The Shelf Life of Chocolate
August 29, 2010
It's Q&A time. Here is another question from a subscriber:
"Once chocolate has been melted, how long is it good for once it has been molded (again)?"
Chocolate is a very versatile and tolerant product to work with, the nuances of tempering aside. Chocolate can be melted, tempered and molded, re-melted, re-tempered and re-molded, again and again.
The shelf life of chocolate depends on whether it is milk or dark and whether or not it has inclusions like nuts, coconut, or dried fruit.
Dark chocolate lasts the longest before oxidizing, or going rancid. Cocoa butter is a very stable fat and once chocolate is crystallized, or tempered, it can resist bloom - fat migration - fairly well.
A good temper and a consistent environment during storage are two of the more important steps to making dark chocolate last a long time. Typically, the shelf life of dark chocolate is nine to twelve months (I have seen it last longer). In fact, age will actually enhance the flavor of chocolate, although it will be subtle.
If some bloom is present on the surface of the chocolate, melt the chocolate, temper it and mold again and it will be fine. Bloom is that grayish or whitish coating that can form on the surface of chocolate. It does not destroy the flavor of the chocolate, but the appearance is not appealing.
Milk chocolate has a shelf life range of six months to nine months. The main reason milk chocolate has a shorter timeline is that the milk fat (butter oil) part of the milk oxidizes or goes rancid faster than cocoa butter. The higher the milk content in chocolate, the shorter the life span.
Adding nuts to chocolate will decrease the shelf life in terms of bloom and rancidity. Nut oils migrate quickly to the surface of the chocolate causing bloom, and the oils behave similarly to milk fat in that they oxidize faster.