What if I told you that chocolate actually tastes better when you take fat out of it?
You wouldn’t believe me, right?
Our experience with taking fat out of food tells us that it generally tastes like cardboard unless we add a whole lot of extra sugar which just negates the positive of taking the fat out in the first place. So why would chocolate be any different?
It’s all about the process.
As is so often the case with so many of our great discoveries, this one happened by accident.
The Mars candy company was having a problem. The chocolate was clogging the machinery.
Cocoa beans are typically dried and then roasted before they are ground and liquefied. The result is a liquor (what gives the chocolate its intense flavor) that is blended with the cocoa butter (or the fat, which gives it the rich, creamy texture).
This is where the problem arises.
Though the substance appears uniform in it’s liquidity to the naked eye, the reality is that it’s really only the melted fat and oil portion that is truly liquid. At a microscopic level, tiny little balls of cocoa solids bump up against each other amidst the liquid. This affects the viscosity of the chocolate. In other words, there has to be a certain amount of the liquid (the cocoa fat) to keep the chocolate at the right consistency so that it flows at the proper pace. Too little fat and the substance becomes too thick and clogs up the pipes.
With this problem in mind, a consulting company for Mars reached out to a physicist named Rongjia Tao from the Temple University in Philadelphia hoping that he might be able to adapt a technique he had used to improve the viscosity of crude oil to also work for chocolate. His technique increased the viscosity of the oil making it easier to transport it through the miles of underwater pipelines–in theory this same principle should work with chocolate.
Pulling from his work with oil, Tao decided to try running the liquid chocolate through an electric field. What he found was that as the chocolate passed through the field, it changed shape. Instead of the cocoa solids being in circles, the solids became elongated, or pill shaped, which allowed the solids to be packed more tightly together. This improved the viscosity of the chocolate.
Tao then realized that, if the changed shape of the solids could change the viscosity, he didn’t need the cocoa butter to do it. It gave him the opportunity to decrease the amount of fat in the chocolate without having to worry about clogging up the machinery.
He found that they were able to remove up to 20% of the fat while, according to some, making the end product tastier. Here are his findings
For perhaps the first time, we have a product that tastes better after taking out the fat (well some of it).
Granted, it’s not the absence of the fat, but rather the process itself that makes the difference, but who cares about those details anyway? The fact is, tastier chocolate makes me happy, and chocolate with less fat makes my waistline happy.
I’m putting this one in the win win column.