In some ways, America seems to operate on a chocolate calendar, a holiday schedule that ensures that candy junkies are never more than a few months away from their next big fix -- and the next big excuse for novelty confections. From late September to late October, Halloween dominates the shelves, ultimately giving its real estate up for Christmas chocolates, which themselves give way to Valentine's Day treats. Then, of course, there's Easter and, to a lesser extent, Mother's Day, after which the holiday cycle takes a short break for bathing suit season.
We're about to enter the down cycle in the chocolate calendar, the long, empty space between spring's chocolate bunnies and fall's chocolate pumpkins. But the post-Easter lull also carries a bright side: starting today, all the leftover Easter candy is on a sharp markdown. And if you can resist the siren song of stale Peeps and jelly beans, it's a great time to stock up on discount chocolate.
To help you on your quest for provisions to get you through the summer, we've come up with a few tips for your post-Easter chocolate frenzy. From picking your candy, to storing it, to rehabilitating it, here is everything you need to know to keep yourself knee-deep in cacao from now till October!
Picking the Best Chocolate
When people are trying to pick the best chocolate, they stick with premium brands -- after all, it's hard to go wrong with Godiva, Perugina, or Green & Black. The trouble is that the best chocolates are also the first ones off the shelf -- and the last ones to be discounted.
Another reliable method is looking at the label. Good chocolate should only have a handful of ingredients: cocoa liquor (also known as cocoa mass, chocolate liquor, cocoa, or chocolate), sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and soy lecithin (or some other emulsifier). In general, these ingredients should be as natural as possible: If your chocolate has a fat other than cocoa butter, for example, the flavor will suffer. Similarly, artificial vanilla, artificial sugars, and other additives will bring down the quality.
Picking the best chocolate is only worthwhile if you're also going to store it well. Chocolate should be kept in a warm (65 - 70 degrees F) area, out of direct sunlight and away from moisture. Generally speaking, it's not a great idea to keep chocolate in the fridge or freezer, as it can suffer from humidity and pick up bad flavors.
Restoring Your Chocolate
If chocolate is subjected to extremes of heat and cold, it may develop a grayish or whitish patina. This is called fat bloom or chocolate bloom, and is caused by fat or sugar migrating to the surface of the chocolate. Storing chocolate in a place with a consistent, moderate temperature should help keep chocolate bloom from happening. Keeping chocolate in an airtight container will also help.
If your chocolate blooms, don't throw it away! While the appearance is unattractive, the chocolate is still edible. What's more, if you melt it, the fat and sugar on the surface will mix back in. You can then use the chocolate for dipping fruit, topping ice cream, or -- if you're looking to get a start on the next holiday -- making Halloween treats!
One final warning: when buying chocolate, keep in mind that additional ingredients may not store as well as the chocolate itself. The whitish goo in the middle of Cadbury eggs can be especially problematic, and you may find that your delicious Easter treats have become a sticky, crystallized mess by mid-summer.
Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
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