When it comes to chocolate, not every product is created equal. The two most notable differences: real chocolate versus confectionery coatings or compounds. Real chocolate is made with cocoa butter and has to include a certain percentage of chocolate liquor in its ingredients. Confectionery coatings have a vegetable oil base and may or may not include cocoa butter and/or chocolate liquor at all. Each of these chocolate products requires different preparation methods in order to achieve the best possible finished product. Real chocolate needs to be tempered if you plan to use it to make candies or other dipped items. Tempering will give the chocolate the perfect snap and sheen as well as ensure it sets properly. Tempering also helps bring out the best possible flavor of the chocolate and who wouldn’t want that? If these qualities aren’t important to you in your finished product and you plan to consume it within 24 hours, you can bypass the tempering process. You can also skip tempering if you’ll be using your chocolate in baking or plan to use it immediately, such as to an ice cream topping.
What is tempering?
Tempering is the process of heating and cooling that gives chocolate the proper sheen, hardness, and texture. It can be quite difficult to master and is therefore usually only done by professionals. But we believe, with a little bit of help, proper chocolate tempering can be achieved by anyone.
Each type of chocolate needs to be heated and cooled to specific temperatures to achieve the desired finished product. Dark chocolate is heated to 120°F, milk chocolate to 115°F, and white chocolate to 110°F. Then the chocolate is cooled. Cool dark chocolate to 82°F, milk chocolate to 80°F, and white chocolate to 78°F. At this point, the chocolate is agitated to create small crystals in the chocolate. The chocolate is then heated again. Heat dark chocolate to 90°F, milk chocolate to 86°F, and white chocolate to 82°F.
Double Boiler/Stove-top Method
Using a double boiler, heat the water to the appropriate temperature for the chocolate you’re using, then remove the double boiler from the heat. Next, place the pan containing the broken chocolate pieces on top of the heated water. Melt the chocolate until it’s temperature reaches the desired level. The chocolate should then be slowly cooled to the appropriate temperature. Once this low temperature is achieved, the chocolate should be gently raised to its proper use temperature by re-warming the water in the double boiler. You’ll need to have a candy thermometer on hand to accurately read the temperatures. This process must be repeated each time chocolate needs to be melted, even if some of the melted chocolate remains in the pan.
Automatic Tempering Machine
If you want to get fancy, or maybe you own a confectionery business, you may want to invest in an automatic tempering machine. These machines take the guesswork out of hitting all of the right temperatures because you can simply program the machine to the desired temperature. Then all you need to do is add your chocolate of choice to the machine and continue to replace small amounts of unmelted chocolate as you dip or mold your creations.
The seed method of tempering chocolate is when you add already tempered chocolate to melted, un-tempered chocolate. The tempered chocolate will “seed” the proper crystalline structure to the untempered chocolate and the entire batch will come into temper. To give the seed method a try, melt about two-thirds of your chocolate, remove it from the heat source, then add the other third of your chocolate, which has already been tempered. Stir until the entire batch is melted and begins to cool. Be sure to use your candy thermometer to check the temperature of your chocolate as you work. The seed method is a great way to help you save some time during the tempering process, but we recommend mastering regular tempering before attempting the seed method.