Chocolate Trouble Shooting Guide: Appearance

Table of Contents

Introduction

Appearance

Texture

Flavor Problems

Molding Problems

Baking

One of the attractions of chocolate is its beautiful appearance. For example, properly tempered and molded bonbons can look like beautiful brown jewels. When colored cocoa butter is used, the number of colors and hues is almost endless, creating a rainbow of beautiful colors and shades.

Chocolate should have a beautiful glossy appearance. Properly tempered chocolate will hold a beautiful gloss even after it has been stored for an extended period of time. Molded bonbons can achieve a shiny reflective surface and look like beautiful jewels when properly arrayed. But if the chocolate is not properly tempered, stored, or molded, pockmarks, streaks, sugar dust or a host of other problems may mar the chocolate’s beautiful surface.

We have collected many of the common problems that people encounter when working with chocolate, problems that affect the appearance of the finished chocolate. It is our hope that our chocolate trouble-shooting guide will assist you in pursuing your love for chocolate. As always, if you have any suggestions for our trouble-shooting guide, please feel free to contact us.


Chocolate Is Dull In Appearance
Cause: Molds are not clean.Solution: Clean with a clean soft rag and/or cotton swabs (such as Q-Tips). To minimize mineral deposits on the molds, wash molds in distilled water, or if regular water must be used, the molds should be promptly hand dried with a soft, lint-free towel. Do not touch the insides of the molds. Grease from your fingers may transfer to the mold and harm the finish of your chocolate.Discussion: Chocolate will pick up minor blemishes in the molds as well as any dirt or hard water (mineral) deposits. Be sure that your molds are perfectly clean before using them.
Cause: Poor-quality moldsSolution: Use high-quality polycarbonate molds instead of vacuum-formed ones. This is especially the case for non-polycarbonate (Lexan) plastics.Discussion: Poor quality molds are simply not capable of creating the fine finish and detail that are achievable with higher quality injection molded or vacuum formed polycarbonate molds.
Cause: Molds in poor conditionSolution: Replace moldsDiscussion: Chocolate will pick up even the slightest imperfections. Plastic molds may be damaged if cleaned with abrasives or dried with towels that are not soft and perfectly clean.
Cause: Bonbon centers are too cool.Solution: Allow centers to warm until they are the same temperature as the chocolate being molded.Discussion: The cool centers are causing condensation to form on the outside of the confection or alternatively are causing the chocolate’s temper to be thrown off by causing poor crystallization. The best way to solve both of these problems is to allow the centers to warm until they are the same temperature as the chocolate being molded.
Cause: Humidity too high.Solution: Reduce humidity in molding room, cooling tunnel or storage room.Discussion: The high humidity is causing condensation or moisture to collect on the chocolate, thus dissolving surface sugar. When it dries, the sugar recrystallizes, causing the dull appearance.
Cause: Cooling tunnel is too coolSolution: Warm cooling tunnel slightly.Discussion: The cooling tunnel is causing condensation to form on the chocolate after it comes out of the tunne;l or alternatively, the chocolate’s temper is being thrown off. Warm the cooling tunnel and then adjust the tunnel’s speed so that the chocolate has the needed amount of time to crystallize.
Cause: Chocolate is overtemperedSolution: The chocolate must be warmed to reduce the amount of seed chocolate. Optimally, the chocolate should be retempered from scratch.Discussion: Overtempered chocolate has cocoa butter crystals that have grown until they are so large that they interfere with light’s ability to reflect from the surface. Retemper the chocolate and increase the agitation (to break up large crystals), as well as perhaps reduce the amount of time the chocolate spends in a tempered and melted state so as to allow less time for the cocoa butter crystals to grow.
Cause: Cooling tunnel not keeping upSolution: Do not put as much in the cooling tunnel at the same time, or slow the speed of the feed in the cooling tunnel.Discussion: The refrigeration unit of the cooling tunnel may not be able to keep up if too much is run through the cooling tunnel at once.
Cause: Moisture seeping from the center of the bonbon through the chocolate to the outside.Solution: Improper tempering or hardening causes this. Examine tempering and hardening procedures.Discussion: Improper tempering of the chocolate may create shells that are not tightly bound together or are prone to breakage. Reexamine the tempering procedures and the temper of the chocolate to ensure that the chocolate has integrity.
Cause: Inclusions (such as raisins, nuts, cocoa nibs, etc.) were not at the same temperature as the chocolate when added.Solution: Heat or cool inclusions until they are the same temperature as the chocolate before you add them.Solution: Retemper chocolate, adding inclusions before tempering procedure to ensure that chocolate and inclusions are the same temperature.Discussion: Adding inclusions if they are not the same temperature as the chocolate will either heat or cool the chocolate, possibly interrupting the tempering procedure.
Cause: Chocolate warmed too quicklySolution: Wrap chocolate in towels or similar cloth and allow the chocolate to reach to room temperature slowly.Discussion: When chocolate is removed from a cooler (refrigerator), it will attract condensation. As the condensation dries, it leaves behind a thin film of white sugar crystals. To avoid this, allow the chocolate to warm slowly so that it will not attract enough condensation for this to occur.

 

Chocolate is Dusty in Appearance
Cause: Humidity is too highSolution: Reduce humidity in the room.Discussion: The high humidity in the room is causing the sugar to dissolve in the dew on the surface of the chocolate. As the dew dries, it leaves behind a thin film of white sugar crystals.
Cause: Chocolate too cool.Solution: Be sure that chocolate is not too cold when moved between rooms.Discussion: The chocolate is too cool for the amount of humidity in the room. This causes the chocolate to collect condensation from the humidity in the air. As the condensation dries, it leaves behind a thin film of white sugar crystals.
Cause: Chocolate warmed too quicklySolution: Wrap chocolate in towels or similar cloth and allow it to come to room temperature slowly.Discussion: When chocolate is removed from a cooler (refrigerator), it will attract condensation. As the condensation dries, it leaves behind a thin film of white sugar crystals. To avoid this, allow the chocolate to warm slowly so that it will not attract enough condensation for this to occur.
Identification: Frosty fingerprints and/or handprints.Cause: Sweaty HandsSolution: Use gloves or dry hands, or minimize time spent handling chocolateDiscussion: While it may not always appear so, our hands exude lots of sweat. Handling chocolate directly should be kept to a minimum. Be sure when wearing gloves that they are not powdered, since the powder may also transfer to the chocolate..
Cause: Centers too coolSolution: Allow centers to warm until they are approximately the same temperature as the chocolate.Discussion: The centers are cooling the chocolate, causing condensation to collect on the surface. In addition, if the centers are too cool, this may throw the temper off.
Cause: Molds not dry before molding.Solution: Ensure that molds are completely dry before molding. Hidden water may be trapped in designs or patterns.Discussion: It is important to allow drying time after the molds are washed, even if they appear to be completely dry. Residual moisture will dissolve surface sugar in the chocolate, giving a frosty surface when the water dries.

 

Chocolate has an Excessively Glossy Surface
Cause: Chocolate is untempered or improperly temperedSolution: Temper chocolate, examine tempering method.Discussion: When chocolate is properly tempered, it will crystallize (harden) quickly. The chocolate is not setting up, which is the reason for the gloss.

 

Chocolate is Gray or has Gray Streaks
Cause: Product shipped or exposed to heat too soon.Solution: Allow chocolate to “rest” after it has been molded or enrobed, to allow the cocoa butter crystals to finish forming. This is particularly the case if the product is shipped in warm weather.
Cause: Cooled too fast after molding.Solution: Adjust air flow and temperature so chocolate does not cool too fast.
Cause: Inadequate amounts of seed crystal during tempering.Solution: Allow more time during the cooling phase for crystals to develop and grow. (The chocolate will thicken during this stage.) Ensure there is enough sheer during this phase to allow crystals to multiply.
Cause: Seed chocolate is over tempered (i.e., has crystals that are too large).Solution: Rework and rewarm seed chocolate to ensure that its crystals are small. Increase sheer in melting pot to sheer large crystals into smaller ones.
Cause: Chocolate exposed to heat.Solution: Watch handling of chocolate. Examine storage practices and packaging machinery (such as heat sealers) for too much heat.
Cause: Temperature fluctuations during storageSolution: Store chocolate so that it maintains an even temperature. Alternating periods of hot and cold cause the crystal structure to become unstable.
Cause: Incompatible fatsSolution: Add additional chocolate to dilute the incompatible fats.Solution: Encase sources of fat (such as hazelnuts) with sugar or other coatings before coating in chocolate. This discourages fat migration.
Cause: Chocolate not melted completely before it was tempered.Solution: Be sure to heat chocolate to at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit before the tempering cooling phase, to ensure that all stray cocoa butter crystals have melted.
Cause: Inclusions (such as raisins, nuts, cocoa nibs, etc.) were not at the same temperature as the chocolate when added.Solution: Heat or cool inclusions until they are the same temperature as the chocolate before they are added.Solution: Retemper chocolate, adding inclusions before tempering procedure, to ensure that chocolate and inclusions are the same temperature.Discussion: Adding inclusions if they are not the same temperature as the chocolate will either heat or cool the chocolate, possibly interrupting the tempering procedure.
Cause: Too much airflow during depositing/pouring or airflow is too cold.Solution: Eliminate drafts during depositing/pouring — especially cold drafts.Discussion: If cool air comes into contact with chocolate as it is being poured, it will cause the outside of the chocolate stream to come out of temper. After the chocolate has hardened, gray streaks will appear where in the untempered chocolate.

 

The Chocolate is Cracked
Cause: Chocolate cooled too fast after moldingSolution: Adjust temperature of cooling tunnelDiscussion: Chocolate cools so fast that it cracks as it contracts.
Cause: Chocolate cracked in handling/transitSolution: Handle and/or package chocolate so that it will not break.Discussion: Chocolate can seem as if it is hard, but as it hardens, it can become very brittle, making it prone to breaking.
Cause: Centers too coolSolution: Allow centers to reach the temperature of the chocolate to be molded before coating.Discussion: Two things can happen here. First, the centers can cool the chocolate too fast after enrobing (see above). Second, as the centers warm, they will expand, causing the outside shell to crack.

 

The Chocolate has Bubbles
Cause: Viscosity too highSolution: Reduce viscosity by adding cocoa butter or lecithin.Discussion: If the chocolate is too thick, it can become too difficult for the bubbles to rise to the surface and break. Reducing the viscosity will allow the bubbles to come to the surface and break more quickly and with less agitation.
Cause: Viscosity too high due to too much emulsifier.Solution: Reduce the amount of emulsifier by adding additional chocolate or adjusting the recipe.Discussion: Too much emulsifier will cause the viscosity to increase instead of decrease. Chocolate should not contain more than 0.4% lecithin.
Cause: Too much agitation during mixing or temperingSolution: Reduce agitation speed (below 14 RPM).Discussion: The blades in the mixing kettle or tempering machine are whipping air into the chocolate. Reduce agitation speed to allow for trapped air to release.
Cause: Temperature too lowSolution: Raise temperature.Discussion: Allow the chocolate to cool more slowly so that the chocolate does not set up before the bubbles have had time to release.
Cause: Too little agitationSolution: Vibrate chocolate.Discussion: After molding, chocolate should be vibrated (approximately ten cycles per second) to cause bubbles to rise to the surface. Chocolate is a non-Newtonian fluid. This means that energy must be imparted to it to cause it to flow. Vibration provides the necessary energy to allow it to flow and release trapped bubbles.
Cause: Inadequate agitationSolution: Vibrate or shake chocolate to cause bubbles to rise to the surface.Discussion: Increasing the frequency of vibrations as well as their strength will assist in raising bubbles to the surface. Ten vibrations per second (hertz) assist with frequencies above this, giving diminishing returns.
Cause: Viscosity too great — chocolate is overtemperedSolution: Reduce the amount of time spent holding and agitating tempered chocolate.
Cause: Viscosity too great — temperature too low.Solution: Raise the temperature. (Though if it is too much, it will affect the temper.)
Cause: Machinery working bubbles into the chocolate.Solution: Examine machinery (including pumps) and eliminate or reduce agitation that may be introducing bubbles.

 

The Chocolate has Fingerprints
Cause: Body temperature detempered the chocolateSolution: Wear gloves, lower room temperature, and ensure hands are cool, minimize amount of time spent handling chocolate.
Cause: Hand moisture caused sugar bloom.Solution: Wear gloves; make sure hands are dry and not sweaty.
Cause: Chocolate is too cold and attracts dewSolution: Adjust cooling tunnel temperature or amount of time spent in cooling tunnel.

 

The Chocolate has Streaks
Cause: Cocoa butter not being fully integrated.Solution: Add cocoa butter earlier in the process. Allow more time for the cocoa butter to integrate during mixing.
Identification: Grainy streaks appear over time.Cause: Warm air blowing on chocolate during molding (grainy streaks).Solution: Mold chocolate in draft-free environment. Cool room so air is cooler than chocolate being molded.
Identification: Grainy streaks appear over time.Cause: Inadequate mixing of seed chocolate into untempered chocolate (grainy streaks).Solution: Mix seed chocolate more thoroughly into untempered chocolate.
Cause: Cooling tunnel or blower too cold or too hot.Solution: Adjust cooling tunnel temperature.
Cause: Too much airflow during depositing/pouring or airflow is too cold.Solution: Eliminate drafts during depositing/pouring — especially cold drafts.Discussion: If cool air comes into contact with chocolate as it is being poured, it will cause the outside of the chocolate stream to come out of temper. After the chocolate has hardened, gray streaks will appear in the untempered chocolate.

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