Have you ever wondered what makes certain chocolate just so… perfect? Of course, high quality ingredients are essential to delicious chocolate, but there is another secret that professional and amateur chocolatiers alike know about.
And that is Tempered Chocolate.
Not everyone has heard of tempered chocolate, but it’s one of the techniques you need to learn if you are thinking about creating your own chocolate recipes at home. You might think that sticking a few chocolate chips in the microwave and pouring the melted product into a mould is the way to make chocolate treats, but it’s not.
Chocolate that is simply melted in a microwave and that is not tempered tends to be soft or sticky when it reaches room temperature. It can also have gray or white streaks or spots running through it, making it altogether less appealing.
Tempering is the magical technique that will prevent these common problems and produce gorgeous, delicious chocolate candies.
What is tempered chocolate?
Tempered chocolate is chocolate that has been heated and specially cooled so that it forms a precise crystal structure. Most chocolate that you will find on the shelves and in high end boxes of confections is tempered. You can easily recognize it because it will have a glossy appearance and produce a pleasing “snap” when it is broken or bitten into.
Tempered chocolate has a shiny, flawless appearance. It’s that look that makes you wonder, “how did someone make this piece of perfection?” It feels firm to the touch and when it comes in bar form, it’s what allows it breaks off with a snap. Tempering the chocolate also contributes to how wonderfully and smoothly it melts in your mouth so that you can fully enjoy the flavor. It’s what makes chocolate so darn good.
In short, the reason to temper chocolate is in order to change the texture and make it more stable and long-lasting, especially in a commercial sense, but also to make it more delightful when using it at home. Tempered chocolate is also less likely to develop blooms, the light colored spots that can arise on the surface, as a result of exposure to heat or cold.
What do you need to temper chocolate?
Despite the indulgent description above, tempering chocolate is actually very simple and even the baker or chocolatier just starting out can easily master the technique.
Tempering is a two stage process. The first step involves melting the chocolate down and then holding it at a set temperature while it cools down and is worked with.
- You will need a few tools to make it easy to temper chocolate:
- Rubber spatula
That’s it! Well, it is also best to have a double boiler and a stove, or you can actually temper chocolate using a microwave. There are a couple of ways you can improvise but we recommend making it as easy as possible on yourself.
Pro Tip: The thermometer is pretty crucial in the process and will make your life sooo much easier!
How do you temper chocolate?
Ok, let’s get into it.
Here’s the secret: slowly heating and cooling melted chocolate while stirring puts it into temper.
- On the stove: Chop 1 pound of chocolate – dark, milk or white – and place two thirds in the top bowl over a saucepan or pot of simmering water. Do not let the upper bowl touch the water.
- Place the thermometer in the chocolate and stir frequently with a rubber spatula.
- Watch the temperature carefully. For dark chocolate, do not let the temperature exceed 120°F, or 105°F for milk or white chocolate.
- When the chocolate has melted completely, remove the bowl from heat and wipe the bottom of the bowl to remove any condensation.
- Next, stir in the remaining third of the chocolate a little bit at a time. Stir until each portion melts before adding more. Continue until all the chocolate is incorporated.
You can also follow the above steps if you are using a microwave, but you will have to keep an eye on things, removing the chocolate to stir often and really watching the temperature.
Pro Tip: Tempered chocolate needs to be kept totally dry. This can be difficult in the kitchen but even a small addition of water will cause the chocolate seize, which will render all your efforts useless.
Well, now you have beautiful tempered chocolate, and you need to act quickly. Once melted chocolate has been tempered, it needs to be used before it cools and sets.
This is where your thermometer comes in handy. If the chocolate cools to about 84°F to 86°F and is still pretty liquid-y, it can be reheated (but watch the temp!).
If it has completely cooled to the point it is solidifying, it should be re-tempered before you start dipping those strawberries in it. Heat the chocolate again, stirring and checking the temperature before reheating. For dark chocolate, keep the reheated chocolate in the 88°F to 91°F range. For milk and white chocolate, reheat to 87°F to 88°F.
Be diligent (again to make it easier on yourself). By keeping your chocolate within these temperature ranges, it will stay in temper and be liquid enough to use.
Use the tempered chocolate right away – either to decorate or make custom chocolate candies. Whatever kind of treat you have in mind!
Pro Tip: Here is the best tip for any endeavor in the kitchen… plan ahead. (Maybe we should have mentioned this first!). Preparation is what makes things go smoothly. Having your plan laid out ahead of time is what elevates the pros from the amateurs, and what will take so much of the stress out of what you are doing. Tempering chocolate is the perfect opportunity to practice your planning skills!
Like anything, you may need to practice this technique but once you get it, you will immediately see the difference in your chocolate creations.