The Chocolate Grail
Jul24

The Chocolate Grail

While I was visiting a good friend on one very hot and humid weekend in North Carolina, she bypassed a typical lunch in favor of a giant chocolate bar. It was too large for her to eat all in one sitting, so when we stopped in a store to browse, she left the half-eaten bar unattended in the car. Big mistake. We returned an hour later to find the formerly solid candy bar melted into a half-liquid mess all over her gray leather interior. Considering that the average piece of chocolate starts to melt at 85ºF and that, when parked in direct sunlight, vehicles can quickly reach highs of over 100ºF, that poor little candy bar didn’t stand a chance. Heat 1, chocolate 0. But Swiss chocolate-maker Barry Callebaut might have stumbled upon a way to even the score: a melt-resistant treat able to withstand temperatures up to 130ºF. Called Vulcano, Barry Callebaut spokeswoman Gaby Tschofen described it as an “aerated chocolate” with a “crunch texture and a light mouth feel” that will melt in your mouth and not in your vehicle. “The Vulcano chocolate is hygroscopic,” she told C&EN. “Once our chocolate gets in touch with saliva, it starts melting.” Tschofen wouldn’t reveal how the chocolate is made, but did say a “special production step” is what increases the melting point. That answer, however, just wasn’t good enough for me. So I asked John Finley, head of the department of food science at Louisiana State University, what he thought the magic production step was. “My best guess is that they are fractionating the cocoa butter recovering a high-melting fraction,” he said in an e-mail. “The aeration of the product may be necessary to keep it from being like a brick.” David Albin, a chemical technician with Agriking in Fulton, Ill., had another take: “The spokeswoman is likely talking about salivary amylase,” he said. “The amylase will break down the starch, which apparently allows it to ‘melt’ in your mouth.” Various news outlets from Time to Marie Claire have reported on the chocolate, and ABC News goes as far as to catalog the history of previous attempts to invent a melt-proof chocolate. According to ABC News, none of the heat-proof chocolate bars have ever made it into commercial...

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