How to temper chocolate
Ah! Chocolate… who doesn’t love it?!
Pleasure and pain for those who would like to do without it, but are ultimately unable to resist it.
Imported around 1500, after the discovery of America, nowadays chocolate is in every home.
On the market we can find all types, infinite flavours and aromatizations.
The ancient Mayans and Aztecs consumed it as a drink adding water to dried and fermented cocoa beans: It was called “the food of the gods”.
In pastry making it lends itself to the most varied processes:
As ingredient in doughs, creams, fillings, semifreddo and ice creams
As key ingredient in glazes
As unique and undisputed ingredient in pralines and chocolate products
Unfortunately for many people using chocolate correctly is still a taboo, but, really, melting and using it is not enough if you want satisfying results!
If you want to obtain a shiny, solid product without whitish streaks, you must proceed to tempering.
This term might remind someone of “the operation that is carried out to strengthen metals”. Spot on!! This is because to reach its perfection chocolate needs to undergo some specific thermal steps.
The term tempering here means “to make chocolate crystallize at controlled temperature”.
First you need to decide what you want to do with your chocolate:
If chocolate is a working ingredient, i.e. in a dough, in a cream or ice cream, it does not need tempering.
Instead, if it is used to make hollow parts, tablets, decorations, etc. it must be absolutely tempered.
Some of you may say: “I’ve always melted it regardless of temperatures and I’ve always used it that way”.
Sure, anything goes… at the expense of products quality and consistent excellent results.
Why does it need tempering?
Quality chocolate MUST contain cocoa butter (otherwise it’s a surrogate).
Well-known in the cosmetics sector, too, cocoa butter is an “ugly beast”, because it contains different types of fats that melt at different temperatures.
This is the reason why it must be adequately processed and melted at 50°C (for quality French dark chocolate 58°C is possible, too), while milk and white chocolate must reach 45-50°C: at these temperatures all the
elements of cocoa butter are perfectly melted.
Melting can be done in a bain-marie, in a microwave or in tempering machines (unfortunately we only find them in specialized laboratories); for years now I have been microwaving it, so that I won’t have either moisture or
water drops in my chocolate. When using the microwave, one must pay attention to the timer: set it 20-30 seconds at a time at 500 W maximum, and stir to melt at every interval when the timer stops.
Now let it cool down to reach the ideal working temperature.
Let’s have a look at what tempering methods we can use:
Melting 50°C, Cooling – pour 2/3 of the melted couverture chocolate onto a marble worktop and continue to stir it around on the cold surface with the help of spatulas until it cools down reaching the following temperatures:
28°C for dark chocolate
27°C for milk chocolate
26°C for white chocolate
Heating up – now add the third part and heat up the chocolate: 31-32°C dark chocolate, 29-30°C milk chocolate and 28°C white chocolate.
2. Seeding – injecting – priming:
For convenience sake let’s make an example with 1 kg.
Heat up 750 g of chocolate at 45/50°C.
In the meantime finely chop the remaining 250 g chocolate.
Remove 1/3 of the heated chocolate (i.e. 250 g from the starting 750 g).
Add the finely chopped chocolate to the remaining hot 500 g.
At this point the temperature will decrease to around 26-27°C for white chocolate, 27-28°C for milk chocolate, 28-29°C for dark chocolate.
Bring back to temperature by adding the remaining hot 250 g until you reach the ideal working temps (31-32°C dark chocolate, 29-30°C milk chocolate and 28-29°C white chocolate).
3. Microwave tempering:
Melt chopped chocolate in the microwave oven at short intervals, without exceeding the final tempering temperature: 31-32°C dark chocolate, 29-30°C milk chocolate and 28°C white chocolate.
4. Cold bain-marie:
Once the chocolate is melted at 50°C move it to a water bath containing water and ice and stir continuously until it reaches the ideal temperature (see temperatures point 1).
5. With tempering machines:
Just set the temperatures and the machine performs the task for you perfectly.
If you follow these steps, which initially may frighten non-professionals, you will get a shiny chocolate that snaps instead of bending and above all that is flawless and free of streaks from destabilized cocoa butter reaching the surface.
To make sure the tempered chocolate has set and hardened properly, testing it before using it is a good idea.
Cut out a strip of parchment paper, dip it 2-3 cm into the melted chocolate and then let it set at room temperature: It must solidify in a few minutes. If it doesn’t, a mistake has been made at some point!
I could talk about chocolate for hours but these tips suffice for you to get master chocolate makers’ results!
Have a nice dessert!!