How to Temper Chocolate
Is it necessary to temper chocolate? A question which is frequently asked. The answer depends on what you are planning to do with the chocolate. For making items such as chocolate mousse, chocolate sorbet, chocolate cremeux and most fillings for chocolates or truffles tempering is absolutely not necessary.
For preparing items such as chocolate decorations, dipping truffles or molding chocolates, you have to use tempered chocolate. There is no other way around it. Anytime real chocolate is used to dip products such as cookies, petit fours, strawberries, chocolates or is used for decorative pieces, the chocolate has to be tempered. When chocolate is not tempered, essentially only melted, and then used for dipping truffles or any of the above mentioned items, it will not harden to a beautiful glossy finish with a crisp snap. Chocolate which is not tempered may take hours before it hardens and when it finally does, it will be dull in appearance with a grayish cast and have a very brittle and undesired texture. So it is clear to see, when chocolate is used for finishing work tempering is necessary.
What You Need To Know Before You Begin
In most applications, couverture and ultra couverture chocolate (any chocolate containing cocoa butter as an ingredient) must be tempered in certian applications as we have mentioned before.
Tempering involves slowly raising and lowering the temperature of melted chocolate while constantly stirring. This process causes the structure of the large cocoa-butter crystals in the chocolate to repeatedly break and then reform. When the chocolate is finally allowed to set again, the crystals of cocoa butter join in perfect chains, creating an extremely smooth, shiny chocolate that has a clean snap when broken.
Make sure that bowls, thermometer, spatula, stone, etc. are 100% dry before touching your chocolate.
Room termperature should be between 18-21° degree celcius and humidity level below 50%.
Melt about 75% of the easy melt chocolate bottuns in a double boiler, to about (115-120°F) 46-48°C degrees celcius, measured with a Chocolate Thermometer. The remaining 25% should be set aside until needed. Remove the chocolate from the top of the double boiler, dry the bottom of the bowl.
Add the remaining one fourth chocolate bottuns to the melted chocolate and stir until the chocolate is nearly lump free. Check the temperature, it should be at or slightly below 90°F (32°C) for dark chocolate and two degrees lower for milk or white chocolate. The chocolate is now in temper.
If the chocolate is much colder and very thick, place it for just a few seconds over low simmering water. Remove from heat and stir, check the temperature, it needs to be below 90°F (32°C) for dark chocolate and two degrees lower for milk or white chocolate. (DO NOT stir over the simmering water and heat all the way up to the above mentioned temperatures. The residual heat from the bowl will quickly tilt the temperature way over the allowed temps.)
As you work with the chocolate, regularly stir the chocolate and check its temperature to keep it "in temper".
A smart way of keeping the chocolate in a fluid state while you are working is to place the chocolate bowl in another bowl filled with water of 90°F (32°C) or slightly higher.
If the chocolate hardens or you have leftover, you can always re-temper the chocolate as indicated at a later time.
Chocolate Tempering procedure & Methods
STEP 1: Melt chocolate
Most Desirable Method — Double Boiler:
If you don’t own a double boiler, you can create your own by situating a pot, sauce pan, or stainless steel or glass bowl on top of a sauce pan or small pot. Or you can use our Double Boiler Insert.
Heat water in bottom pan to 130-150° F "54-65° C" (do not boil). Turn off heat.
Place chocolate into top pot/pan/bowl/double boiler insert and set over the pan of water. Be sure that the pot or bowl fits tightly over the water so that no steam or water vapor escapes from the bottom pan/pot.
Stir frequently with rubber spatula.
Once the chocolate is completely melted, use a chocolate thermometer to measure the temperature. Heat to: 115°F/46°C(Milk Chocolate) 120°F/48°C (Dark Chocolate) 110°F/43°C (White Chocolate)
Less Desirable Method — Microwave (based on a 600 watt microwave):
Place one pound of chocolate in a microwave safe container.
Microwave for one minute at 50% power.
Stir with rubber spatula.
Return to microwave for 15 to 30 second intervals until ¾ melted (stir with rubber spatula in between every interval).
Stir with spatula until fully melted.
STEP 2: Double check the temperature of the chocolate:
110°F 43°C (White Chocolate) 115°F 46°C (Milk Chocolate) 120°F 48°C (Dark Chocolate)
STEP 3: Pour 2/3 on tempering stone surface.
Keep the other 1/3 at about 100° F - 37° C; do not let it harden.
STEP 4: Using a pastry or bench scraper and offset spatula, spread the chocolate.
Then move it to the center, clean the scraper with the spatula and spread continuously. Continue this spreading and scraping process until the chocolate cools to: 82° F/28°C (dark), 80° F/26°C (milk), 78°F/25°C (white). The chocolate will lose its shine and form a thick paste with a dull matte finish. Work quickly so that the chocolate does not lump. This process can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes. The professional term for this is "mush."
STEP 5: Add the "mush" to the remaining 1/3 melted chocolate.
Using a clean, dry rubber spatula, stir the chocolate gently, until smooth. Be careful not to create air bubbles as you do.
STEP 6: Return the mixture to heat.
Stirring constantly until the desired temperature is reached: 88-90° F (dark), 86-88° F (milk), 82-84° F (white)
STEP 7: Check temper using the “Knife Tip Method”:
Insert the end of offset spatula or a small kitchen knife about ¾” into chocolate.
Remove spatula/knife and lay on countertop for five minutes.
Check look of chocolate after 5 minutes. If it has hardened and has a sheen, chocolate is “in temper.”
If chocolate is not “in temper” repeat steps 1-6.
STEP 8: As you work with the chocolate, regularly stir the chocolate and check its temperature to keep it "in temper".
STEP 9: After you’ve made whatever you are making, immediately put in refrigerator until set. Only keep in refrigerator until set, and then promptly remove.
TIP: If you have a heating pad, turn on and cover with a towel. Set your bowl of melted chocolate on top of the towel to keep your chocolate in its ideal melted state for longer.
The temperature of your chocolate is very important. If the chocolate gets too hot the chocolate will become thick and will not run off the spoon. Proper consistency is important for easy working. The chocolate should pour off the spoon easy and not come off in a clump.
If you don’t want to manually temper your couverture or ultra couverture chocolate, there are automated tempering machines available. Be sure to program your machine with the correct temperatures.