Picture of chocolate shavings
How To Temper Chocolate
Is it necessary to temper chocolate? A question I am frequently asked. The answer depends on what you are planning to do with the chocolate. For making items such as chocolate mousse, chocolate sorbet, chocolate cremeux and most fillings for chocolates or truffles tempering is absolutely not necessary.
For preparing items such as chocolate decorations, dipping truffles or molding chocolates, you have to use tempered chocolate. There is no other way around it. Anytime real chocolate is used to dip products such as cookies, petit fours, strawberries, chocolates or is used for decorative pieces, the chocolate has to be tempered. When chocolate is not tempered, essentially only melted, and then used for dipping truffles or any of the above mentioned items, it will not harden to a beautiful glossy finish with a crisp snap. Chocolate which is not tempered may take hours before it hardens and when it finally does, it will be dull in appearance with a grayish cast and have a very brittle and undesired texture. So it is clear to see, when chocolate is used for finishing work tempering is necessary.
Picture of instructions below, step 2 and 3, melting chocolate for tempering
Products such as chocolate flavored coating do not need to be tempered. These, by law, are not labeled chocolate because they are not. They are basically a type of a pseudo chocolate since they do not contain 100% pure cocoa butter as real chocolate does.
Picture of instructions below, seeding chocolate for tempering, step 4
So why do we need to temper chocolate? The answer is simple; chocolate contains cocoa butter and the cocoa butter crystals become unstable when melted. When the chocolate is properly tempered, the cocoa butter crystals will become stable again. When chocolate is tempered correctly and consequently cocoa butter crystals are correctly stabilized, the result will be chocolate which hardens perfectly with a shiny surface and has a noticeable audible snap.
Picture of instructions below, step 4 and 5, tempering chocolate
Professional pastry chefs and chocolatiers work with couverture (koo-vehr-TYOOR) chocolate. Couverture chocolate is chocolate which contains a minimum of 32% cocoa butter. Do not confuse this number with the number you may see on chocolate packaging such as 60% or 70% cocoa. These numbers refer to the cocoa content, NOT the cocoa butter content. Couverture chocolate is prized since the 32% minimum of cocoa butter ensures that this type of chocolate will melt perfectly. Ever tried to melt ordinary chocolate chips? It did not melt very well did it? Non couverture chocolate is very low in cocoa butter and will not melt as you will need it to. In fact, most chocolate available on the grocery store shelf is too low in cocoa butter content for above mentioned uses. If it is not labeled couverture, it simply is not. In Chocolate THE most expensive ingredient is cocoa butter and if it contains 32% or higher of this prized fat, you can count on the fact that it will be labeled as couverture chocolate.
Picture of tempered chocolate spread very thin
So when we want to make chocolates, truffles, chocolate decorations and so much more we have to purchase couverture chocolate. Another option is to purchase good quality chocolate and add some food grade cocoa butter to bring the cocoa butter level up to couverture chocolate levels. About the flavor you ask? Adding cocoa butter will only enhance the flavor of the chocolate and make the mouth feel much better. In America, food grade cocoa butter can be found in Whole Foods market in the, yes, cosmetics department. In Europe it is sold in many supermarkets. To non couverture chocolate add about 10% of cocoa butter to the chocolate and then melt. Basically to 1 lb (455 g) of chocolate add 10% cocoa butter (1 ¾ oz) 45 gram. Remember, couverture chocolate does not need extra cocoa butter since it already contains a minimum of 32% cocoa butter.
Several methods of tempering chocolate exist and they all work if correctly performed. When a small amount of tempered chocolate is needed, the ice bath method of tempering chocolate works well. (See the ice bath method of tempering chocolate on this site). Another method frequently used is the seeding tempering method or pre-crystallization tempering method. This method is described below.
Getting it all together!
Chop the chocolate couverture in small pieces. If you are using non couverture chocolate, scale the chocolate and then calculate 10% of cocoa butter. (1 lb (455 g) of chocolate add 10% cocoa butter (1 ¾ oz) 45 gram.) (In the below described method, the cocoa butter will be melted with the ¾ amount) Remember, couverture chocolate does not need extra cocoa butter since it contains enough.
To make chocolate shavings as shown in the pictures spread the tempered chocolate very fast and very thinly on a marble or granite slab. Let sit for a few seconds and then using quickly scrape the chocolate using a scraper into chocolate shavings.
How to Temper Chocolate- using the seeding method or pre-crystallization tempering method.
- Chop the chocolate couverture in small pieces, about the size of chocolate chips. Place ¾ of the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Reserve the remaining one fourth of chocolate.
- Fill a saucepan with about 1 inch (3 cm) water and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce to a very low simmer and place the chocolate bowl over the water.
- Stir constantly using a rubber spatula to 115-120°F (46-48°C). Remove from heat.
- Add the remaining one fourth of chopped chocolate pieces to the melted chocolate and stir until the chocolate is nearly lump free. Check the temperature, it should be at or slightly below 90°F (32°C) for dark chocolate and two degrees lower for milk or white chocolate. The chocolate is now in temper.
- If the chocolate is much colder and very thick, place it for just a few seconds over low simmering water. Remove from heat and stir, check the temperature, it needs to be below 90°F (32°C) for dark chocolate and two degrees lower for milk or white chocolate. (DO NOT stir over the simmering water and heat all the way up to the above mentioned temperatures. The residual heat from the bowl will quickly tilt the temperature way over the allowed temps.)
- A smart way of keeping the chocolate in a fluid sate while you are working is to place the chocolate bowl in another bowl filled with water of 90°F (32°C) or slightly higher.
- If the chocolate hardens or you have leftover, you can always re-temper the chocolate as indicated at a later time.
Picture of chocolate shavings