tempering-chocolate

I’ll be honest, today was horrible and I just got a text message (AT 8:30 PM WTF) from my job (NO NO NO) about some last minute ridiculous crap for an event we’re doing tomorrow (I HATE IT ALL), so now I’m rage eating macadamia nuts and probably going to bed.  AND I CAN’T THINK OF AN EMBARRASSING STORY (that is also not THE MOST tragic), so here’s one that is a) 100% something I could still see myself doing, and b) really pathetic.

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YOLO moments: YOYO cups

Tempered chocolate with raspberry mousse, nutella and crunchy chocolate

The moment I got home and saw these lined up on the counter, with my mother proudly beaming at her new chocolate-tempering abilities, I knew it was a diet yolo moment. Who needs a diet when you have this?

So-called YOYO cups, they are cups of perfection. I loved the crunchy bits inside the most, and even though I initially found the red color disconcerting (I know, I’m not avant-garde enough for this madness) it was raspberry flavoured dark chocolate. How could it go wrong? 

Chocolate and Tempering

I used to not really be a chocolate kind of person.   There are friends I know that hold chocolate as a sacred gift, a holy thing.  

Not to be messed with, not to be dissed or dismissed or spoken of negatively in any kind of way whatsoever. 



A few years ago, I would shrug and go “Meh, chocolate.  I’ve got citrus.  I’m a citrus kind of gal.” 

I still am.  I love anything so tart that it makes your toes curl and your hair stand on end.  



But that’s another post! 

I’ve been casually learning how to temper chocolate.  And I say this on a non-professional, amateur noob level.

 
Professional level stuff is kind of scary.  I’ve peeked at a few recipes and they are not the recipes that you or I know of.  It’s weight, grams, ratios and a few blurbs of lines.  




They assume you know and have memorized basic stuff.  Techniques, temperatures..all memorized.  The chemical reasons WHY you are doing certain things or manipulating heat to change crystal structures of sugar and chocolate.  My hats are off to you professionals! You guys are awesome. 

I am a souless robot, and I will always, at the very least, need to look at a recipe for SOME kind of inspiration.  And I’m ok with that.  For now. 

That being said, being able to temper chocolate at home is pretty awesome.  I feel like a tiny creator of a magnificent, shiny treasure. 



It takes your home baking to Another Level.   It also elevates chocolate rather as a mere flavor into its own delightful course.  It’s shiny, brittle, crisp and it snaps and makes this wonderful noise when you bite into a tempered chocolate piece. 

On the other hand, it’s a HUGE pain.  

Things I have learned (the hard way and the easy way)  when you want to temper chocolate:

  • WATER IS YOUR NUMBER 1 ENEMY—never ever let it touch chocolate, EVER
  • Avoid Humidity or tempering on humid days 
  • Set Aside Uninterruptable Quiet Time when tempering chocolate, and plenty of space 
  • Have a really good digital thermometer or candy thermometer handy 
  • Chocolate doesn’t like to be man-handled, be delicate 
  • Gently stir the  chocolate to avoid air bubbles 
  • Polycarbonate molds or silicone molds are best when trying to make chocolate pieces, wash them and dry THOROUGHLY just before filling or dust/flecks will appear on your chocolates! 
  • Plan ahead when making filled chocolates
  • Have parchment paper on hand or a spoon 
  • Be Patient 
  • Seriously, be really patient






I think I started getting into it because chocolates are the only dessert that Tubbs has a weakness for.  I have made cakes, cookies, pastry and puddings, and almost always he can pass on them. 




Which made me sad for a while because I love baking.  I love putting in effort and seeing a direct result, be it a failure or success, of my efforts. 

Now that I can make chocolates on a basic level, I think Tubbs has a fear for his waistline.

 

I’ve looked up quite a few (see here, here, here, here and here) methods in to how to temper chocolate, and what I will detail is sort of a mix of two methods as well as some of my own tips and tricks.   

If you haven’t read the links, tempering pretty much results in crisp, shiny smooth chocolate that snaps when broken and does not melt at room temperature (room temperature defined as  60 to 65 degrees). 



Tempering usually consists of a first heat to a very high temperature, then a rapid cool down, then a gently heat towards anywhere from 87-91 degrees F depending on the type of chocolate.  

You can tell your temper is successful if you dip a tiny nip of parchment, or slather the back of a teaspoon with a thin layer of chocolate and place it in the fridge for a few minutes.  If it is shiny and smooth, and snaps when broken,  then you have successfully tempered.  

I’m using here a mix of Joe Pastry’s tempering and David Lebovitz’s method mashed together.  

EQUIPMENT! 

Do not proceed without a fairly accurate digital thermometer, plastic/silicone or polycarbonate molds if you’re a high roller and really want to get into it (or plain ol parchment paper placed on a baking sheet), spoon for stirring, one bowl for water, a bowl to melt and hold your chocolate, cutting board, chef’s knife, a plate to hold your thermometer and wooden spoon and a few paper towels. 

Also, make sure EVERYTHING is BONE DRY.  No water whatsoever should touch the chocolate and if it does you pretty much can’t temper with it or make chocolates.  You’ll have to use new chocolate and start from scratch. 

In case it does seize.



Also make sure you have some uninterrupted time.  DO NOT WALK AWAY from anything when tempering chocolate.   It’s a fickle beast that is very sensitive to temperatures.  If you are uncomfortable with the thought of spending dedicated time (upwards to half an hour to an hour) then DO NOT proceed! Tempering chocolate is DEFINITELY not for the impatient OR the unfocused.  I know it sounds overly paranoid but it’s true. 


Since Tubbs and I are unabashed chocolate snobs, the following method and temperatures are listed for dark chocolate.  Shirley Corriher  mentions other temperatures if you want to temper milk or dark, so refer to those temperatures if you are doing anything other than dark.

 


The above is what I used to temper chocolate.  It’s a combination of the microwave and a bowl of tap cold water (filled VERY low)  with a few ice cubes thrown in.   

Since I’m using a bowl  containing water to alter the temperature, I made VERY sure that the bowl I have that is holding my chocolate is very high so that there is no chance of water from the shallow bowls reaching it.  

That being said, also be careful when you are using your hands to move the bowls and that condensation from outside of the bowls does not reach your fingers, which could also accidentally brush up against the interior of the chocolate bowl.  Also make sure your chocolate bowl fits into the shallow bowl. 


Have  your shallow bowl filled very low with cold tap water.  Throw a few ice cubes in.  Keep it at a low level, since when you put your  chocolate bowl into the shallow bowl, the water will rise and you don’t want the water to accidentally spill over.  




First, take whatever amount of chocolate you have.  If it’a chocolate bar/brick, chop it up into evenly small pieces as you can with a chef’s knife on a cutting board. 



If you have chocolate chips (discs/callets) then you’re pretty set.  It’s highly recommended to get the best quality you can afford.  At the moment I’m using Trader Joe’s 1lb brick of 72% dark chocolate.  It doesn’t nearly have the depth of flavor say Guittard or Callebaut has, but since I’m a noobie and it’s also quite inexpensive I’m fine with it.  





Now that you have your chopped pieces of chocolate, set aside 1/3 of it in a bowl or a cup.  We’re going to be using the 1/3 for the cool down part of the tempering.  


The remainder 2/3 chocolate put in your melting bowl with high sides.  To heat the chocolate, I used the microwave. I have a 950 watt microwave and I heat the chocolate at 30 second intervals.  Please adjust and err on the side of LOWER time so you do not accidentally scorch or burn your chocolate.  YMMV with these intervals, adjust accordingly to your microwave! 




Microwave your chocolate for 30 seconds or less.  

After EVERY 30 seconds of heat, take the bowl out of the microwave and gently stir with your spoon.  Stir for about 10 seconds.  Residual heat from the bowl will continue to raise the temperature.
 

There is no set amount of times that you have to do this, but after EVERY blast of heat, take it out of the microwave, gently stir, and use your thermometer to check the temperature.

You’re looking for 120 f. If you get close to 117 it’s probably fine, just keep stirring since it will most likely keeping crawling upwards.  Microwave at lower power and/or lower time.  That’s the first heat! 





The next part is rapid cool down.   With your chocolate bowl on your counter, next to the cold shallow tap water filled bowl, add the 1/3 set aside chocolate into your melted chocolate.  



Now, stir gently and not too quickly (to prevent getting air bubbles in your chocolate).  Keep stirring until all of the chocolate is thoroughly melted.  This may take a few minutes. 




After the chocolate is fully stirred, CAREFULLY set your chocolate bowl into the cold tap water bowl, making sure not to get any water into the chocolate bowl.  If you’re concerned you’ve got water on your hands, have a towel nearby to wipe your hands dry.  



Stir the chocolate in the cold tap water for a few seconds, and check the temperature again.  





You’re going to Cool down the chocolate to 82-84 F.  As the temperature nears 85-86 F it’s safe to take the bowl out of the cold tap water and keep gently stirring. 


Now back to heating it up, but gently and at 89 F.  I microwave at 20-30% power at 5-7 second intervals, stirring after EVERY interval and checking the temperature with the thermometer. 

I know it’s more of a pain this way, but you get to control the heat. It is FAR better to have it slowly rise upward in temperature to 89 F than it is to jump up past the desired temperature, otherwise you will have to start the WHOLE tempering process again.  I have been impatient and done it once, I promise you you do not want to do it again! 


To test the tempered chocolate, dip the back of a spoon into the chocolate bowl.  Then set the spoon in the fridge for a few minutes.  If it is shiny and glossy, the chocolate is probably properly tempered! 

Congratulations! You have probably done one of the most fickle, pain in the butt things to do.  I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I first did it.  It’s not professional, but in relative terms of the home baker I think it’s a pretty great achievement.  



The possiblities are endless from here on out.  

If you have chocolate molds, you can fill them and then also make say, a Fondant filling and add oils to suit your tastes.   The only downside is you’d need to do a second temper to cap off the chocolate molds. 

You could also make a ganache and add flavorings to that as well.   You could infuse the cream with herbs or oils then make the ganache as directed.  

Or a peanut butter filling.

You could also just use it to cover fruit like strawberries, raspberries, or apples.  





When covering fruit, make sure the fruit is at ROOM temperature and absolutely bone dry. 

I made the mistake of adding tempered chocolate to strawberries directly out of the fridge and well, the result wasn’t too pretty.  It was still tasty, but definitely not appealing visually.  

I hope this helps you decide in whether or not you want to decide to temper chocolate on your own, or run away screaming in the other direction! 




If you are intrigued by the process and wish to proceed further into chocolates, I highly recommend Andrew Shotts’ “Artisan Chocolates.”  It is an incredibly detailed, thorough book on making chocolates.  I have made quite a few of his recipes and they are stellar with very clear instructions! 

So if there are any professional bakers please feel free to ping me with corrections, I admit that I am human and might’ve made mistakes, so sorry in advance! 

I hope this helps for those interested in learning the tempering process! 


EDIT: I turned this post into a quick cheat sheet that you can purchase as a poster from my Society6 page if you so choose! Treats and Meats Tempering Poster

DIY Kitchen Science: Fancy Chocolate Treats

Chocolate-covered strawberries have an innate beauty in their simplicity, making this snack both sweet and decadent. But this gourmet treat does not have to be expensive nor only savored at special events. Although it’s not quite as simple as dipping strawberries into soupy chocolate sauce, you can easily make chocolate-covered strawberries in your very own kitchen with a basket of strawberries, a bag of chocolate, and a little patience. Read more…

Photo credit: Jesús Rodriguez (hezoos/Flickr)

Why do we temper chocolate?

It dries to a hard, shiny finish. You end up getting chocolate that doesn’t melt at room temperature, breaks with a nice snap instead of crumbling apart, white streaks do not appear on top of the chocolate and is perfect for coating candies. // Angela

Here are links to help you temper chocolate:

I must have heated hundreds of bowls of chocolate in the microwave ovr the last few days and it’s finally happened - I’ve left the metal spoon in the bowl. Hush! Nothinging happened and NOBODY NEEDS TO KNOW!

Actually it was probably pretty exciting to watch but I wasn’t. Which is sad because if you’re goig to blow something up you should be there to watch it happen.

Peppermint Bark Cups

Don’t let tempering chocolate scare you! My method is super easy and fast.
I switched up my recipe so I could put it in mini muffin cups. Makes for a sweet treat to hand around at the end of a meal or as a parting gift for party guests.

Peppermint Bark Cups
1 12oz package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 12oz. package White Chocolate Chips
3 tablespoons crushed Peppermint Candy

Crush your peppermint…

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Tempered Chocolate Fiasco

Oh  man, today was not a good day to temper chocolate -_-‘

Okay, first let me touch on what exactly tempered chocolate is and what it’s for. When you temper chocolate you play with the crystallization of the sugars so you can form different things from the chocolate and have it keep its shape. Like for fancy chocolate show pieces, or even dipped strawberries. The crystallization prevents the chocolate from melting easily. And basically you mess with the temperature of the chocolate to temper it.

Well, today we were tempering dark chocolate to make a few little chocolate pieces for a garnish in our upcoming final practical (Erm, our only practical for that matter) and dark chocolate needs to stay between 82F to 90F to get the crystallization and it’s acceptable to use around 84F or so.

Our lab’s internal temperature was somewhere in the 90’s or higher today, making tempering chocolate physically impossible. I found out that our labs are “cooled” by taking out the air of the lab, and returning the air from outside, without cooling it. Well turns out today was actually hotter than the heat that is produced by the ovens/stoves in our lab, so there was absolutely no relief. Everyone in the class was attempting to temper and nothing was happening. After the first 45 minutes of class Chef A decided to have us use cheap, chemically enhanced chocolate to help with the tempering stage. The chocolate we used was “pre-tempered” so it is specifically made to temper when heated, no matter what.

However, that didn’t mean our chocolates were going to set. Nope, the lab was so hot, the chocolate got somewhat firm, but wouldn’t hold without the assistance of the walk-in…the only problem is we share a small walk in with a neighboring lab, and they just so happened to have prepped out several trays of things for a specialty weekend class tomorrow…thus leaving nearly no room to leave our things to chill.

I only got 2 of the 3 items we were supposed to create done. The chocolate cigarettes wouldn’t form from the heat, and the few I managed to get by dipping my bench scraper in ice water instantly melted when I tried to put them on the sheet tray. My chocolate curls kept uncurling too, so they’re pretty mangled. The only thing I feel confident about are the shapes I cut out. I made three triforces, a bunch of circles and some squares. Hopefully those stay intact.

Today was just overall a rough day, and not a good day to work with chocolate…

 

These are chocolate cigarettes.

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Cocoa Butter Crystals!!!

Cocoa Butter forms solid crystals which are polymorphic and can end up sticky or otherwise unpleasant if you do it wrong…

Quote from “Chocolate Exquisite” website

Tempering can be defined as a thermal and mechanical procedure of crystal orientation, by selecting the most stable crystals. Stable beta crystals are created in the melted chocolate, which will help in the proper crystallisation of the entire cocoa butter later during cooling. For successful tempering, these stable crystal seeds have to be created. This is called the pre-crystallisation phase. Pre-crystallisation depends not only on the temperature at which the product is set, but also the duration of this temperature change and the amount it is agitated. Agitation creates thermal change within the chocolate that can result in poor tempering. The quantity of crystal seeds is very important as too few stable beta crystals results in a non-moulded chocolate surface that will have a grainy texture after solidification. This is called under-tempering. If there are too many crystal seeds, the turning out after moulding (poor contraction) will be more difficult, and a white film may also may occur. This is called over-tempering.

There are many types of tempering techniques – the most classic is manual tempering. In this type of tempering the chocolate is heated to 40-45 C (104-113 F). It is then worked on a granite or marble table with a spatula and a metal scraper to reduce the temperature: for dark chocolate down to 28 C (82.5 F); milk, white or coloured chocolate 26 C (79 F). The chocolate begins to thicken as the beta crystals multiply. The mixture is then heated to 31-33 C (88-91.5F) for dark chocolate and to 29-30 C (84-87F) for the others. The beta crystals now predominate.

Source: [ x ]

 
 

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Modeling Chocolate, part two.

 On day 1 of lab, we made chocolate candy, using tempered chocolate, and making fillings for the candies. We also made piped chocolate and put a variety of toppings on it, including candied nuts, dried fruits, and Oreo crumbs. The Oreo’s were a hit. 

Tempering chocolate has tricks, and one of the tricks is knowing the temperature of your room. The lab today was varying, making the process extremely difficult, and causing streaks in the chocolate as it hardened. Properly tempered chocolate will have a nice, even sheen to it, and when you break it or bite it, the resulting snap is the most pleasing sound to a frustrated baker. 

A quick way to test it is to coat the back of your pallet knife (Offset spatula) and put it in the fridge. The benefit of the knife is that it bends easily, making the snap test really easy to accomplish. It also gives you a wide surface area without wasting too much chocolate, allowing easy view of streaks.

Tempering chocolate is important, because there are a variety of fats and crystals in chocolate. What tempering does is melt them all down, to create a more stable product, with even distribution. The streaks mentioned previously are from the cocoa butter, indicating improper tempering and poor distribution. 

On Day two, we managed to start working with the Modeling chocolate. Cue major frustration. You see, hands are a funny thing. For baking, you absolutely need them to do what you want, but they very rarely do. In my case, they change temperatures in the extremes. I started off with warm hands, which is great, because I was able to mold my chocolate easily and it took a minute to set up, but the patience was minimal, so it worked beautifully. 

Then I washed my hands. And they got really cold. The chocolate refused my guidance, making it very difficult to make any progress. The lab progressively got colder at that point, causing everyone to be frustrated. Class ended, and many of us had to leave our half finished showpieces safe in the lab.

I returned to finish, and made my owl. Not the most creative, but it looked cute, so I was pleased.