The French Willy Wonka

Like a French reenactment of Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory (minus the Oompa Loompas), we visited ChocoStory this week to learn a little more about the ins and outs of chocolate making and decorating! From marshmallows to orange peels to chocolate solids, we experimented with several forms of chocolate goodies, even making our own candy bars! Some chose to decorate their delectable treats with corn flakes or Rice Krispie’s, others opted for hazelnuts or coconut flakes.


A picture of me and Joon while decorating our chocolate marshmallows.

Kennedy and I decorating our chocolate bars. 

For the majority of our decorating experience, we were given a choice between either milk or dark chocolate. Personally, I prefer milk chocolate, but several of my fellow chocolate decorators around me opted for dark chocolate, which made me wonder why some people may prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, or vice versa. This led me to an article on PubMed that investigated the tolerance for bitterness in chocolate ice cream suing solid chocolate preferences. To compensate for the natural bitterness of cacao, many candy/dessert companies will add high levels of milk, sugar, or corn syrup to increase the palatability of the product. Given the current obesity epidemic occurring in the United States and beyond, many experts are concerned about the amount of fattening additives in chocolate desserts. Thus, researchers sought to manipulate the amount of bitterness in chocolate desserts and subsequently observe consumer preferences. The goal of this study was to uncover the threshold for bitterness in chocolate products among a sample of frequent chocolate consumers. The sample was divided into groups that tasted varying levels of bitterness in chocolate, with a control group tasting baseline, “normal” chocolate and each subsequent group tasting increasing bitterness. Added bitterness was simulated using sucrose octaacetate (SOA), a safe food additive that is still strongly bitter at micro molar concentrations. Samples of varying bitterness were manufactured into ice cream at the Berkey Creamery at Pennsylvania State University (PSU). Subjects were recruited from the PSU community via email and indicated their chocolate preferences (milk vs dark) beforehand. As predicted, the group of subjects who indicated that they preferred milk chocolate had a lower bitterness threshold. On the other hand, the participants who had previously indicated that they preferred dark chocolate had a higher tolerance for the bitter SOA additive. Based on this study, I can conclude that I likely would also have a lower bitterness tolerance compared to say Joon who used more dark chocolate than me while decorating.

Overall, I learned a lot of new techniques about chocolate making and decorating through this experience, including how chocolate makers will add other ingredients in order to decrease the bitterness in milk chocolate, and that a lower bitterness tolerance correlates with a preference for milk over dark chocolate.



Harwood, M. L., Loquasto, J. R., Roberts, R. F., Ziegler, G. R., & Hayes, J. E. (2013). Explaining tolerance for bitterness in chocolate ice cream using solid chocolate preferences. Journal of Dairy Science, 96(8), 4938–4944.

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