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.
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