What’s your favorite way to eat chocolate? Are you one of those who can’t get too much chocolate and fantasizes about a Death by Chocolate Cake, or do you prefer your chocolate via a mocha latte? Hot chocolate bombs are very popular right now (though, wow, they seem like a lot of work to make!). My favorite chocolates are little assorted chocolate candies! (Happy Valentine’s Day!) With the growth of small chocolate shops, many of us can now find quality, hand-crafted chocolates locally.
While chocolate is wildly popular, people seem to have plenty of unanswered questions about it! Here are some answers for you.
What’s the best way to store chocolate?
Chocolate likes cool temperatures, below 70 degrees F — 65 to 68 degrees F is ideal. Humidity under 55 percent is best. (Some chocolate connoisseurs store their chocolate in wine coolers to obtain the perfect temp and humidity.)
Keep chocolate wrapped up and out of the air and light (sunlight or artificial light) to prevent oxidation, which can ruin the taste and texture.
Should I refrigerate chocolate?
It’s better not to refrigerate chocolate if you can help it. It won’t hurt the flavor, unless it absorbs odors from other foods in your fridge (which it’s good at!), but the chocolate can become discolored (white and splotchy). This is called “sugar bloom,” and it happens when the sugar rises to the surface because of a change in temperature or humidity.
But there are times when you just have to cool off a melting mess of chocolate. If the temp in your home is soaring and you have chocolate melting, it’s okay to put it in the refrigerator. To minimize the damage of temperature and humidity changes, the trick is to gradually raise or lower the temperature. Follow these steps for putting chocolate in the refrigerator and taking it out:
- Wrap it tightly, so it doesn’t absorb odors or condensation.
- Place in an airtight container, then place in the refrigerator.
- Before unwrapping, let the chocolate come to room temperature.
Most chocolate will keep in the fridge for 3 to 6 months.
Can I freeze chocolate?
Some chocolate connoisseurs say no, you should never freeze chocolate, but others say yes, if you’re not going to eat your chocolate soon, the freezer is a great option. You just have to help it adjust when you take it out. Here’s how to freeze — and unfreeze — chocolate:
- Wrap the chocolate well.
- Place in an airtight container.
- Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. (Putting the chocolate in the fridge first protects the texture by preventing temperature shock.)
- Move to the freezer.
- When you’re ready to use it, move it from the freezer to the refrigerator. Leave it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- Remove from fridge. Let come to room temperature, then unwrap.
There are some exceptions: Chocolates with cream or caramel centers will become grainy when frozen. If you purchase handmade chocolates, ask the crafter whether you should refrigerate or freeze the candy.
How long will chocolate keep?
Well, that depends on what you mean by “keep!” I admit to eating a chocolate egg or two found in leftover Easter grass from the previous year. For quality purposes, though, here’s how long chocolate experts recommend you keep chocolate, max:
- Solid milk chocolate – 6 to 12 months
- Solid dark chocolate – 1 to 2 years
- White chocolate – 6 to 12 months
- Filled chocolates – about 3 to 4 months (longer if they contain preservatives)
What’s the difference between dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate?
Dark chocolate is chocolate liquid, cocoa butter, and sweetener. It’s more shelf stable and less susceptible to flavor and texture changes than other chocolates. Chocolate is dubbed dark if it contains more than 60 percent cocoa.
Milk chocolate is made of chocolate liquid, extra cocoa butter, milk or cream, and sweetener.
White chocolate is made of sugar, cocoa butter, milk solids, lecithin, and vanilla. Some argue that it’s not even “real chocolate” because it doesn’t contain chocolate liquid. It does contain cocoa butter though. I’m definitely not a chocolate snob, and white chocolate is my creamy favorite!
Some other helpful chocolate terms:
Baking chocolate — Sold in blocks for baking, this chocolate might be milk, semisweet, bittersweet, or white.
Bitter chocolate — As the name implies, this is unsweetened liquid chocolate that’s been cooled and molded into blocks.
Chocolate liquid/liquor — The basis of all this talk about chocolate, chocolate liquid is cocoa mass made from the ground nibs of the cocoa bean.
Chocolate nibs — Nibs are the “meat” of the cocoa bean.
Cocoa beans — All chocolate comes from the fruit pods of the cacao tree, which produces pods filled with beans.
Cocoa butter — This yellow/white vegetable fat is removed from the chocolate liquid. Cocoa butter starts melting at 84 degrees F.
Cocoa powder — This is what’s left after cocoa butter is removed from the chocolate liquid.
Semisweet and sweet chocolate — These are made of chocolate liquid, additional cocoa butter, and sweetener (less in semi and more in sweet!).
What is Dutch cocoa?
Dutch cocoa is cocoa powder that’s been alkalized to make it less acidic. It’s darker in color, richer flavored, and easier to mix with liquids than regular cocoa powder.
Are cacao and cocoa the same thing?
The terms are used interchangeably, but cacao means the tree, the pod, and the bean/seed. Cocoa means the fermented, dried, and roasted bean.
Can I eat this chocolate candy that melted in my purse?
Sure, it won’t hurt you. And it’ll taste okay, though it may be streaky and crumbly. That’s because the cocoa solids (dark) and cocoa butter (white streaks) have started to separate. Another option is to melt it for use in baking (brownies, for example).
What are those white splotches on my chocolate?
That’s “sugar bloom,” usually resulting from quick changes in temperature. It can happen when chocolate melts and rehardens. The fat molecules in cocoa need to gradually adjust to the temperature change, or they can become grainy and mottled when they reform.
The same is true of the sugar in the chocolate. It, too, has a hard time adjusting to quick temperature changes. So don’t shock your chocolate by moving it from the fridge to the warm air. (See above.)
Do chocolate cakes or brownies need to be refrigerated?
Ideally, you won’t need to put your cake or brownies in the refrigerator, because they’ll get stale much faster at cold temperatures than at room temperature.
For safety, though you should refrigerate chocolate cakes or brownies if they’re frosted or filled with something containing dairy, such as whipped cream or buttercream frosting containing milk products.
Whether refrigerating or not, wrap leftover cake or brownies up (to keep them from drying out or absorbing moisture, either one).
You can also freeze baked chocolates. Wrap them well and place in a freezer bag. For best quality, eat it within about 6 months. The taste and texture of cake or brownies will deteriorate after that but still be safe to eat.
A dozen things to do with leftover chocolate candy
There would have to be a serious influx of chocolate in our house for there to be anything leftover, but you never know! And some of these ideas are such fun that I’m tempted to sacrifice a bar or two!
- Melt down the chocolate and use to make into brownies or cake. Molten lava cake is a great option. Or drizzle the melted chocolate over any sweets or popcorn.
- Cut up and add chunks to homemade trail mix. The best trail mixes contain chocolate, agreed?
- Add to cookies. A chocolate kiss cookie recipe lends itself to this, but you can also cut chunks of chocolate to add to any oatmeal or chocolate chip recipe.
- Melt and make fondue.
- Use in milkshakes or malts.
- Chop and mix into ice cream, pudding, or pancake batter.
- Use to decorate a cake. Scatter chunks across the top or on the sides. Or use in the center frosting of a layer cake, as a surprise.
- Melt down and chocolate-cover (or just dip) something. Chocolate-covered bacon is a thing, apparently. But I’m thinking raspberries.
- Use to make s’mores. You might never use Hershey’s bars again!
- Melt down plain chocolate bars and use as a face mask. Dark chocolate has the most antioxidants.
- Melt down plain chocolate bars to make lip balm or soap.
- Add to hot chocolate.
What’s your favorite kind of chocolate? Have a favorite chocolate recipe to share?
If you’re a chocolate lover — or enjoy cooking for one — you might appreciate one of these beautiful cookbooks:
Everything Chocolate by America’s Test Kitchen (editor)
The Chocolate Addict’s Baking Book by Sabine Venier
Taste of Home Chocolate: 100 Cakes, Candies and Decadent Delights by Taste of Home (editor)
Vegan Chocolate Treats: 60 Indulgent Sweets to Satisfy Your Inner Chocoholic by Ciara Siller
Note that I’m an affiliate with Bookshop.org. If you purchase something with Bookshop through one of my links, Care to Keep will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting both C2K and Bookshop.org (check them out!).
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