CHOCOLATE TEMPERING

WHAT'S THAT ?

Tempering is the process that re-establishes the cocoa butter crystals that are in real chocolate. Tempering is required any time chocolate contains cocoa butter (no matter how high or low quality that chocolate is), however it’s important to keep in mind that if you’re going to go through the work of tempering your chocolate you should definitely make sure you’re using a superior quality couverture chocolate. When you engage in the art of tempering you should be rewarded with the best possible results.

WHY TEMPER?

Chocolate just out of the wrapper is shiny with a pleasant snap—it’s in perfect temper. If you melt the chocolate and work with it without tempering, it will take a long time to set up, will not be shiny, and won’t snap; rather, it may be flexible, dull and brittle. Chocolate work is really very scientific; let’s break it up into basic pieces that are easy to understand:

• Chocolate contains cocoa butter that is made up of 6 different types of fat crystals (forms 1-6).

• Each form has a different density, level of stability, and melting point.

• The only crystal that is stable enough to achieve the desired shine and snap is form 5 (beta crystals).

• Form 5 has a higher melting point, so it won’t melt immediately on your fingers. The beta crystals are very stable—their structure will change little over time, and are very small—resulting in a shiny product with a nice snap.

HOW CAN I DO IT?

Tempering involves

  1. melting all of the fat crystals,
  2. cooling under agitation to ensure the formation of small crystals by way of seeding or tabling (tabling is a method typically only used by professionals) the melted chocolate to encourage the formation of the needed beta crystals.
  3. The chocolate is then very gently rewarmed to bring it up to a workable consistency without breaking the stable beta crystalline structure.

Traditionally, chocolate is tempered by pouring some of it on a tempering stone and worked into a “mush” as it cools. It’s called Tabling. It results in the most glossy, crisp chocolate that will set with the most reliability and is recommended for the most demanding chocolate work. Before using, make sure the surface is cold, clean and dry. If necessary, cool it by wiping with cold water and then dry it thoroughly, as tiny beads of water left on surface will cause the chocolate to seize.

THE TABLING METHOD

If you’ve ever watched someone tempering chocolate on television or in a movie, chances are they were mearing it around on a marble slab. This method is called table tempering. It can be more difficult, but it is fun and impressive if anyone is watching you work! In tabling, melted chocolate is agitated with palate knives (and often stainless steel putty knives) on a marble slab to very quickly cool it down (stabilizing the fat crystals), then rewarmed to a workable consistency—all while very closely tracking its temperature. Tabling is the method of choice for pastry chefs and chocolatiers for its quick results. If you have granite (marble is ideal, but granite surfaces work very well too) or marble countertops, or have a slab of either, give tabling a try!

Step 1: Melt the chocolate over a hot water bath (between 40-43°C for dark chocolate), stirring occasionally. Spot check your temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Once you have reached your melting temperature, remove from the heat and wipe any condensation with a clean, dry cloth. All surfaces and tools must be completely dry when working with chocolate.

Step 2: Pour out about 2/3 of the melted chocolate onto a very clean marble surface, and reserve the remaining 1/3 in the bowl (do not set the bowl down directly onto the marble surface, the chocolate will begin to set up rapidly and it needs to maintain its temperature).

Step 3: Using a palette knife and scraper, spread out the melted chocolate into a thin layer over the marble, and scrape the chocolate pulling it back into the center of the chocolate, cleaning off the scraping knife with the palette knife in your other hand. Continue the spreading and scraping motions until the melted chocolate begins to thicken. It’s critical to keep the chocolate in constant motion while tempering to properly stabilize the cocoa butter for form 5 fat crystals.

Quickly check the temperature of the chocolate. Dark chocolate should be cooled to about 29°C. If it cools down below that temperature it’s ok as long as solid chunks haven’t begun to form yet—work quickly. We always recommend using an instant read thermometer when tempering chocolate; but many professional chefs and chocolatiers use an infrared thermometer like the Food Safety thermometer at this stage in tempering, as pictured below. An infrared thermometer is not necessary, but this is a case where it is considered acceptable to use a surface temperature reading because the melted chocolate is in a very thin layer and has been in constant motion.

Step 4: Once you have determined the chocolate has cooled down to its appropriate temperature, very quickly scrape (the chocolate will set up on the marble if not scraped quickly enough) the chocolate to the edge of the marble, back into the bowl with the remaining 1/3 melted chocolate. Stir vigorously with a spatula. Spot check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer (the surface temperature as read by an infrared thermometer will not give an accurate reading at this point). If the chocolate needs to rewarmed slightly, place over a hot water bath for just a few seconds. If the chocolate’s temperature exceeds 33°C, it will lose its tempered structure and you’ll need to start the process over again.

Step 5: Test to be sure proper temper has been reached by dipping the edge of a spoon or knife into the chocolate and allow to set. If tempered it will set up quickly without any streaking. At this point, proceed with using your tempered chocolate. Maintain proper temperature while working with the chocolate by occasionally spot checking the temperature, and returning the bowl over the hot water bath to warm it. Keeping chocolate in temper while working with it is a dance.

THE SEEDING METHOD

If you’ve ever watched someone tempering chocolate on television or in a movie, chances are they were mearing it around on a marble slab. This method is called table tempering. It can be more difficult, but it is fun and impressive if anyone is watching you work! In tabling, melted chocolate is agitated with palate knives (and often stainless steel putty knives) on a marble slab to very quickly cool it down (stabilizing the fat crystals), then rewarmed to a workable consistency—all while very closely tracking its temperature. Tabling is the method of choice for pastry chefs and chocolatiers for its quick results. If you have granite (marble is ideal, but granite surfaces work very well too) or marble countertops, or have a slab of either, give tabling a try!

Step 1: Scale the needed amount of chocolate (buttons, coins, or chopped) into a very clean, dry stainless steel bowl. Set aside about 1/4-1/3 of the chopped chocolate for seeding. Prepare a double-boiler by filling a saucepan about 1/4-1/3 with water. Bring the water to a boil and turn off the heat. Place the bowl of chocolate over the hot water bath to gently melt, stirring with a rubber spatula as it melts. Keep the chocolate over the hot water bath until it reaches the proper melting temperature as listed in the table below.

Step 2: Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the heat and wipe off the condensation from the bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining chopped chocolate to the melted chocolate to cool and seed the chocolate with the stable beta (form 5) fat crystals, stirring constantly. Add enough chopped chocolate to reduce to the proper cooling temperature.

Step 3: Return the bowl of chocolate to the hot water bath and stir constantly as the temperature rises slightly. This will only take a few seconds. Keep an eye on the temperature with spot checking. If the temperature exceeds 90ºF (32ºC), the temper will be broken. Once the rewarming temperature is reached, immediately remove from the heat.