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You may be wondering what it means to temper chocolate and why it needs to be done in the first place. And, if you are, you may also believe that, since you are not a chocolatier, you can't do it.

Until now! I’m going to explain the concept of tempering and I’m also going to teach you. But, you do need some special equipment. If you don’t have a digital thermometer, you’ll need one. I recommend something very simple and straightforward with a digital readout on the top attached to a metal probe. They‘re cheap and widely available. I found one at KMart in the kitchen department. You’ll also need a microwave, a plastic microwave safe bowl (preferably a thick plastic that’s actually made to go in the microwave), a rubber spatula, a few sheets of wax paper, some chocolate molds (available at WalMart in the craft department or any craft store), something to deposit the chocolate with such as spoons, piping bag, etc. Oh, and you’ll need some chocolate.  

Ok, there are rules regarding the chocolate. Coatings that you melt and pour such as Wilton’s are not chocolate. Even Nestle’s morsels won’t do the job. These contain high amounts of vegetable fat. They don’t need to be tempered. They just need to be melted. So you’ll need to look for real chocolate. Look for words like “cocoa butter, lecithin, sugar, milk solids, chocolate liquor, cocoa mass” on the label. The whole purpose behind tempering is, the cocoa butter becomes unstable during the melting process. It needs to be subjected to certain temperatures during the melting and cooling period as well as the addition of stable “seed chocolate” to bring it to proper temper. Properly tempered chocolate has a pretty shine when it sets up. It has a snap when you bite into it or break it. It feels creamy and melts nicely in your mouth. You can find bulk chocolate in bins usually in higher end grocery stores and some health food stores. Usually the brands are, Callebaut, Cocoa Barry, Valhrona, even Guittard and Ghiradelli have some cocoa butter based product you can experiment with. You’ll need between 8 oz. and 1 lb. And I say let’s start with some dark chocolate. We’ll work with milk and white another time.  

Ok, now that you’ve got your supplies, are you up for the challenge? Ready to experiment? Ready to play with chocolate? Here we go!

Set aside your chocolate molds. Chop 3/4 of your chocolate into smallish pieces. Place them in your bowl. Take the remaining chocolate and chop it into larger pieces. Set them aside. You’ll add them later. You’ll need to be able to remove them from your bowl at some point. Now, microwaves are all different and you know yours best. I recommend you start at half power for 1 minute first to see how well it melts your chocolate. Chocolate that is too hot is not a good thing. You want to stir it after the first round in the microwave. If it’s still whole, keep putting it in the microwave at a moderate to low heat setting for several seconds at each interval and stir in between each until it’s nearly all melted. You want it to melt evenly with no hot spots so it’s important to stir often. Take its temperature. When it reaches about 108 to 113 degrees, even if the chocolate isn’t completely melted, you want to just stir it until it is. You can melt the chocolate to about 125 degrees but even then, that’s hotter than I like to work with it. But, you do want it to be at least 108 degrees in order to completely melt the cocoa butter.  

Once you have a melted pool of chocolate at about 110 degrees, you‘re ready to add seed chocolate. If you allowed your chocolate to get to the upper end of the temperature scale, just stir it until it it cools down a bit. You‘re looking for about 110 degrees. Add one piece of seed chocolate at a time, stirring to melt it in. This exercise takes patience. You‘re looking to gently cool down your melted chocolate with stable chocolate. Keep adding more pieces and stirring until the temperature reaches 90 degrees. The chocolate is now stable but not cool enough to work with. Take out any unmelted chunks. Keep stirring until the temperature is 88 degrees. Believe me, this takes even more patience. If you try and work with it before it’s cool enough, even at 90 degrees, you risk having unsuccessful results.

Now, it’s tempered, what do you do with it? Lots of uses here but for now we’ll just deposit it into molds and see how it turned out. I’ll cover dipping and other uses later in another post. You can use a spoon, a piping bag with a small tip (make sure it’s closed before pouring in your melted chocolate), a ladle, whatever tool you feel most comfortable with. I used a spoon when I first started and graduated to disposable piping bags. Most important here is to use it while it’s still at optimum temperature. So, pour your chocolate into the cavities of your molds. Lift the molds and tap them on the counter to remove any bubbles. Allow them to cool and harden. If you have any left over chocolate, pour in onto your wax paper. It will peel right off when it’s set. If it was properly tempered, it can be re used to melt and temper again later. When your molded chocolate looks like it’s setting up, place it in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes. When you can turn over the molds and see that the chocolate is pulling away from them, you can gently tap the mold, upside down, on a counter and your chocolates will fall out. Now you can enjoy them and share your creations with friends and loved ones.  

So, you’ve completed tempering 101! I hope it all worked out. I’ll check the comments and hopefully, I can answer any questions or provide any help if you ran into problems.

Happy snacking!

Cynthia



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