Tempering Chocolate

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Chocolate Information (History) -> Manufacturing

Why temper chocolate?

Without tempering, chocolate cools and becomes solid in a dull brown mass with chalky white or gray streaks. Tempered chocolate is shiny, smooth in appearance and taste, and breaks with an audible snap. Proper tempering is critical to finished chocolate quality. Not only unappealing, it has a chalky taste and can be unappetizing. Most commercial chocolate manufacturers then mold this tempered chocolate into 10 pound slabs, bricks, or blocks for shipping and use by other companies.


Here you are with some delicious 10 pound slab of expensive, quality chocolate. What do you do with it besides eat it? There are always the old standbys: hot fudge, brownies, fudge, ganache, etc. To make any truly elegant dessert or chocolate dipped item, one must temper the chocolate.

We offer these important tips on tempering chocolate:

Melting

This is the most critical step in the tempering process. Chocolate cannot be exposed to extreme heat, anything over 120 degrees can cause the chocolate to scorch or burn. To melt chocolate, the key is to expose it to small amounts of heat slowly. A microwave can be effective but requires extreme diligence to prevent scorching. Chop your chocolate in small pieces and place into a microwave safe container. Use a medium cooking setting and take the bowl out at least every 30 seconds to stir it. It will take about 2 minutes to melt 1 pound of chocolate. Milk and white chocolates are the most sensitive to scorching, so watch them closely and stir often!

Other methods to melt chocolate would include a double boiler. Be cautious around any steam-chocolate does not tolerate any moisture and if exposed to steam or droplets will seize into a semi-solid disgusting mass. The method we personally find works well, is to use the oven. This surprises many people, but used properly it avoids the problems of scorching and moisture thanks to the dry oven environment. Place up to 5 lbs of chocolate in a metal 9"X 13" baking pan. Set the oven temperature to WM or less than 150 F if possible. When the oven is warm, place the chocolate on a center rack and stir every 10 minutes or so. As long as the oven temperature never exceeds 120 F the melted mass will be ready to temper when you are. It may be necessary to turn the oven on or off during melting to maintain that warm temperature without scorching the chocolate as every oven is different.

Methods for Tempering Chocolate

Once your chocolate is successfully tempered, it is important to verify that it will set up the way that you want it to. One way to check is with a thermometer, white and milk chocolate should be 88-90 degrees F, dark chocolates should be 90-92 degrees F. Another way is to place a small swipe of chocolate onto a cool, smooth surface. Correctly tempered chocolate should set up within just a minute or two and when it sets up the surface should be slightly glossy. When you pull this piece off the surface it should break with a bit of snap. It should not bend. If you see streaks of white or gray then the chocolate was likely improperly tempered. Try the seeding step again.

If your project is improperly tempered, removal from molds will be difficult to impossible. Don't panic! Place your mold in the freezer for an hour or so and even untempered chocolate can usually be removed and remelted. Even improperly tempered chocolate is edible, though some chocolate snobs may feel that the flavor and texture is altered. We recommend feeding such ugly pieces to very good friends who are eager to devour your mistakes. Everyone should have at least one good friend to rely on for such services. Hopefully you will find the effort worthwhile to use real chocolate in your candies, pastries, and other confections.

If you find this daunting, please read our Help! I don't want to temper chocolate page for the benefits of using real chocolate as well as the alternatives.

We also teach classes for those interested.

See our links page for more information about tempering chocolate, and tempering machines.