This is a follow on to the last blog post on tempering chocolate- we’ve had the why, and now the how! This is just a brief overview on the different methods; I can always go into more detail if there is a call for it!
As discussed previously, when you temper chocolate you take it through a series of temperatures to allow the crystals in the cocoa butter to set in the ideal formation. It is a three stage process: melting out any crystals present, introducing the crystals that we want, and then bringing and holding the chocolate at the correct temperature. To begin with, the chocolate needs to be melted to 45°, which ensures there are no rogue crystals that will ruin your temper. Then, we need to introduce those wonderful Beta crystals, by either working a portion of the chocolate on a marble slab until it reaches the right temperature, or by adding seed chocolate that is already in temper. By adding in the seed crystals, or adding back in the tabled chocolate, you should reach the ideal working temperature.
Things that you will need!
A clean, dry bowl (plastic or glass is fine- just remember that glass will retain heat longer than plastic)
A microwave or double boiler
A thermometer (an instant read is best, but any good digital thermometer will be fine!)
Couverture Chocolate - recommended brands include Lindt, Valrhona, Callebaut, Cacao Barry or Republica del Cacao. Each of these brands have their own temperature curve for the recommended temperatures, so it’s best to look them up before you work with them! It’s easiest to temper chocolate when you have at least 500g! Amounts smaller than this will set up too quickly, and be difficult to work with. If you’re just getting started, dark chocolate is the easiest to work with.
A cool place to work - ideally, your workspace won’t be any warmer than about 20°.
There are two ways that are usually recommended to melt your chocolate, either in the microwave or on the stove using a double boiler. I much prefer using a microwave, on short bursts on a medium power, no more than 30 seconds at a time. By using the microwave, you’re removing any risk of water or steam getting into your chocolate, which will cause it to seize. If you prefer a double boiler, and you accidentally get water into your chocolate, don’t stress! Simply add some hot cream and a flavouring of your choice, and you have ganache!
Seeding is the easiest way to master home tempering! The chocolate that you buy -if it has been looked after- is already in temper. Melt two thirds of your chocolate, and then add most of the remaining third, stirring until it is all melted and beautifully glossy. Check that it has reached 31° for dark, 30° for milk or 29° for white, as a general guide. If it is still warmer than this, add in small amounts of chopped chocolate until you reach it! If it is cooler than this, carefully warm the chocolate, being careful not to take it too high, which will bring it out of temper. A hairdryer is actually very useful for this! The temperature of the chocolate that you add in will dictate how long it takes to temper- the cooler it is, the quicker it will be.
When people think of tempering chocolate, this is often what comes to mind! A chocolatier spreading chocolate on a marble slab, moving it around until it’s reached just the right consistency. If you’re not practised, this can be quite messy! Small marble slabs can be picked up from most cooking stores for around $20 if you want to give it a go!
Pour out two thirds of your chocolate onto the slab, and spread it out with an offset spatula.Once it is all spread out (being careful not to push it over the edges), scrape it all back into a nice pile in the middle of the slab using a bench scraper. This does two things- firstly, it allows the marble to cool, and secondly, it brings all the chocolate to the same temperature. Repeat this process of spreading until it reaches between 25°-27°, then carefully scrape it all back into your remaining chocolate. After a good stir, you should be right at the working temperature!
This last one is one of the easiest options, but you do have to be very careful! Melt the chocolate carefully, stirring between each burst in the microwave, until between a half and two thirds is melted. If you haven’t warmed it too much, the chocolate that hasn’t yet melted acts at the seed chocolate! If you accidentally warm it too much, simply melt it out to 45 and follow one of the methods above.
Now it’s time to test! Use a strip of baking paper, and dip one side in the chocolate. You don't want too thick a layer, as it will take too long to set; it should only take a few minutes, but remember, the warmer the room, the longer it will take! After after 3 minutes, you should see the edge of the chocolate setting, and after 10 minutes, it should be fully set and have curled slightly. It should make a nice snap sound if you break it when fully set, and it feels smooth and silky when you run your finger over it. If it is streaky, but sets otherwise, it just needs some more stirring, and if it hasn’t set, simply melt out your chocolate again and repeat the process. It’s always better to start again then trying to work with uncooperative chocolate.
Holding the chocolate at the right temperature is tricky, which is why you see chocolatiers use specialised holding tanks! A folded tea towel under your bowl, and a gentle warming with your hair dryer if it starts to cool will help hold it at the right temperature. Check it with your thermometer to make sure it stays right where you want it!
And that’s it! It can seem daunting, but if you’re careful, ensure you have plenty of time, and stay cool, then you’ll be fine!