Tempering chocolate ensures that the finished product will be glossy, shiny and enjoyable to eat.
Tempering involves bringing your chocolate to a temperature at which the cocoa butter reaches its most stable form. Chocolate that has been tempered and cooled incorrectly will be disappointing, so it pays to learn the correct method for tempering chocolate.
Tip #1: Cheap chocolate and chocolate chips will not melt evenly, since they are likely to be made with vegetable fat rather than cocoa butter. The finished product will be unsatisfactory. Honestly, if you’re going to all the trouble of melting and tempering chocolate, do yourself a favour and use a good ingredient.
Tip #2: Chocolate will crystallize if any moisture gets in it. When tempering chocolate, you must be vigilant about keeping your chocolate dry at all stages. Ensure that all utensils used for tempering chocolate are perfectly dry. Avoid placing a cover over cooling chocolate, as this can cause condensation to get in the mixture.
Tip #3:If crystallization does occur while you are tempering chocolate, you can try correcting it by adding 1 tsp of vegetable oil per 8 ounces of chocolate and mixing energetically over low heat. No guarantees this will help, but sometimes you get lucky.
Tip #4: If you do a lot of candy making, it might be worth it to consider purchasing a chocolate temperer. These appliances take the guess work out of tempering.
Equipment Needed for Tempering Chocolate
- Bowls, microwave safe if you will be using the microwave for melting.
- Double boiler if you are using this method for melting. For best results, use a stainless steel double boiler, two quart size if you are planning on tempering chocolate in large amounts. The Farberware Classic 2-Qt. Covered Double Boiler is good for tempering chocolate for two reasons. First, its tri-ply bottom ensures even heating. Second, the vented lid allows steam to escape, preventing moisture from condensation to ruin your chocolate.
- A hard, cool, dry surface on which to pour the chocolate. Professional chefs recommend marble for its coolness when tempering chocolate. The RSVP International 18×18-in. Marble Pastry Board. is a good choice.
- Spatulas for spreading. The Ateco Stainless Steel Offset Spatula 14.75-in. is the kind that chefs use. It’s big enough for icing a cake, so can do double duty.
- Chocolate scraper. The Paderno World Cuisine 3-1/2-Inch by 7 1/8-Inch Diameter Stainless Steel Chocolate Peel is an example.
- Heating pad, hot water bottle, or other warm surface
- Digital thermometer. The Silikomart Silicone/Nylon Chocolate Spatula with Digital Thermometer is ideal for melting and tempering chocolate and it comes with its own spatula! Do not use a candy thermometer; it will not record the low temperatures needed for tempering chocolate.
- Optional but handy to have: A chocolate chipper, like the Lee Pro Products Chocolate Chipper. This sturdy tool converts hard, thick baking-chocolate bars into chunks for cookies, candy, etc.
- Optional, but handy: Chocolatiere Electric Chocolate Melting Pot
First, the Melting.
The first step of tempering chocolate is to melt it carefully. This yummy substance scorches easily, and once scorched, the damage is permanent.
Tip: Take the temperature of the chocolate at intervals during the melting. Place your digital thermometer so at least two inches of the tool is covered with melted chocolate. Avoid having the thermometer touch the sides or bottom of pan. The temperature should be between 110 and 120 degrees F.
- To use a microwave, chop chocolate, place in bowl, and melt at medium power for 90 seconds or longer. Stir every 30 seconds for white or milk chocolate; less often for dark chocolate. Remove from oven when chocolate becomes shiny and continue mixing until the substance has melted.
- To use a double boiler, chop chocolate, place in top part of double boiler. Make sure water simmers but does not boil. Ensure the top pan does not come in direct contact with the water. Stir almost constantly. When mixture is almost melted, remove from heat and continue stirring.
When the chocolate is melted, pour it into a second, dry bowl to help bring the temperature down. You want to maintain this melted chocolate at a temperature of about 100 degrees F. Use your thermometer to ensure accuracy.
Tip: Keep the chocolate at the desired temperature while you are working with it by using a well-wrapped hot water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a double boiler placed over warm water. Watch the temperature carefully and do not allow to overheat while you are tempering chocolate.
- Pour about a third of the melted chocolate on a dry, marble work surface. Using a metal spatula, spread the chocolate across the marble surface, then bring the chocolate together again using a pastry scraper.
- Repeat this process until chocolate milk chocolate has cooled to about 80 °F and about 84°F for dark chocolate. At this point, your chocolate should be a thick paste that is called “mush.”
- Add this mush to the bowl of chocolate that is being kept at 100 degrees F. Stir gently, taking care not to create bubbles.
- Check temperature. You want a temperature of about 90 °F for dark chocolate and a few degrees less for white and milk chocolate. (NEVER exceed 92°F) Heat gently, not over heating, if mixture is too cold. Always stir for at least a minute before you check the temperature.
The chocolate is now tempered and ready for you to work with it. As you work, ensure the chocolate stays at the desired temperature. Reheat gently as needed.