Tempering Chocolate: The Basics
Tempering chocolate is the controlled process of melting, cooling, and re-solidifying chocolate to create a stable crystal structure. Chocolate is composed of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. These components can form different types of crystals depending on how the chocolate is handled during melting and cooling. The goal of tempering is to form specific crystals that give chocolate a glossy appearance, satisfying snap, and smooth texture.
The Science Behind the Magic
When chocolate overheats, its cocoa butter crystals become disorganized. The name for these types of crystals are alpha crystals. If left to cool on their own, these crystals will randomly re-solidify, resulting in dull-looking, grainy chocolate with a less-than-ideal texture. However, by controlling the cooling process through tempering, we can encourage the formation of stable cocoa butter crystals known as beta crystals. These beta crystals align uniformly throughout the chocolate, resulting in the ideal shine and snap.
Why Tempering Chocolate Matters
- Appearance: Tempered chocolate has a stunning, glossy sheen that’s visually appealing and instantly signals quality to your customers. Whether you’re crafting delicate decorations or coating truffles, tempered chocolate adds a touch of elegance to your creations.
- Texture: The snap and texture of tempered chocolate are unparalleled. Imagine sinking your teeth into a piece of chocolate that breaks with a satisfying crack and melts smoothly on your tongue. This is the result of tempering chocolate correctly.
- Shelf Stability: Tempered chocolate resists blooming, which is the development of white streaks or spots on the surface due to changes in the cocoa butter crystals. Proper tempering ensures that your treats stay looking and tasting their best for longer periods.
Tempering Techniques: Finding Your Sweet Spot
There are various methods to temper chocolate, including seeding, tabling, blocking, microwaving, and using a tempering machine. While each technique has its unique approach, they all involve a combination of melting, cooling, and reheating chocolate to specific temperatures. Experiment with these methods to find the one that aligns best with your equipment, skills, and the volume of chocolate you’re working with. Each professional chocolate you purchase will come with its own set of tempering instructions, and it is important to follow these when trying a new ingredient. We offer selections of Belcolade and Callebaut chocolate that are perfect for every application.
First, bring 2/3 of your professional chocolate to the melting temperature. Add in the remaining 1/3 of chopped solid tempered chocolate to the bowl and stir continuously while cooling. The solid chocolate contains good beta crystals which will encourage stable crystals to form in the melted chocolate. After the chocolate has cooled, keep it at the recommended working temperature to apply to your desserts.
The blocking method is similar but instead of seeding the melted chocolate with small chunks, a large solid chocolate block is added. Once your melted chocolate reaches temper, the block is taken out and can be reused another time. This method is slightly more time consuming, but is advantageous because the block is easily removed and there is no risk of having chunks in the final product.
Chop your chocolate into fine pieces. Melt it in the microwave on high for 30 second intervals, being sure to stir and check the temperature in between. You want the temperature to remain consistent at the indicated working temperature. If you overheat your chocolate, you will have to bring it up to the recommended melting temperature and use an alternate method to temper.
How Can You Tell if You Tempered Correctly?
The easiest method for beginners to check their tempered chocolate is the parchment test. Start by dipping a small piece of parchment in the tempered chocolate. Leave it on the counter to cool down. Within 5 minutes you should start seeing dull streaks throughout the chocolate. This is a good sign, and means your chocolate will properly solidify. After 10 minutes go by the chocolate should be hard, and you should hear a snap when it is broken. If your chocolate passes this test, congratulations you’ve successfully tempered!