
When Good Chocolate Goes Bad
The most obvious result of storing chocolate improperly is bloom, which is the appearance of white or gray dusty streaking on the surface of the chocolate. Bloom comes in two types: fat bloom and sugar bloom. It’s the result of environmental conditions prompting the separation of key ingredients in the chocolate.
The rare sugar bloom comes from excessive moisture, causing the sugar in the chocolate to dissolve and go into solution. Once the moisture begins to be reabsorbed into the air, the solution leaves behind speckles of sugar crystals on the surface of the chocolate.
The more common fat bloom is a result of temperature swings that soften the chocolate and then, after a time, cools to re-set. The longer the chocolate exists in a soft state, the more of the cocoa butter will melt and separate from the rest of the ingredients. Rising to the surface of the chocolate, the cocoa butter will then solidify once the temperature decreases, leaving an off-white layer on the surface of the chocolate.
Fortunately, for baking and cooking purposes where the chocolate will be remelted, both types of bloom have no negative effect on the recipe’s outcome.
One exception is fresh chocolate that is made without any preservatives, which is rare. This kind of chocolate can suffer from the normal kind of spoilage you associate with food and must be eaten promptly.
How to Store Chocolate
Although bloom is not a major threat to the taste and usability of chocolate, it is possible for improperly stored chocolate to be irreparably damaged. Most chocolate contains cocoa butter, which melts around body temperature and imparts the silky texture of chocolate. Being a fat, cocoa butter will absorb ambient odors which will then change the flavor of the chocolate.
Storing chocolate is generally a simple exercise in considering temperature, odor, and humidity. It’s best to store chocolate at 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid melting. To best avoid the separation of ingredients known as bloom, the temperature should remain stable. If storing chocolate in the refrigerator, ensure that it is kept in its original wrapping as open chocolate will usually succumb to condensation, odor, and bloom.
For long-term storage, tightly wrapped bars of chocolate will last in the freezer for months, if not years, though defrosting should be done in the refrigerator and finally in a pantry to bring it back to room temperature to minimize the risk of bloom. You do not want to shock the chocolate with sudden temperature changes.
The best chocolate storage container is non-porous. Plastic is porous and will, over time, allow odors to enter the container. Glass containers better prevent odors. The key for any container location is to avoid light of any kind. Sunlight especially will change the temperature of the chocolate but light of any kind threatens to oxidize the cocoa butter, changing the chocolate’s flavor. A cool, dry, dark place is best.
Different types of chocolate require slightly different storage attention. Though bar chocolate can be stored for long durations, truffles and the cream inside are best in the first few days and they may go bad rather quickly. As with other chocolate, storing truffles in a cool, dark pantry or cabinet is best. If intended to keep them for more than a few days, truffles should be stored in the freezer in a three-step process. First, they should be chilled for one or two hours in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, each individually wrapped in wax paper. Then, they should be laid onto tin foil and frozen. Once completely frozen, they can be transferred to airless freezer bags to avoid condensation. The thawing should happen in the refrigerator and then at room temperature to avoid condensation as well.
All chocolate lovers want to keep chocolate on hand, just in case for an emergency. Or maybe, in excitement, you bought a little too much. Don’t be afraid to store the chocolate, but remember to act with care so that when the craving comes, you have the perfect chocolate treat.