Scientists Pursue the Perfect Chocolate

It's finally happened: scientists have discovered a possible perfect chocolate

Since chocolate had its beginnings in a humble laboratory, it's only right that science dedicate itself to discovering the perfect chocolate. British chocolate manufacturer Cadbury has spent much of the last decade financing a study on chocolate's crystalline structures and how they affect taste in search of the perfect chocolate.

Straight out of Sci-Fi

When you learn about scientific methods of study, you understand that the line between reality and science fiction is pretty blurred. The techniques scientists use to study the crystalline structures of chocolate gets pretty interesting, and they show just how seriously manufacturers take their chocolate treats.

The chocolate research involves carefully heating chocolate under controlled conditions, then "crash cooling" it -- dropping the temperature 7°C to 8 °C a minute. Once it reaches 22°C, the researchers force it to hold that temperature and experiment with the different crystals the chocolate forms. They constantly monitor what the cocoa butter is up to.

Of course, no scientific experiment is complete without radiation, so the researchers also bombard the cooling chocolate with X-rays. Actually, the X-rays help the researchers discover what patterns form at what temperatures.

Eureka!

Scientists learned that cocoa butter crystallizes into six different patterns (called polymorphs). They call the form that results in the best tasting chocolate "Form V" (V as in five). This polymorph creates glossy, melt-in-your mouth chocolate resistant to that sticky white film. Obviously, the next step is obvious: find out how to make sure every bit of cocoa butter crystallizes in form V.

Interesting discoveries were also made. First of all, they realized how important it is to mix chocolate vigorously. Without mixing, they discovered, it's impossible for the Form V pattern to appear. You always get a less desirable polymorph.

But they also learned how important temperature is in the chocolate making process. Tiny temperature differences have huge impacts on what type of polymorph appeared. For instance, forms II and III -- neither of which taste good -- appeared between 22.3 °C and 23.55 °C. No problem, right? Just avoid those temperatures.

But form V appears at 23.86 °C, less than half a degree higher. Those are pretty precise temperatures for chocolate manufacturers to reproduce, and they make a huge difference.

Whether or not this type of research really creates the perfect chocolate, it's encouraging to see science taking note of nature's perfect food!

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