Temper, Temper

Anyone who works with chocolate knows that the cornerstone of good chocolate products is a proper temper, and no, I don’t mean your attitude! It takes practice and experience to get it right every time. So if you’ve ever had trouble with tempering at home, here are a few tips for you.

First let’s talk about what proper tempering is. Properly tempered chocolate will have a satisfying snap and be very glossy when molded, it will also have a smooth silky mouthfeel. Cocoa butter, the fats in chocolate, form different kinds of crystals under different circumstances. The goal of tempering chocolate is to form beta crystals that are small and have a regular formation. By heating the chocolate to a point when the crystals melt, agitating it while reducing the temperature you can coax the beta crystals to form.

You can do this by “tabliering”: which is pouring he melted chocolate onto a cool smooth surface and agitating constantly until the chocolate cools and thickens, and then adding warmer untempered chocolate to the cooler mass.

Or you can do this by using the “seeding” method; which is slowly heating the chocolate to a temperature which melts the crystals and then adding “seed” in the form of small pieces of tempered chocolate, and constantly agitating until the chocolate cools to the tempered temperature – (88-90F for dark chocolate). Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages and it’s largely a matter of personal choice. Tabliering takes a lot of counter space and can be quite messy until you’ve got the technique of using the scraper and spatula down pat but I find that it’s a faster method. Seeding can require having a lot of additional tempered chocolate on hand and takes about 20-30 minuted of constant stirring to achieve.

If you have trouble tempering chocolate there could be several culprits. The chocolate you begin with is key. High quality couverture is the best chocolate to temper, since it has a higher percentage of cocoa butter to form the beta crystals and few other additives that can interfere. Much of the chocolate you purchase in the supermarket has additives such as soy lecithin to raise the melting point of the chocolate – that’s how they can ship it all over the world and have it maintain its shape, form and temper with no bloom. Before using your chocolate it’s always smart to do a temper test. You can take a metal spatula and dab some chocolate on it or, what I do is just drizzle a small amount directly on a very clean stone counter top. The chocolate should harden to a satiny sheen in about 3-5 minutes. If it doesn’t, you haven’t achieved a good temper. If it hardens too quickly, you may have over tempered it. Under tempered chocolate won’t set properly – so you won’t get the beautiful gloss and snap. Over tempered chocolate has its own set of issues that can effect the quality of your finished product, we’ll cover that in the next post!

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