Scientists X-ray Chocolate to Improve the Sweet Dessert

First Posted: May 06, 2015 07:31 PM EDT

There are some people who are serious about their chocolate--and one scientific team is definitely in this category. Researchers have conducted an X-ray study that may lead to improvements in the quality of chocolate.

When making chocolate, a fat bloom can occur. This is an unwelcome white layer that occasionally forms on chocolate. It can be created when liquid fats, such as cocoa butter, migrate through the chocolate to the surface and crystallize there. This can occur when liquid chocolate cools down in an uncontrolled manner and unstable crystal forms. Even at room temperature, though, a quarter of the lipids contained in chocolate are already in a liquid state.

"Although fat blooming is perfectly harmless, it causes millions in damage to the food industry as a result of rejects and customer complaints," said Svenja Reinke, the lead author of the new study, in a news release. "Despite this well known quality issue, comparatively little has been known until now about its root causes."

In order to learn a bit more about chocolate's structure, the researchers used DESY's X-ray source PETRA III. This revealed the underlying processes in chocolate in real time. The scientists investigated the behavior of different mixes of the main components of chocolate, which are cocoa, sugar, milk powder and cocoa butter. The chocolate samples were ground to a find powder and then X-rays were shone through them.

"The experiments that have been conducted allow us as manufacturers of quality chocolate to draw conclusions concerning the root causes of lipid migration leading to blooming," said Stefan Palzer, one of the researchers, in a news release. "These findings, which we obtained in collaboration with the Hamburg University of Technology and the team at DESY using the latest analytical technologies, provide a solid foundation for developing suitable methods for avoiding one of the most important quality defects in the food industry."

The findings are published in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.

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