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Tempering Chocolate

Peter P. Greweling | Chocolates and Confections at HomeWiley, 2009

Tempering is the process of heating and cooling chocolate to ensure that it will set with a proper gloss and snap. Properly tempered chocolate will set quickly, will not show streaks or spots as it sets, and will have snap and shine as it hardens. When chocolate isn’t tempered, it will take a long time to set and will have streaks on the surface. Once set, these streaks will turn gray and the chocolate will have a soft and grainy texture.

1. Weigh or measure the amount of chocolate you’ll be tempering. Weight is the preferred method; otherwise, use the chocolate conversion table below.

Weight  | Approximate volume

6 ounces | 1 cup of  1/2-inch pieces chopped chocolate

8 ounces  | 1 1/3 cups of 1/2-inch pieces chopped chocolate

8 ounces  | 3/4 cup of melted chocolate

10 ounces | 1 cup of melted chocolate

2. Weigh or measure a second amount of chocolate equal to 25 percent of the original amount. For example, if you’re tempering 1 pound of chocolate, measure out 4 more ounces.

3. Fully melt the larger amount of chocolate using either a microwave or a double boiler over low heat. Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the heat. The chocolate should be 120°F  (49°C) for dark chocolate or 110°F (43°C) for milk or white chocolate.

4. Add the smaller amount of unmelted chocolate to the melted chocolate. This is called the seed; it will cool the melted chocolate and cause it to set the way you want. You can use either the chopped chocolate or a single block as the seed; a single block has the advantage of easy removal once the chocolate is tempered.

5. Stir the chocolate gently and constantly until the temperature falls to 85°F (29°C) for dark chocolate or 83°F (28°C) for milk or white chocolate. This will take 15 to 20 minutes. Most or all of the seed should melt by the end of this time.

6. Test the chocolate. This is the only way to know for sure that chocolate is actually tempered. Make sure the chocolate is below 90°F (32°C) for dark chocolate or 87°F (30°C)  for milk or white chocolate. Dip a spoon in the chocolate, place the spoon on the work surface, and leave it undisturbed for 7 to 8 minutes at room temperature of 68°F. Do not yield to the temptation to refrigerate the spoon! After 8 minutes have passed, look closely at the chocolate on the spoon. If the chocolate has set so that it no longer looks wet, and the surface is uniform and without streaks, the chocolate is tempered. If the chocolate hasn’t set or has set with a streaky appearance, the chocolate requires further seeding. (See Step 8.)

7. If the chocolate sets properly, gently warm it over a double boiler over low heat not exceeding 89°F (31.5°C) for dark chocolate or 86°F (30°C) for milk or white chocolate.

8. If all the seed has melted but the chocolate is not setting quickly without streaks or spots, it must be seeded more. Add a few more pieces of chocolate or another small block to the bowl, and stir for another 3 to 4 minutes. After this time, test again (step 6), and proceed from there.

9. Remove any unmelted seed from the melted chocolate.

10. Use the chocolate as desired while maintaining the proper working temperature. Dark chocolate should be used at 86°F to 90°F (30°C to 32°C) , milk chocolate at 84° to 87°F (29°C to 30.5°C). If it cools too much, it will thicken and set. If it is too warm, it will no longer be tempered and will not set properly. There are several options for maintaining this crucial temperature:

  • Some home candy makers use a heating pad to keep the bowl of chocolate warm.
  • Some put the chocolate over a pot of water at the desired temperature.
  • Some warm the chocolate in short bursts in a microwave.
  • Others warm it briefly from time to time over a water bath or direct heat.

Recipe © 2009 Peter P. Greweling. Photo © 2009 Ben Fink. All rights reserved.