AUSTIN (KXAN) — Between the winter storm and rainy summer, Texas weather has been pretty unusual this year, and it has had an impact on something unexpected — chocolate and candy.
“If the temperature is not quite right, if it’s too humid or if it’s raining a lot outside, the chocolate just doesn’t set,” said Nicole Patel, owner of Delysia Chocolatier in Austin.
Making chocolate in the Texas heat
Patel opened Delysia Chocolatier in 2008 and says the Texas weather has been a problem since they opened.
“Our first two years in business, we had record highs. I think it was like 100 days of over 100-degree weather,” she said.
Making chocolate requires precise temperature control, not just to prevent it from melting, but also so the chocolate can be tempered. Tempering chocolate is what gives it its shine and prevents it from cracking. To do it, chocolate must be melted, then cooled, then heated up again and cooled again.
“If you don’t get those marks just right, if you’re off by half a degree, your temper could be off,” Patel said. If the temper is off, not only will chocolate not be shiny, but it could also have issues with blooming.
Blooming is the greyish-white stuff that you sometimes find on chocolate. This stuff isn’t dangerous. In fact, it is just the butter and other fats separating within the chocolate. Poor tempering isn’t the only thing that causes it.
Patel said any temperature changes can, including placing chocolate in your refrigerator. Your refrigerator is actually a terrible place to leave your candy, and not just because of the cool but also the humidity.
Humidity and rain can ruin your candy
Lammes Candies has been based in Austin since 1885. They actually make a lot of their candies to survive the Texas heat, including pralines and taffy, but humidity and rain can be a major issue.
“Your moisture attacks the sugars,” said Pam Teich, president of Lammes Candies. “The sugars are going to absorb that moisture, which is going to make it sticky.”
Patel said that she has to use special humidity and temperature controls to ensure a rainy day doesn’t ruin her chocolate.
“We keep our facility 65 to 72 degrees and we maintain kind of a 55% relative humidity. But I can tell on those days when it’s a little rainy or the dew points kind of high. It’s a little bit of a harder day in production for sure,” Patel said.
How to ship candy when its 100-degrees outside
Patel said that many chocolatiers she knows worry about shipping in hot temperatures. “I always laugh when the chocolatiers up in the northeast, say ‘Oh, we don’t ship like May through August.'”
She has had to learn to take extra steps to keep their product fresh when they ship it.
“We know exactly what time to start packing up everything,” she said. “As soon as the ice melts and the chocolates get into a box, they go into a temperature-controlled room, and then I’m immediately driving it up to the FedEx distribution center so it’s there and sitting there no longer than an hour before it gets put on a plane.”
Since the pandemic began, Patel has had to shift how she ships things as well. She used to ship everything FedEx ground, but shipping with FedEx ground now takes longer. She has had to shift to overnight shipping.
Lammes Candies dealt with something similar during World War II and developed their Pecan Pralines at that time. The pralines are pecans dipped in caramel that doesn’t melt when it’s too hot out.
Teich said that their Taffy Kisses are also given special treatment.
“In the summertime … we cook them up a little bit, cook a little bit more moisture out of those kisses in order that they are not mush.”
Storing your candy to protect it from the weather
When you purchase it do not leave it in your car, even during the winter. Those temperature shifts can be terrible for your candy.
The ideal temperature for your candy, where it won’t become sticky or lose flavor, is 68-74 degrees.
Both Patel and Teich said DO NOT put your candy in the refrigerator or freezer. The change in temperature and the extra humidity will ruin your treats.
“You put that puppy in the refrigerator and pull it out. Nine times out of 10 it’s going to be sticky because of the humidity and the condensation in the refrigerator.” Teich said. “Refrigerators are horrific for most candies”
Shipping issues during the pandemic
Shipping delays have been a major issue for both candy makers due to the pandemic. Teich says there is currently an 18-month wait for new candy wrappers.
Patel said that right now they have two pallets of chocolate shipped from Germany stuck on a ship off the California coast.
“At least I’m an engineer and I’m a planner. I’m a Type A personality, so we’re good,” she said. “Don’t worry about getting your chocolate supplies from us for the holidays.”
How much chocolate is on those ships? Patel estimates around 4,800 pounds.