Techniques

Tempering Chocolate

Skill level
Time
50 Minutes

Why do I need to temper my chocolate?

There are two types of chocolate which can be used for baking, cooking or melting, real chocolate and compound.

When you are buying chocolate from the supermarket, it has already been tempered and therefore looks shiny, hard and snaps crisply when broken. However, once you melt it, in order for it to return to a shiny hard appearance and texture, you must temper it again.

Most likely you will only need to temper real chocolate at home if you are making your own chocolates using chocolate moulds or wanting to give your desserts a glossy hard chocolate finish. Tempering will ensure that your chocolate regains its shine and prevents it from appearing cloudy or blotchy when finally set.

So what happens once tempered chocolate is melted?

The cocoa butter crystals are in suspension with the cocoa solids until the chocolate is warmed. Once you have warmed the chocolate, this suspension is broken and when the chocolate cools, the cocoa butter crystals rise to the top, making white streaks on the tops of your chocolate sweets. This is called ‘blooming’. It won’t affect the flavour, but it doesn’t look very good!

Tempering returns the cocoa butter crystals to suspension within the chocolate and produces a chocolate with a deep shiny gloss.

This is the simplest way of tempering chocolate at home:

Kitchen utensils required (ideally)

  1. Double boiler, or a saucepan and heat proof bowl to fit snugly on top of the open saucepan
  2. Candy thermometer
  3. Rubber spatula

Method

  1. Coarsely chop the amount of chocolate your recipe specifies
  2. Place ⅔ of the chocolate in a double boiler over gently simmering water. Ensure the water does not touch the bottom of the double boiler or your chocolate may overheat and lose its shine and smoothness
  3. Melt the chocolate until the temperature reaches 45°C on a cooking thermometer
  4. Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate; stir with a spatula from time to time
  5. Keep stirring the melted chocolate until it cools down to 27°C, and return to the heat stirring gently until the chocolate reaches 32°C
  6. Once the chocolate is smooth and shiny, it is ready to be used for chocolate curls, as coating or poured into chocolate moulds. 
Type of chocolate Melting to Cool down to Heat back up to
Dark chocolate 45°C 27°C 32°C
Milk chocolate 45°C 26°C 29°C
White chocolate 40°C 25°C 28°C

 

Microwave Melting of Chocolate

Chocolate always needs care when melting it. To melt it in the microwave, use a clean microwave proof bowl (plastic is perfect, if it is really clean, as it doesn’t retain heat) and only use 50% power. (if you do a lot of chocolate work keep a bowl specifically for chocolate melting only)

Break or chop the chocolate into small even sized pieces, or use melts, and place in the bowl. (Melt in batches, to avoid overheating, if you have more than 500g.)

Begin to melt the chocolate: Microwave on 50% power in 20 second increments, stirring the chocolate between each burst of power.  Stirring the chocolate helps to evenly heat the chocolate and avoid hot spots. For 250-500g chocolate use 3 or 4 x 20 second bursts, then 1 or 2 x10 second bursts. Only microwave the chocolate until about 75% of it has melted. The rest will melt as you stir it, due to residual heat.

This gentle application of heat will safeguard against overheating your chocolate, and it will help to preserve the temper of the chocolate.

Use a digital thermometer to gauge the temperature…this takes the guess work out of the process.

For dark chocolate heat only to approx. 30-32°C

For milk chocolate heat only to approx... 29-30°C

For white chocolate heat only to approx...28-29°C

Allow the chocolate to cool a little. Dip a spoon in it and set aside.. If it sets fairly quickly (in 3-5 minutes) it has likely retained its temper and you can proceed to coat or enrobe  truffles , spoon or pipe into moulds or spread on a flat surface to make chocolate curls etc.