How to Temper Chocolate

How to temper chocolate… Have you ever tried to make chocolates at home and ended up with a streaky, melting muddle?No? …That’s so not fair!…you ought to have, unless you tempered your chocolate. If you got away with it, you’re probably raising your eyes to heaven now thinking “what is she on about” but believe me, if you want professional, consistent results it’s worth taking the time to learn the art of tempering.

There are hundreds of accounts of the hows and whys of tempering out there on the net. Some of them are indepth and scientific (but they’re just showing off and trying to make you feel like you can’t possibly do it) and there are some that are overly simplified (because they think you can’t handle it!).

Here’s my shot at explaining it….

  1. cocoa butter ( the fat found in chocolate) forms crystals when it cools (who knew!)
  2. it can form 6 different types of crystal depending on the way it’s cooled
  3. only one type is any damn good and that’s #5 ( think of it as the Channel of cocoa butter cystals)

The objective of the tempering process is to form only type #5 crystals to ensure that your chocolate has the best possible characteristics.

See table below for a load of melting temperatures and stuff that you will instantly forget. Focus on #5 – Glossy, firm, best snap, melts near body temperature. That’s how you want your chocolate to end up.

Crystal

Melting Temp. Notes

1

17°C (63°F) Soft, crumbly, melts too easily

2

21°C (70°F) Soft, crumbly, melts too easily

3

26°C (78°F) Firm, poor snap, melts too easily

4

28°C (82°F) Firm, good snap, melts too easily

5

34°C (94°F) Glossy, firm, best snap, melts near body temperature (37°C)

6

36°C (97°F) Hard, takes weeks to form

That’s all well and good I hear you cry, but how do we get there?

You have a couple of different methods depending on how much chocolate you need to temper and how much money you can convince the bank manager /your spouse /your conscience (delete as appropriate) is justified in the pursuit of shiny snappable chocolate! Let’s start with the more attainable options. This bit is quite dull, so I’ve tried to make it amusing. If you don’t do amusing, try this guide here… http://www.tricor-systems.com/articles/chocolate-temper.htm

  1. “On the Slab”

You will need….

  • A very strong man to bring you a large slab of polished granite or marble
  • A triangular scraper like the one you used to strip the wallpaper off your wall
  • A pair of chocolate-proof shoes

2. “The Old Boiler”

You will need….

  • A pan of simmering water
  • A heatproof bowl just the right size to fit on top of your pan
  • A dish cloth to wipe the steam from your glasses or you won’t be able to see

3.“Bring on the Ping”

You will need….

  • A microwave and a bowl

Clearly the microwave option is my preferred method if you have to do it by hand. So here’s how…

  • Buy chocolate Couverture in little ready made buttons, also called callets, drops etc. Make sure it’s good quality. Cadbury’s buttons will not do. If you don’t believe me and try to use them anyway, I take no responsibility for you exploding your microwave, burning your favourite spatula on a lump of molten sugar and making the kids cry by forcing them to eat your culinary disasters.
  • Put two-thirds of your chocolate in a bowl and set it on medium heat to melt in your microwave, stirring it every minute or so. If you don’t stir it, you’ll get a little patch of burnt chocolate which will fill your kitchen with smoke and smells like singed arm hair.
  • When it’s all melted and feels quite warm to the touch (dab a bit on your top lip – it should feel almost hot,not burning but definitely warmer than a child with a fever) then add in the remaining one third of unmelted chocolate buttons and stir it around until it’s all smooth.
  • The addition of the unmelted buttons cools the chocolate and also delivers the precious #5 crystals because (and this is the really cool thing) all chocolate buttons/callets have been pre-tempered and so contain #5 crystals – if they weren’t tempered, they wouldn’t be buttons, they’d be a mushy mess.

That’s it.Simples (enter the meerkat). If you have little lumps left that won’t melt, you can fish them out, or , much more fun, blast them with your sister’s hairdryer (don’t use you own, you’ll end up with chocolate in your hair) to melt out the last little bits. Don’t whack it back in the microwave because the chances are you’ll end up over heating it and melting all those little crystals. Then you’ll be back to square one.

We’ll do mechanical methods of tempering in another post (which will of course end up above this one so you’ll end up reading that first and won’t get to this bit until later!) For now, I need a cup of coffee. Go forth. Temper and be happy!

…and just to demonstrate that we too used to temper chocolate at home here is an early television clip of Diana tempering chocolate when we worked from out home kitchen…