When magnified 5000 times, it doesn’t even look like chocolate anymore.
Are you a chocoholic? Then graduate student Jennifer Dailey’s materials science course at John Hopkins University might well be for you. As Dailey explains, Materials Science is about studying stuff, how to make it stronger or lighter. She decided to use chocolate as the basis for her class because she felt that it was “something people could relate to.”
In this video from John Hopkins, she says: “I think the takeaway from this is that science is around students in everyday life. And everyone loves chocolate.”
So what exactly are they doing? They are tempering chocolate and then looking at it under a microscope.
According to an article at bakingbites.com, tempering means: “improving the consistency, durability or hardness of a substance by heating and cooling it.” In the case of chocolate, tempering it gives it the glossy, firm finish that you are used to seeing on that good quality chocolate.
To temper chocolate, you heat it to between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit (43 to 49 degrees Celsius), which breaks down the crystals in the cocoa butter. Then, as it cools, the crystals will form again and the chocolate will re-solidify. Before you pour it into molds, you must reheat it, but not to as high of a temperature — about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).
Chocolate magnified 500 times. Screenshot from video by John Hopkins
What you seeing in the image above is chocolate magnified 500 times, clearly displaying a mix of globules and pure crystals. According to Dailey, the crystals are the sugar while the globules are the cocoa butter (fat).
Watch the video below to see it magnified even further — up to 5000 times! You may not be craving chocolate anymore, but it’s pretty neat to see.
Why not try making your own DIY microscope and see what you can see in your chocolate at home?