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Chocolate, the ingredient, comes in all types - typically as dark, white or milk chocolate in the form of large, hard bars, pre-measured squares or wafers. Simply melting chocolate is perfect when making a recipe with a few ounces of baking or pure chocolate, or using candy melts or chocolate chips. Tempering is done when pure chocolate will be used for making chocolate confections, such as molded chocolates or dipped centers, as well as for more extensive decorations, such as sculpted ones or ribbons.
SARAH SAYS: Milk and white chocolate are especially sensitive to heat, more than dark. White chocolate is the most delicate to work with because it contains milk solids. But, with both types, if exposed to too much heat, improperly stored or subject to moisture during melting, problems can occur.
MELTING CHOCOLATE is defined as using indirect heat to convert chocolate from a solid to a liquid, such as done when melting butter. It is done when making recipes with a couple of ounces of chocolate squares or used when tempering. Chocolate chips and compound chocolate(candy melts) can just be melted prior to using.
TEMPERING is a technique by which PURE CHOCOLATE, the ingredient, is stabilized through a carefully controlled melting-and-cooling process, allowing the cocoa butter molecules to solidify in an orderly fashion for the chocolate to harden properly, and have other positive attributes. Commercially available chocolate that you buy is already tempered, but these conditions change the minute you melt it for your own use; the molecules of fat separate (as cream separates from milk). In order to put them back together, you must temper it.
Tempering is important because it determines the final gloss, hardness and contraction of chocolate, as well as storage. At each step of the tempering process the temperature of the chocolate must be precise and uniform: even tiny variations can ruin the result. You can get around tempering by dipping chocolates, strawberries of pretzels in melted, untempered chocolate and storing them in the refrigerator to harden. Just remove them from the refrigerator a few minutes prior to serving them. The coolness of the refrigerator will stratify the cocoa fat, but remember that the chocolate may be dull in its appearance, soft and malleable, and greasy to the touch because unstable cocoa butter has a tendency to separate out.
WHEN TO MELT OR TEMPER?
|Pure Chocolate||When it is used as part of a baking or candy recipe where other ingredients are added, it is not tempered. Examples are the Chocolate Cake Recipe or the Chocolate Ganache Recipe. Another example is when making candy such as clusters or bark, where nuts and/or chopped candy are included. Small designs do not require tempering, unless you want a smooth gloss. The Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffle Recipe doesn't either, however some you'll often see tempering used for the chocolate coating as part of a truffle-making step.||Can temper. Also referred to as pure chocolate, it contains cocoa butter in its pure state, so must be tempered before using when making large chocolate decorations. enrobing or molding confections. Note that although white chocolate does not contain any cacao solids, it can be tempered since it is made of cocoa butter, and tempering has to do with cocoa butter crystals.|
|Couverture||Melt for dipping. It may be difficult for some to work with.||Can temper. Couverture has a high proportion of cocoa butter and other fats, tempering is necessary to give the finished chocolates a crisp and glossy finish.|
|Pure with Added Ingredients||Tempered chocolate cannot be used for retempering if ingredients have been added to it, such as oil or cream or has been used to dip fruits in, such as strawberries; but it can be used for making ganache or in baking recipes.||Cannot temper. How to melt.|
|Chocolate Chips||When you buy the chips, they have already been mixed with other ingredients, and are not pure. They can be simply melted.||Cannot temper. How to melt.|
|Compound or Summer Coating, such as Candy Melts||Versatile, creamy and easy-to-melt wafers used for candy making-molding, dipping or coating. Not pure chocolate - They are made of sugar, milk solids, vegetable oils, flavorings and colors, plus cocoa powder, if chocolate. Melt to use. Use a squeeze bottles or disposable decorating bags. Melt candy melts in microwave on half power or defrost setting for one minute. Squeeze bag or bottle to blend. Continue to heat at 20-second intervals on half or defrost power until candy melts are completely melted. If using the decorating bag, be sure to cut the tip prior to filling candy molds.||Cannot temper. How to Melt.|
|Chocolate and Paraffin (Parawax or Cooking Wax)||Parawax is the same thing as paraffin and can be found in the grocery store, usually in the preserves section or the cake section. It is inexpensive. Some older recipes for dipped candy call for melting paraffin with chocolate to make it firmer and give it a nice sheen upon cooling, thus not considered pure chocolate. The label on most paraffin boxes state it is not for human consumption, but it is still used.||Cannot temper. How to melt.|