One of the most useful techniques a baker should have in his/her repertoire is how to temper chocolate. Once mastered, the possibilities of application are endless – from decorating cakes to making sculptures and the most beneficial: molding chocolate bonbons. All the more with Valentine’s Day just less than two weeks away.
Chocolate can be such a finicky ingredient. To obtain chocolate that is shiny and well crystalized (one which doesn’t break away easily and become brittle), temperature is crucial. A single drop of water will ruin a whole batch, thus humidity can be an issue. It was no wonder we spent three full weeks of our 5-month course exclusively for chocolate. During my internship, even 2 months in the station wasn’t enough to learn everything, moreover practice the more complicated techniques.
What does tempering chocolate actually mean?
To temper chocolate is to heat, cool and heat chocolate again so as to stabilize the fat in chocolate and form stable crystals. These stable crystals are the ones that will make it firm and shiny in room temperature.
White Chocolate Milk Chocolate Dark Chocolate 1) First Heating
50C (122F) 55C (131F) 2) Cooling
3) Second Heating
29-30C(84-86F) 29-30C (84-86F)
There are several ways to temper chocolate. The traditional way (the most difficult and messiest!) is to tabler the chocolate – spread 2/3 of the melted chocolate on a marble surface until it reaches the cooling stage temperature and then add it back into the bowl. The easier way (and more practical at home) is to add ‘stable’ chocolate into the melted one. For example if you are working with white chocolate:
Step 1 – First divide the amount you are going to work with into 2/3 and 1/3 portions.
Step 2 – Take the 2/3 portion and melt it in a heatproof bowl over a bain-marie to 45C (113F).
Step 3 - Remove the bowl from heat and add the remaining 1/3 of your chocolate into the bowl.
Step 4 - Mix well until it cools to 27 C (81F) and the chocolate is smooth.
If there are a few lumps, you can use the hairdryer to melt it in the next step. If there are a lot, it might be better to melt the whole batch again.
Step 5 - Using a hair dryer, heat the sides of the bowl until the chocolate reaches 30C (86F). Actually a trick we learned at the pastry shop was to put the bowl directly over a stove for 5-10 seconds. This isn’t recommended if you are still studying in cooking school or you have a conservative employer/teacher!
If you are tempering milk or dark chocolate, you need only adjust the temperature according to the table above.
Although the process might sound or look daunting at first, it gets easier with practice. The good news is making chocolate at home can be done at your own pace. Even if you make mistakes or are messy, there will be no one shouting at you. Practice does make better and imagine what you can do with this later.
Dark Chocolate Hello Kitty