Tempering is a process of heating, cooling and re-heating chocolate designed to arrange cocoa butter crystals in a way which will give the chocolate a shiny finish. Not only does tempering improve the visual finish of chocolate, it also gives it a sharp snap once broken and improves the mouth feel.
Cocoa butter can crystallise in 6 different ways in chocolate but only one formation, beta crystals, produce the desired shiny chocolate effect. The process of tempering also prevents the cocoa butter from rising to the surface and 'blooming'. Bloom is a dull whitish covering which appears on the surface of chocolate if it hasn't been tempered. All chocolate will bloom over time but the process of tempering chocolate delays the bloom and hence preserves the chocolate’s shine and snap for longer.
Tempering requires 3 stages - heating, cooling and reheating. Dark chocolate needs to be heated to 45°C and then cooled to 27°C before being reheated to 31-32°C which is the optimal temperature for beta crystal formation in dark chocolate. Milk chocolate should be reheated to 30-31°C and white chocolate to 28-29°C .
There are many different methods for cooling chocolate with differing levels of ease. The traditional method is to pour a proportion of melted chocolate onto a marble slab, work it with a spatula to cool it before adding it to the remaining chocolate to reduce the temperature. Another is to place the bowl of melted chocolate in a cold water bath whilst stirring constantly. Once the chocolate has cooled to 27°C it will need reheating according to the type of chocolate it is (see table below).
One of the easiest ways to temper chocolate is to melt the chocolate and stir in a small amount of solid couverture chocolate drops. This is because couverture is pre-tempered chocolate, meaning it is already packed with the beta crystals needed for great sheen and snap. It also has a higher than usual fat content which makes it less viscous and easier to work with.
Easy method for tempering chocolate
General guidelines: Chocolate and water don't mix - be careful to make sure all utensils are dry and that the chocolate doesn't come into contact with water or steam. When moulding chocolate it is important to avoid air bubbles so make sure to stir the chocolate gently.
- Superfast Thermapen thermometer
- Spatula for stirring
1. Begin by melting 2/3 of the chocolate in a plastic bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in a microwave on a low heat. The chocolate needs to melt to 45°C. Stir and check temperature with a thermometer.
2. Add the remaining 1/3 couverture chocolate a tablespoon at a time, stirring gently.
3. Once the chocolate has cooled to 27°C, reheat the chocolate gently over the simmering water (see the table below for the temperatures suitable for different types of chocolate.) Be careful not to exceed 32°C as this will untemper the chocolate and you'll have to start from scratch.
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4. To test that the chocolate is tempered dip a strip of baking paper into the chocolate and set aside. Once set the chocolate should be shiny.