Chocolate - Temper or Tempering Techniques

Scharffen Berger Truffles with Variations RecipeTEMPERING CHOCOLATE is a technique by which pure or "real" chocolate is stabilized through a carefully controlled melting and cooling process, allowing the cocoa butter molecules to solidify in an orderly fashion and for the chocolate to harden properly. (More about the science of chocolate tempering.) This is not to be confused when tempering melted chocolate so it can be added as a baking ingredient to a baking recipe without it seizing or curdling the batter.

Pure chocolate has no extra added ingredients beyond what is used to make up its composition - to be considered “real” chocolate, a chocolate bar or chunk can contain only cocoa butter, not any other fat - and it usually comes in large blocks. Cocoa butter is the reason why you have to “temper” real chocolate. Baking chocolate, which comes in small squares by the ounce, is not considered pure chocolate because it many times contains other ingredients, and cannot be tempered.

Commercially available pure chocolate that you buy is already tempered, but this condition changes 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. There are several techniques, but I have outlined what I call the "Three Step Tempering Process", explained below, which I find to be the easiest.

White Chocolate Truffles RecipeTempering is important because it determines the final gloss, hardness and contraction of chocolate, as well as improving its mouthfeel. Tempering isn't necessary for all recipes (See: Melt or Temper?), but rather depends upon what you are making. Sometimes just melting chocolate is all that's necessary. But, tempering is done when the chocolate will be used for candy making, such as molded chocolates or dipped or enrobed centers, as well as for making free-form designs or more extensive decorations, such as sculpted ones or ribbons. If you do, the chocolate will harden faster and will be glossy and holds its shape when it sets. It will also have a "snap" to it when broken or eaten, won't melt on your fingers as easily and holds its shape when stored at room temperature. Properly tempered chocolate is also great for molding candies because the candies will release out of the molds more easily - it's because it shrinks slightly at it sets.

If you wish to avoid tempering for dipping chocolate, you can melt candy melts, chocolate chips or just plain chocolate. But, it isn't a guarantee that it will harden with the same good qualities that tempered pure chocolate does. Chocolate chips are often used in some recipes, and melted with added cream or shortening. Candy melts, a much used chocolate-flavored product, does not need to be tempered and will fully harden. It is easier to work with, but falls short of genuine chocolate in terms of taste and texture. And, untempered chocolate dries very slowly at room temperature, is tacky to the touch, has a cakey texture when eaten, can be blotchy in appearance. It also tends to stick to its mold more readily. But, you can store items dipped in untempered chocolate in the refrigerator because the coolness will stratify the cocoa fat and it won't bloom. Just remove them a few minutes prior to serving. 



HOW TO TEMPER CHOCOLATE - THE THREE STEP TEMPERING PROCESS for dark, milk and white and couverture chocolates. Not all chocolate types and brands temper the same way and require different melting, seeding and working temperatures, so if you are unsure, check with the manufacturer. At each step of the tempering process the temperature of the chocolate must be precise and uniform: even tiny variations can ruin the result. Use an accurate CHOCOLATE OR CANDY THERMOMETER; others may not have small enough increments in order to keep accurate track of the tempering temperatures. Take the chocolate from its heat source and stir gently right before taking its temperature. Place the tip of the thermometer in the center of the bowl, and hold it there, taking care not to let it touch the bottom or sides of the bowl.

It's best to temper at least 1 pound to a 1-1/2 pounds, or slightly more than the recipe states. Any smaller amount may not temper properly. Stir slowly and constantly during the steps and avoid having moisture from coming in direct contact with the chocolate. You can "reuse" chocolate over again for tempering, as long as it doesn't have any added oil or ingredients from the recipe! Store chocolate in a cool dry place, NOT in the refrigerator.

The tempering takes place in steps:
STEP #1: Melt about 75% of the chopped chocolate in a double boiler, to about 115 to 120 degrees F, measured with a Chocolate Thermometer. The remaining 25% should be chopped further into smaller pieces and set aside until needed.

Remove the chocolate from the top of the double boiler, dry the bottom of the bowl, and let it sit a good 10 minutes.
STEP #2: Temper the chocolate through "seeding":
After 10 minutes, give the chocolate a good stir.

Add the remaining 25% of the chopped chocolate, by the handful, to the warm, melted chocolate, and stir gently after each until completely smooth. You may not need all of the chocolate.

Take the temperature of the chocolate after adding each handful to measure its "seeding temperature."
Dark chocolate should measure 86 degrees F and white and milk chocolate should reach 81 degrees F. Stop adding in chocolate when you do, even if you have some left over.
NOTE: This is called seeding the chocolate because you are adding seeds(finely chopped chocolate).
STEP #3: Once you have seeded the chocolate, it needs to be warmed slightly.

Reheat the chocolate to 89 degrees F (dark) or 86 degrees F (milk or white), by placing it in 10- to 20-second increments over the heated water in the pot below.(Reheat the water if necessary.) Stir in between each heating.

The chocolate is now tempered. It should also be smooth, shiny and glossy.
Never let the chocolate's temperature exceed the given range, even by a few degrees, or the stable cocoa butter crystals will start to melt and the temper will be lost.

A simple method of checking if the chocolate is in temper is to apply a small quantity of chocolate to a piece of paper or to the point of a knife. If the chocolate has been correctly tempered it will harden evenly and show a good gloss within a few minutes. Or, spread a thin layer on a scrap of parchment, wait about 5 minutes, and then try to peel the chocolate from the paper. If you can, and it's not blotchy, you're in business. If not, start the tempering process again.
KEEP THE CHOCOLATE IN THE "TEMPERATE ZONE" WHILE WORKING WITH IT. After tempering, the chocolate must be used right away and kept in its "temperate zone" as its "working temperature." 

Make sure the tempered chocolate's working temperature doesn't go lower or higher than 88 to 90 degrees F (dark), 84 to 86 degrees (milk) or 82 to 84 degrees (white), or the temper will be lost. The chocolate will cool if not kept at a constant temperature, and gets thick and dull as is does.

You can warm the tempered chocolate, if necessary, as long as it stays in its "temperate zone." Reheating happens quickly, so watch the chocolate carefully. If it is accidentally heated above its "temperate zone," the tempering process must start again. 
SARAH SAYS: The best way is to warm the tempered chocolate is to briefly place it over hot or just simmered water. Fit bowl or top of double boiler over pot and stir gently. Be careful because warming only takes a few seconds. 

To store tempered chocolate confections, keep them at room temperature. If they're tempered properly, they should be fine. Don't put them in the fridge because they will "bloom"-- that's the cocoa butter starting to separate out from the chocolate, and it forms a thin layer of cocoa butter on the surface. They're totally fine to eat if they bloom, they just don't look great. Fat absorbs heat at a different rate than the other ingredients in chocolate, so it's unstable and floats to the surface, like cream floats to the surface of milk.

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