Why is it necessary to temper chocolate?
Manufactured chocolate – the chocolate you buy as an ingredient for cooking – must be tempered before it is used in confectionery for dipped or molded chocolates. Tempering is done for three important reasons:
It gives candies a desirable glossy appearance. It makes the chocolate easier to handle as a solid. It also gives a ‘snap’ to the chocolate when you bite into it. If you don’t temper, chocolate can have a dull, matte appearance, develop spots, and be soft to the bite.
Scientifically, tempering helps to establish beta crystals in a portion of the cocoa butter. This is a very specific type of crystal that is desirable in couverture. Temper is established within a narrow temperature range. For dark, bittersweet chocolate, temper occurs between 88°F and 90°F, with the target being 89°F. For milk chocolate, the range is 86°F to 88°F, with the target being 87°F.
What special equipment is required?
All equipment should be perfectly clean and dry.
Thermometer, reads from 40-140°F. Use the type that is used for sauces or bread; a candy thermometer is not recommended as it reads in a much higher range
Strong, short-blade knife
Hot water 120-130°F.
Several small towels on which to place utensils when not in use
Parchment, waxed paper, or aluminum foil
Selected molds, for molded chocolates
Baking trays on which to place wet, dipped pieces
What is the first step?
The first step is breaking the chocolate into pieces. If you are using Collection Etienne chocolate wafers, this first step is not necessary. Skip to “What is the best way to temper chocolate?” below. If using Collection Etienne 2oz bars, breaking may be done by hand, as these bars break easily into even 1-ounce and smaller squares. If working with larger blocks of chocolate, break chocolate into chunks of one-half to one-inch across. Use a cutting board and a strong, short-blade knife. Insert the tip straight down into the chocolate until the chocolate cracks. Trying to slice chocolate does not work well.
Tip: Even though it seems like a large knife is needed for a large job such as breaking chocolate, a strong, short blade knife or an ice pick is best. Place the piece of chocolate on a flat, well-supported cutting surface. Position the chocolate, then force the knife through at a right angle to the surface to shatter the chocolate. It is safest to not hold on to the chocolate while shattering. When breaking is done properly, the pieces rarely move too far from the block.
What is the best way to temper chocolate?
There is no single ‘best’ method – chefs each have their individual preferences, although if you have never tempered chocolate before, this first method is a good place to start. Other alternatives follow for those who wish to experiment, learn and compare methods.
Melt chocolate in top pan of double boiler over water that is about 130°F. Use a rubber spatula in a gentle sweeping motion to stir the chocolate continually until about 2/3 of the chunks become liquid and about 1/3 are in soft lumps. The temperature of the liquid chocolate at this point will be about 95°F. Take the top pan off the bottom of the double boiler and continue stirring to cool the chocolate until the soft lumps disappear and the temperature lowers to 89°F (87°F for milk chocolate). At this point the chocolate should be in temper and ready to use.
Tips: The water in the bottom of the double boiler should not touch the bottom of the top pan when it is inserted. Use hottest tap water of between 120-130°F, or heat water on stovetop to 120-130°F.
Place the top pan over the water and fill with the chunks. Begin stirring in a gentle, sweeping motion that lifts the chocolate off the bottom and sides and lets it get the greatest exposure to the warm surface of the pan.
In about 5 minutes or less the chocolate will be partially liquid (about 2/3) and partially chunks (about 1/3). When the chocolate temperature is about 95°F take the top pan off the bottom pan and wipe it dry. Place it on the counter top and continue stirring and cooling the chocolate until it reaches 89°F.
Check to see if the chocolate is ready and in good temper by placing a teaspoon of liquid chocolate on a scrap of parchment or waxed paper and place it in the cooling area to set. It should begin to look dry on the surface in about 3 minutes. If this is so, begin with the dipping or molding. If not, continue stirring for another 3 minutes.
What is the ‘mush method’ of tempering chocolate?
This alternative method is the classic, old-fashioned method that is still used by many professionals today, and helpful for reheating previously tempered chocolate that has bloomed.
Melt chocolate in top pan of double boiler over water that is about 130°F. Use a rubber spatula in a gentle sweeping motion to stir the chocolate continually until all of the chunks become liquid. The temperature of the chocolate at this point will be about 115°F, or heat until it is 115°F. Take the top pan off the bottom of the double boiler. Change the water in the bottom pan to be 95°F. Dry the underside of the top pan with a towel. Pour out one-fourth of the liquid chocolate on to the backside of a baking tray or other smooth, dry, washable surface. (Marble is the first choice of professional chefs.) Replace the top pan onto the bottom pan of the double boiler to maintain temperature at 95°F. With a rubber spatula, mush the puddle of chocolate. Alternately spread and scrape until the chocolate becomes thick and dull. Work the thickened mush back into the warm chocolate in the top of the double boiler that shall have cooled to 95°F until there are no lumps. At this point the chocolate should be in temper and ready to use.
How do you temper chocolate in a microwave oven?
Place chocolate in a microwave-proof bowl. Place the bowl of chocolate in the microwave oven. Set power level to 5 or 50%. Set time to 30 seconds. Heat for 30 seconds. Take the bowl out of microwave oven and use a rubber spatula in a gentle sweeping motion to stir the chocolate, even if none of it has become liquid yet. Return the bowl to the microwave oven. Heat for 30 seconds more. Remove. And stir. Repeat the intervals of heating and stirring until about two-thirds of the chunks become liquid and about one-third are in soft lumps. The temperature of the liquid chocolate at this point will be about 100°. Continually stir to cool the chocolate until the soft lumps disappear and the temperature lowers to 89°F. At this point the chocolate should be in temper and ready to use.