Summer is a cruel season for us chocoholics. But if you’re anything like me, your chocolate consumption won’t slow down in the hotter months. With a few simple precautions, you can thankfully keep your chocolate dry and cool and, if your stash is running low, you can still continue placing online orders with just a bit of planning.
Chocolate starts softening at 85°F and melting at 93°F. In other words, if you leave a chocolate bar in your car on a hot summer day, it will quickly turn liquid. The good news is that it will harden back as you bring it in a cooler place but it will have lost what’s known as its temper: cacao butter, the fat naturally found in cacao and thus chocolate, has five known stable crystalline textures and only one gives us tempered chocolate, the shiny chocolate with the firm snap we like to find in a wrapper.
When chocolate loses its temper, it will have a softer texture and be covered with white streaks of cocoa butter. We say that the chocolate is bloomed: it’s still suitable for consumption (it’s great for baking), but it doesn’t look appealing.
Your goal when storing chocolate is to keep it below the softening point to preserve the temper. If your home is equipped with air conditioning or central air, make sure your thermostat is not set above 75°F, and keep it in a cool dark place in your house. If you have a large stash (several dozens of bars) and your home gets hot in the summer, consider investing in a wine fridge. If that’s not an option, chocolate consultant Chloé Doutre-Roussel suggests storing bars in the fridge. In The Chocolate Connoisseur, she advises to place bars in resealable bags before placing to the fridge. When you’re ready to enjoy, take the bars out of the fridge and wrap them in paper towels to absorb condensation. The bars will be ready to eat when they reach room temperature, usually within 20 minutes.
If you buy chocolate online this summer, favor dark chocolate bars over milk, as the latter spoils more easily. While some companies will pack their chocolate in large, Styrofoam containers, most makers and online chocolate shops, including Bar & Cocoa, will pack their bars with biodegradable ice packs in an insulated, thermofoil envelope to prevent melting in transit.
Before placing an order, check out the site’s summer shipping policy: some makers will only ship once a week, and not on weekends, to prevent bars from melting. In my experience, most makers use two-day priority shipping and you’ll want to check that tracking number to make sure you’re there to welcome your shipment, as even a couple of hours on a hot porch is enough to cause your chocolate to melt.
If you frequently orders bars online, consider investing in a PO Box. That’s what I did when I realized that melting usually occurred in the postal truck en route to my home. Regardless of my schedule, the chocolate is held in a temperature-controlled environment. I have received dozens of bars in my box and all have been delivered in perfect condition. Getting a PO Box is inexpensive, as of August 2017, prices started at $37 for a 6-month period. If getting a PO Box is out of question, then consider having your bars delivered to your office.
One word of caution: Fedex does not deliver to PO Boxes.
There are many ways other than chocolate to enjoy cacao products in the summer. Did you know that bean-to-ice cream was a thing? I didn’t until I read Megan Giller’s article on the topic last year. Several makers across the US offer bean-to-ice cream options and Shane’s Confectionary in Philadelphia even offers cacao pulp popsicles: how cool is that?
Last year, I also discovered the concept of cold brew cacao. The cold brew mix is made of roasted cacao beans that have been winnowed (i.e. their shells have been removed) and ground. Preparing cold brew is easy: place the cold brew mix with cold water in a French press for a couple of hours and serve cold, with the add-ins for your choice. I like Map Chocolate’s flash brew, which I serve with a touch of maple syrup and a few drops of pure vanilla extract.
Photo credit: Estelle Tracy