Tempering Chocolate (Seeding Method)

Anytime you’re dipping stuff into chocolate or using chocolate just by itself, it needs to be tempered. This excludes times when you’re making ganache, or incorporating chocolate into a recipe by adding ingredients such as cake, ice cream, or hot chocolate. But all the other times like candies, and chocolate covered strawberries, the chocolate should be tempered.

Tempering chocolate gives it that shiny surface, and snaps when broken. Tempering makes the chocolate stronger in the sense that it won’t melt when held in your hand. You don’t want chocolate all over your fingers when trying to enjoy a nice a delicate bon bon, now do you?  Untempered chocolate will also bloom, making it very unattractive in appearance. It will take longer to set, and will melt at lower temperatures, such as body heat. That is why once a candy bar melts in the car, you have to keep it in the fridge to keep it hard. Because it melted and lost it’s temper.

Tempering is the process melting down the chocolate, multiplying crystals in the cocoa butter to stabilize the chocolate. I will be showing you the seeding method, which takes a while, but is the easiest for beginners.

Whenever you work with chocolate, make sure all your equipment is dry. A drop of water will cause the chocolate the seize, making it unusable. You will need a good thermometer. An infrared thermometer is a good investment if you will be working with chocolates often.

Using a glass or ceramic bowl will keep the heat from leaving the chocolate once you have it tempered. Once the chocolate is tempered, one of the challenges is keeping it in working temperature, without exceeding certain limits to keep the crystals formed while tempering.

The instructions below are for tempering dark chocolate. Milk and white chocolate will use the same process but have different temperatures, which I will list at the end.

Start by melting 2/3 of the chocolate either in the microwave or over a ban marie. If using a microwave, make sure you stir every 10-15 seconds to evenly distribute the heat. You don’t want the overheat or burn the chocolate.

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Heat to 130°F-136°F/ 55°C-58°C

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Add 1/3 unmelted chocolates to add crystals and to help cool down the chocolate. If you have tempered chocolate before, using a big block of tempered chocolate instead of pieces work better. This way, you can stir until the chocolate reaches about 88°F and take that piece out, without having to worry about heating it up to melt the bits of chocolate (if you added too much “seeds”). During the whole process, try and stir as much as you can, whether you’re cooling or warming. 

AGITATION CAUSES CRYSTALLIZATION!

more crystallization means a better temper

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Bring the temperature down to 83°F. The “seeds” should have been melted a while ago, do not add more to keep cooling. You don’t want unmelted chunks of chocolate at this point. I sometimes put the bowl in the fridge to help cool it faster. Just make sure you don’t leave it in there too long until it’s set, or you will have to start over.

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Bring the chocolate back up to 88°F-91°F which is your working temperature. This is the range you want to keep the chocolate. Going above 91°F will melt your crystals, causing you to lose your temper. In this case, you will have to re-temper the chocolate, starting back from step one.

Because it’s such a small range of temperature to keep the chocolate in, I recommend using a slightly warm ban marie to warm it back to working temperature. This way you can monitor the temperature as it warms, whereas a microwave can easily heat the chocolate over 91°F.

imageIn order to check the temper before working with the chocolate, you can smear some chocolate on a piece of parchment paper and place in the fridge. If it’s tempered, it should set fairly quickly and snap when broken. It also shouldn’t melt when you touch it.

Temperatures:

Dark Chocolate

Melt to: 130-136F/55-58C

Cool to: 83F/28C

Working temp: 88-91F/32C

Milk Chocolate

Melt to: 113-122F /45-50C

Cool to: 81F/ 27C

Working temp: 86-87F/ 30C

White Chocolate

Melt to: 113-122F / 45-50C

Cool to: 79F/26C

Working temp: 82-83F/28C

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