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GIVING `SOFT' CHOCOLATE A HARDER BITE
Nestle, Mars, Hershey, and other chocolate makers have a dickens of a time satisfying your sweet tooth. The problem is that cocoa beans grown in cooler climates don't measure up to their hot-weather cousins, of which there just aren't enough to go around. The cocoa butter extracted from "cool" beans is usually too soft, so extra cocoa butter -- the world's most expensive edible fat -- must be added to get the proper taste and texture.
But researchers at Pennsylvania State University are working on a cheaper way to assure lip-smacking quality. A team headed by food chemist Paul S. Dimick has uncovered one secret to more uniform chocolate. It's a special "seed crystal" with a high melting point -- twice that of the surrounding cocoa butter. Now that he has found this seed, Dimick next wants to figure out how to coax more to form as the chocolate cools. Then, making chocolate with cool beans will be a sweet deal.EDITED BY OTIS PORT