The Easy, Foolproof Way to Temper Chocolate
Tempering chocolate was this ridiculously intimidating thing I use to totally suck at…
I desperately wanted to master it though, because chocolate decorations just look so beautiful and they TASTE WAY BETTER than fondant, gum paste, modeling chocolate and all that “edible” baloney.
I even went for a short chocolate course and did the whole marble slab thing.
Even though I did it more or less correctly in the class, I STILL totally ruined it back home and I just could not get it to work!
Now before I get into the actual method, I just quickly want to talk you through WHY Chocolate needs to be tempered and what “tempered” actually means.
Understanding a bit more of the science really helps a lot!
Why Does Chocolate Need to Be Tempered?
- Un-tempered chocolate melts VERY quickly! If the chocolate starts to melt while you are trying to transfer chocolate decorations onto a cake it is one huge and panicked MESS.
- Un-tempered chocolate tends to bloom when it sets. Blooming refers to those weird light spots or streaks you see on chocolate. It looks a bit like mould I guess. Although blooming doesn’t make the chocolate taste bad, it really just looks severely unappetizing.
- Tempered chocolate sets (technically it crystallizes) nice and hard, making it a breeze to transfer without it ever beginning to melt!
- Tempered chocolate has a lovely sheen to it which makes very beautiful and elegant decorations for your bakes.
The Complex & Difficult Way to Temper Chocolate
The classic tempering method with a marble slab takes you through a process where you to melt (overheat) the chocolate and then bring it back to the right temperature on the marble slab with correct technique and experience.
But it’s SUPER difficult to master and super sensitive…
So don’t even go there! Why make life so difficult when it’s not necessary?
Here’s the big secret: The Chocolate you buy in the store (or at the Chocolaterie) IS ALREADY TEMPERED!!!
So I’ve discovered that it’s WAY EASIER to just keep it tempered rather than trying to temper it all over again… WHY REINVENT THE WHEEL??
And the way you KEEP chocolate tempered is by NOT overheating the chocolate – not taking it above body temperature.
It’s far easier to just not overheat the chocolate in the first place and rather maintain the crystal structure it already has. Prevention is better than cure.
So when it comes to tempering chocolate the easy way, you just need to remember this ONE THING:
DO NOT OVERHEAT THE CHOCOLATE.
When you overheat chocolate, you break the structure of its crystallization – specifically the structure of the cocoa butter. Successfully tempered chocolate has optimal cocoa butter structure.
When you overheat chocolate it basically means it won’t be stable – it will melt easily.
It also won’t be shiny, but it will be dull or have blooming (those light streaks and patterns that look like mould or something). And it won’t have a nice snap.
Click here if you want to geek out on the polymorphic structure of chocolate like I did.
The best way to prevent chocolate from overheating comes down to three things:
1. The container you melt your chocolate in
ALWAYS melt your chocolate in a PLASTIC BOWL. Ceramic, glass or aluminium bowls conduct heat FAR too easily and quickly.
They also remain hot for a very long time. This will force up the temperature of your chocolate within 20 seconds – seriously.
PLASTIC BOWLS do not become hot easily and they lose their heat very fast.
The plastic bowl basically becomes “invisible” in the chocolate melting process, allowing the chocolate to melt at its own pace.
2. The type of heat you apply
Although the bain-marie thing (bowl of chocolate over barely simmering water) is quite a standard way to melt chocolate – it’s not ideal.
Sorry if I’m being controversial here, but it really isn’t ideal because it overheats the chocolate.
Firstly because you can’t place a plastic bowl over a bain-marie. It could melt the bowl and as we have established – plastic doesn’t conduct heat very well.
Even if the water is barely steaming, it will still be enough to overheat your chocolate.
Chocolate melts with VERY LITTLE heat. It melts at 30°C/86°F! So the heat you use needs to be super subtle and above all – controllable!
For this reason I like to use my microwave. I can control exactly how hot things get and stop it abruptly at any point I wish.
3. How long you apply the heat for
If you apply any source of heat for too long, your chocolate is going to overheat. For this reason it’s best to melt the chocolate with 30 second bursts in the microwave.
Dark chocolate can take a bit longer to melt, but BE PATIENT!
Stick to 30 second bursts! Take it out of the microwave, squash and stir it a bit (even when it’s not melting yet) and then return to the micro for the next 30 second burst.
I know it’s tempting to put it in there for longer, but don’t do it!
Now that you understand the science and super important basics, let’s move on to the FULL method of easy, foolproof Chocolate Tempering.
Easy, Foolproof Chocolate Tempering – Step by Step
IF you happened to skip to this part, go back up and read the full post. All the info above was shared with great reason. If you do not understand this whole process, the chances of you failing at this really increase drastically.
- Chop your chocolate. There should be no pieces larger than 7mm x 7 mm. SUPER IMPORTANT: Use TOP quality chocolate!! Commercial chocolate bars like Nestlé and Cadbury contain too much sugar and not enough cocoa butter, so they are always too soft and unstable. Lindt is always a safe bet, but also search out a local Chocolaterie – that’s what I did and I’ve never looked back.
- Place the chopped chocolate into a PLASTIC bowl.
- Microwave in 30 second bursts. Dark chocolate can take a bit longer to melt, but BE PATIENT! Stick to one 30 second session at a time! Take it out of the microwave after every 30 seconds, squash and stir it a bit (even when it’s not melting yet) and then return to the micro for the next 30 second burst. I know it’s tempting to put it in there for longer, but don’t do it!
- While you wait you can prepare your piping bag, transfer sheet, acetate (whatever you’ll be using).
- When the chocolate BEGINS to melt reduce your next microwave session to 20 seconds. And now the next bit is crucial.
- THE TRICK TO GOOD TEMPERING IS TO MELT MOST, BUT NOT ALL OF THE CHOCOLATE IN THE MICROWAVE. The bits of melted chocolate may be enough to melt the rest of the chocolate pieces in the bowl, so stir and squash it thoroughly to see if the rest will melt. And keep tabs on the temperature of the chocolate by testing a bit of it on your lip. If it’s the same temperature or cooler you are on the right track. (If the temperature is warmer you have overheated it. Rather start again with new chocolate.)
- If the heat of the melted chocolate is not enough to melt the remaining solid pieces, return it to the microwave for 10 seconds at a time. Stir super thoroughly after each 10 seconds to see if the rest of the chocolate melts completely. YOU WANT THE LAST FEW PIECES TO MELT OUTSIDE THE MICROWAVE.
- Once everything is melted and smooth, stir the chocolate thoroughly another few times (about 20 times). Test the temperature again – it should be roughly the same temperature (or a little bit cooler) as your lip.
Immediately scrape the melted chocolate into a clean & dry piping bag if you plan to pipe lettering or shapes and delicate decorations.
OR proceed to pour it onto your transfer sheets, acetate, templates or whatever you want to use to make a chocolate collar, disks, panels, etc.
You can also pour it into a large, rectangular Tupperware container (or an empty rectangular ice cream container) to create one large, solid tempered chocolate slab which you can use for making chocolate shavings or curls.
Tempered chocolate does set quite quickly so you’ll need to work fast.
This process might take 3 or so attempts before you are comfortable with it (especially with working through all my instructions), but then it’s so quick and easy!
I thought it best to rather explain as thoroughly as possible so that you have a great chance at success from the very first attempt!
I know you can do it – you’ve got this!!
If you use my method for easy, fool-proof Chocolate Tempering, please let me know by tagging me @philosophyofyum because I would love to give you a virtual high five and shout-out 😀