How to Temper Chocolate
Melting Minutes Chocolate Academy - Lesson 5
Are you ready to start tempering chocolate? I have selected the methods that I think would be preferred by most home cooks. By the end of this, you should be able to produce shiny chocolate that has a nice snap and that doesn’t melt to the touch. Once you master tempering, keep on going with the Melting Minutes Chocolate Academy lessons to learn how to use tempered chocolate to create high quality treats.
The Melting Minutes Chocolate Academy series is a great place to start if you’re new to tempering chocolate. Your reward will be delicious homemade chocolate candy made by YOU!
Today we’re going to learn to temper three ways:
- Microwave Method
- Stovetop Method
- KitchenAid Precise Heat Mixing Bowl Method
These methods share many of the same steps so we’ll start with the microwave method in detail, and then we’ll summarize where possible for the other two methods.
The microwave method is one of the easiest and quickest ways to temper chocolate. Another advantage of this method is it works perfectly for small amounts because it’s easier to control the temperature and avoid seizing the chocolate.
The only tools you need are a bowl, rubber spatula or spoon, and a thermometer. A plastic bowl is ideal, but a glass bowl will also work fine. A word of caution when using glass bowls: you will have to allow for additional heating of your chocolate since the bowl will stay hotter longer. The temperature of your chocolate will initially be lower than it will after about a minute because the bowl will continue to heat the chocolate. If you account for this, you shouldn’t have any issues. However, plastic bowls don’t retain heat the same way so if you have one on hand, I recommend it instead.
If you’re not using callets, you will need to cut your chocolate in small chunks that will allow for even melting. Reserve 1/4 of your chocolate to use later for seeding.
Place your chocolate in a bowl and microwave it on full power for 30 seconds.
As you stir the chocolate, you will notice it will start melting. Place it back in the microwave for another 30 seconds.
Continue to microwave the chocolate in 30 second intervals until your chocolate is completely melted. It may be necessary to reduce the time if you’re close.
As we discussed in The Nuts & Bolts of Tempering, you need to reach the following temperatures:
- Dark Chocolate: 113°F (45°C)
- Milk Chocolate: 104°F (40°C)
- White Chocolate: 104° (40°C)
When you get close in temperature, reduce the time in the microwave to only a few seconds.
Once you reach the first target temperature, slowly add the chocolate you reserved for seeding. Continually stir as you gradually add the chocolate. This will introduce Type V cocoa butter crystals and reduce the temperature of your chocolate. Don’t forget to keep stirring throughout the tempering process. Here’s the temperatures you need to get down to:
- Dark Chocolate: 81°F (27°C)
- Milk Chocolate: 81°F (27°C)
- White Chocolate: 81°F (27°C)
As you may have noticed, the target temperature is the same for all types of chocolate. I find that depending on the temperature of the room I am working in, I sometimes struggle to get to such a low temperature. To compensate, I often put a wet dish towel in the freezer before I start tempering. Then I place the frozen towel under the bowl when I’m ready to start dropping the temperature of the chocolate.
Be very careful to not get even the tiniest amount of water in your chocolate or you will risk seizing it. I always have a dry dish towel nearby to keep my hands and utensils completely dry.
When you reach the second target temperature, you are ready to slightly increase to your working temperature. To do this, microwave the chocolate in 3 second intervals to be sure you do not eliminate the Type V cocoa butter crystals and throw your chocolate out of temper. Be patient and check the temperature often. Here’s the working temperatures you need:
- Dark Chocolate: 89°F (32°C)
- Milk Chocolate: 86°F (30°C)
- White Chocolate: 86°F (30°C)
Do not exceed 93°F (36°C). If you do, start the tempering process over.
Over time, you will start to recognize chocolate that is in temper by its viscosity and shine. Some can even temper without thermometers by placing a dab of chocolate on their wrist or the inside of their lip. I am not one of those people. Take a look at this beautiful chocolate…
It’s always a good practice to check that your chocolate is in temper. There are a couple ways to do this, you can either dip a butter knife in your chocolate or smear a little bit on parchment paper. After a few minutes, the chocolate should harden and have a nice shine. You should not see any streaks, or white from blooming. If you get anything other than this, start the tempering process over.
For the stovetop method, you will need a double boiler, rubber spatula or spoon, and a thermometer. If you don’t have a double boiler, a metal bowl that fits over a pot works wonderfully. You could also use any glass bowl that can handle higher temperatures, but the caveats that we discussed in the microwave method still apply. The important thing is that there needs to be at least a couple inches between the water line in the pot and the bottom of the bowl.
To get started, reserve 1/4 of your chocolate for seeding and place the rest in the top of your double boiler (or bowl).
Fill the pot with two inches or so of water and heat it on medium low. Once the water is hot, place the top of the double boiler (or bowl) on the pot. Be careful not to expose your chocolate to steam. Even the smallest amount of water can seize your chocolate.
Stir continuously as your chocolate begins to slowly melt. Once the chocolate is melted, use your thermometer often to check the temperature. As you get closer, remove the top of the double boiler (or bowl) from the pot and stir. Eventually you will move it back and forth and only place it on the pot for a few seconds at a time. (Remember to watch for steam)
The target temperatures discussed in the microwave method still apply to the stovetop method. The only thing that changes here is how the chocolate is heated.
Once you reach your first target temperature, remove the chocolate from the heat and slowly add the seed chocolate. If your kitchen is on the warm side, you may want to try the frozen towel trick I discussed in the microwave method.
Eventually you will reach the second target temperature and will be ready to increase to your working temperature. To do this, place the top of the double boiler (or bowl) back on your pot for only a couple seconds at a time.
The stovetop method is a little less predictable than the microwave method so use your thermometer often.
It will take no time at all to reach your working temperature. Use one (or both) ways to test the temper that we discussed in the microwave method. If the chocolate passes your test then you’re good to go!
KitchenAid Precise Heat Mixing Bowl Method
If you’re like me, you love trying out new KitchenAid mixer attachments. Well KitchenAid has come out with the Precise Heat Mixing Bowl that is great for breads, fondue, and CHOCOLATE. The bowl attaches to your KitchenAid mixer and heats up in two degree increments to any temperature from 70° to 220°F (21 to 104°C). Or you can take advantage of the automatic temper setting. It’s like having your own tempering machine.
Here’s what I love most about this method:
- Easy to use
- Does the stirring for me
- Holds the temperature for up to 10 hours
To use the Precise Heat Mixing Bowl for tempering chocolate, you essentially follow the same pattern that we did in the previous two methods. Heat the chocolate, add the seed, reduce the temperature, then slightly heat your chocolate to your working temperature. You can follow these steps by manually programming the temperature of the bowl or you can use the temper setting.
I have noticed that the temperature displayed on the bowl does not always match the chocolate. My guess is that it is because the thermometer is at the bottom of the bowl and not on the rubber scraper attachment.
It’s important to rely on your own thermometer to be sure you’re hitting your target temperatures.
The Precise Heat Mixing Bowl comes with detailed instructions, but I will likely go over this in more detail in a future post. My goal here is to let you know that this product is out there and I have found it to be very useful. It allows me to walk away from the chocolate and tend to my little ones, prepare fillings, clean molds, etc.
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Next Post: When Tempering Goes Bad (Lesson 6)
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