Tempering chocolate is simply melting chocolate in a particular way, stabilizing the fat crystals so that after cooling, the chocolate will be thin, glossy and crisp. Tempered chocolate contracts slightly, allows candies to pop out of molds and also adds a polished look to your dipped candies and truffles – literally in that they will have a high shine, and figuratively because they will look quite professional. You can also use tempered chocolate to make elegant decorations for cakes and other desserts, so it is a technique worth knowing.
Begin with a high cocoa butter chocolate, typically labeled as couverture, for best results and make sure the chocolate you are using is in good temper itself. It should be shiny, free of any streaks or mottling and it should snap when you break it. A chocolate thermometer (one that measures one-degree increments from 40˚ to 130˚) is required for best results.
- Start with desired amount of chocolate as stated in recipe and make sure it is finely chopped.
- Place about two-thirds of the total amount in the top of a double boiler with gently simmering water in the lower half of the double boiler.
- Stir gently to encourage melting, but don’t agitate vigorously, which would add air.
- Do not allow chocolate to heat above 115˚ for bittersweet and semisweet chocolate and 110˚ for milk or white chocolate. As soon as the chocolate is almost completely melted, remove from the heat and wipe the bottom of the pot to eliminate any chances of water droplets reaching the chocolate, which would cause it to seize.
- Add about one-third of the remaining chopped chocolate and stir gently. The residual heat will melt it. You want to cool the chocolate down to 79˚.
- Add the remaining chocolate, in two more stages, if necessary to cool chocolate further, continuing to stir gently until 79˚ is reached. Any un-melted chocolate can be removed and reserved for another use.
- Place pot back over hot, not simmering water, and re-warm gently. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolates should be brought up to 88˚ to 90˚; milk chocolate between 85˚ to 88˚ and white chocolate should be brought to 84˚ to 87˚. Do not allow any chocolate to rise above 90˚ or you will have to begin entire process again (although you may use the same chocolate again, we prefer to always start with chocolate in good temper). Sometimes chocolate labels will tell you what their specific tempering temperature is, so heed their advice.
- The chocolate is now ready to use.
- To test the temper, thinly spread a teaspoon amount on a piece of aluminum foil and allow it to cool. If your room temperature is warm, refrigerate it for about 2 minutes. The chocolate should look shiny and smooth and break with a crisp snap. Any dull spots or streaks, or a soft texture, indicate that the chocolate is not in good temper.
- Now you must retain the chocolate’s temperature while you are working with it. Try setting a heating pad on low and placing your bowl of tempered chocolate on top of it. Always keep checking the temperature keeping it within its range. Stir it occasionally to keep the entire amount evenly heated as it will cool around the edges.
Note that it is easiest to temper at least 8 ounces of chocolate and it is really not that much more difficult to temper three or four times that amount. If you are making several kinds of candies and truffles that require tempered chocolate, do them on the same day so as to take advantage of one big batch. Any leftover can be allowed to harden, then you can chop it up and fold it into your favorite ice cream or cookie batter, or save for more dipping (you will have to temper it again).