Scientists at the University of Warwick are on their way to making many people’s dreams come true, for they might just have discovered a method to produce fat-free chocolate, introducing into it…fruit juice.
While the taste of chocolate is unsurpassed, part of its allure lies in its texture, which causes it to melt in the mouth while simultaneously being firm when dry. It is the cocoa butter—a fat extracted from the cocoa bean—and to a smaller extent milk fats, that is responsible for this texture.
The downside to cocoa butter is its saturated fat content, accounting for much of the ‘unhealthiness’ of chocolate. Can this component of chocolate be replaced? Previously, chocolate manufacturers have incorporated small air bubbles into chocolate products. Dispersed air bubbles in chocolate help in maintaining its homogenous and smooth texture. However, so far, it hasn’t been feasible to produce air bubbles that are small enough to go unnoticed by the consumer.
Now, researchers are placing tiny droplets of fruit juice into chocolate to replace cocoa butter. However, water droplets tend to coalesce or harden. To prevent this, they created what is called a “Pickering emulsion”—a mixture of silica and a molecule called chitosan to keep the fruit juice droplets apart and stable, and most importantly, the chocolate luscious and indulgent! These can reduce the fat content of chocolate by as much as 50%.
These droplets can be used in white, dark or milk chocolates, imparting a mild juicy taste. Alternatively, fruit juice droplets can be replaced by ascorbic acid which would not add any flavor to the chocolate. This emulsion method might trigger a major processing shift in the confectionery industry. As for chocolate lovers the world over, they have their licked fingers crossed.
You can read about this delicious research here.