Making chocolate from home is more than just heating up chocolate chips in the microwave and pouring them into molds.
It involves a process that calls for you to “temper” the chocolate. And for many home cooks and bakers, this sounds intimidating.
But it’s one of those things, all you have to do is practice once or twice to get the hang of it (don’t worry if you mess it up a time or two). Once you have it perfected, you’ll wonder why you put off doing it for so long!
Before we get into exactly how to temper chocolate, you might be wondering why you would go through all the fuss anyway? Melting chocolate in the microwave (or a double boiler when you’ve got time to spare) works just fine. So why bother tempering your chocolate?
Well, tempered chocolate is great to use when you want to up your game and start making homemade candy, chocolates, and desserts that are restaurant or patisserie quality.
Tempering your chocolate helps give it that smooth, glossy finish and hard, snappy texture, even as it sits at room temperature. You don’t need to refrigerate tempered chocolate. Once you get the knack for tempering your chocolate, you will notice the difference right away!
How to temper chocolate?
The word temper means to heat to make hard, which begins to explain the test at hand. The result of tempering chocolate is making it solid at room temperature and perfectly melted once you put it in your mouth. But how do you achieve such perfection?
To temper your chocolate correctly, you need to pay attention and control the melting, cooling, and reheating of chocolate within specific temperature ranges. These ranges will depend on the kind of chocolate.
Tempering the chocolate generally follows a three-step process of:
- Heating the chocolate to dissolve the fat crystals,
- Lowering the temperature slightly to form a new crystal structure, and
- Reheating to dissolve all unstable crystals.
Melting chocolate without tempering changes the molecular structure of the cocoa butter to be unchained and unstable. This is why why it never goes back to that nice hard and snappy texture, and remains soft and sometimes lumpy.
Tempering the chocolate re-chains the molecules and stabilizes the cocoa butter crystals. In doing this, the chocolate becomes homogenous again as it cools back into a smooth, shiny, snappy quality.
So this all might sound a little “out there” but you’ll see what we mean as soon as you give it a go.
Step-by-step Process to Temper Your Chocolate
The following is a step-by-step process to temper your chocolate like a pro.
- Double boiler
- Candy thermometer (a necessary tool and worthwhile investment)
- High-quality chocolate (not chocolate chips), broken down into small chunks
- Important note: make sure all equipment that comes in contact with the chocolate begins dry and remains completely dry throughout the process. Any water introduced into the chocolate will cause it to seize.
The Technique (in three steps):
Step 1 — Heating
- Get your double boiler onto your stove and begin to melt about 2/3 of your chocolate, stirring often.
- Keep your thermometer nearby and place it into the chocolate (don’t lean it against the wall of the upper bowl)
- Watch carefully until (still stirring) until the thermometer registers around 115°F, and absolutely *no higher* than 120°F. (If tempering milk or white chocolate, heat to 110°F.)
- Remove the upper part of the double boiler.
Step 2 — Cooling
Next, gradually add the remaining chocolate. This to bring the temperature down.
Continue stirring vigorously and constantly.
Keep stirring! until the temperature drops to 84°F.
This will take a bit of time, upwards of 15 minutes so just keep at it and focus on how strong your arm is getting from all this stirring.
You can speed up this process up by carefully placing the bowl of chocolate into a pre-prepared ice bath. We recommend attempting this after you’ve got the hang of it. Because you have to remember not to get any water in the chocolate, or else all your efforts will be for nothing.
Step 3 — Reheat
Now it’s time to reheat the chocolate — briefly! — by placing the bowl back over the double boiler. But only for 5 to 10 seconds at a time. And remember — keep stirring!
Do this until your beautiful, smooth chocolate reaches 89°F.
This “working temperature” is also known as the window of perfection.
Do not leave the chocolate over the water or let it exceed 91°F.
That’s it — you’re done!
Now you can test your temper by dipping a small piece of parchment into the chocolate.
You should notice that the chocolate should be both smooth and firm. This is the perfect state for it to be poured into molds, or to be used to make that bakery-level chocolate deliciousness you’ve been dreaming about.
If the chocolate still seems streaky or runny, try stirring in more chocolate to the mixture. This will bring the temperature down.
Ok, you might be thinking this seems very complicated and not worth you time. Honestly though, once you get yourself coordinated and know what to watch out for (those narrow ranges of temperature), it will become so much easier. It will just take a couple of practice runs.
And if it doesn’t go as planned… you still have chocolate to eat. So it’s not all that bad if you need to have a few practice rounds.
We hope this helps. There’s really no wrong way to eat chocolate, as long as you are enjoying it. But if you are looking for a new challenge — tempering your chocolate is definitely worth a shot!
If you want fresh chocolate, you can order online or buy it in-store.