3D-printed chocolate? This might not be what St. Valentine had in mind

Rutgers food scientist, on mission to create functional food, to introduce healthy Valentine’s chocolates — but you’re own your own when it comes to romance

Sure, we get the whole “eating healthier” ideal — but this may be a bit much. At least for today.

While we’ve never been confused with Romeo, we have to say this: 3D printer-produced chocolates — no matter how good they are for you — are not likely to move Cupid’s arrow on Valentine’s Day.

Gifts boxes from Godiva, Jersey-based Thomas Sweet Chocolates or even those chocolate-covered strawberries at Costco may be a better bet.

That being said, it is worth noting that a Rutgers University scientist has developed a formulation of low-fat chocolate that can be printed on a 3D printer in pretty much any shape a person can conceive, including a heart.

Rutgers officials feel the work heralds what the researcher hopes will be a new line of “functional foods” — edibles specially designed with health benefits. The aim is to develop healthier kinds of chocolate easily accessible to consumers.

As featured in the scientific journal, Food Hydrocolloids, a Rutgers-led team of scientists described the successful creation and printing of a mixture producing low-fat chocolate — substituting fatty cocoa butter with a lower-fat, water-in-oil emulsion.

Qingrong Huang, the author of the study and a professor in the Department of Food Science at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, made his case in a recent release.

“Everybody likes to eat chocolate, but we are also concerned with our health,” he said. “To address this, we have created a chocolate that is not only low-fat, but that can also be printed with a 3D printer. It’s our first ‘functional’ chocolate.”

It gets better. Huang said he already is working on manipulating sugar content in the new chocolate formulation for low-sugar and sugar-free varieties.

Here’s how they are doing it.

Chocolate candy is generally made with cocoa butter, cocoa powder and powdered sugar and combined with any one of a variety of different emulsifiers. For the study, the scientific team experimented with different ratios of the ingredients for a standard chocolate recipe to find the best balance between liquid and solid for 3D printing.

Seeking to lower the level of fat in the mixture, researchers created a water-in-cocoa butter emulsion held together by gum arabic, an extract from the acacia tree that is commonly used in the food industry, to replace the cocoa butter. The researchers mixed the emulsion with golden syrup to enhance the flavor and added that combination to the other ingredients.

Ultimately, Huang said he plans to design functional foods containing healthy added ingredients — substances he has spent more than two decades studying, such as extracts from orange peel, tea, red pepper, onion, Rosemary, turmeric, blueberry and ginger — that consumers can print and eat.

“3D food printing technology enables the development of customized edible products with tailored taste, shape and texture as well as optimal nutrition based on consumer needs,” he said.

This all sounds good — on any day but today? 

Whether it becomes a go-to move on Valentine’s Day remains to be seen. 

As does this: Will the researchers create 3D printed roses? You know, just in case the 3D printed chocolate effort doesn’t go over as planned.