The Nuts & Bolts of Tempering
Melting Minutes Chocolate Academy - Lesson 4
The goal today is to learn what happens to our chocolate during the tempering process. To do this, we’re going to talk about chocolate in a more scientific way. This will help you to understand why tempering happens and how it happens. Once you understand this information, you will be able to troubleshoot tempering issues that you might have in the future and be able to make adjustments to your technique by adjusting the chocolate’s temperature, etc. It will also give you confidence when things are going just fine since you will recognize the characteristics tempered chocolate should have (and vice versa).
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!
Chocolate can have many different characteristics based on the cocoa butter crystals that are present in our chocolate. This is called polymorphing. Poly means many and morph refers to the form or shape. Putting that together we can surmise that the cocoa butter crystals take many forms.
There are six types of cocoa butter crystals that form in chocolate. When we temper, we are essentially getting rid of the crystals we don’t want and encouraging the ones we do want to form. We are able to accomplish this because each type of cocoa butter crystal melts and forms at different temperatures.
The table below shows the difference in properties when a particular crystal type is dominate in your chocolate. As you will notice, we’re shooting for Type V crystals for chocolate that has the snap and shine that we desire. Have you ever had chocolate that melts as soon as it touches your fingers? Well chocolate with Type V crystals won’t do that and is firm enough to hold its shape outside of the refrigerator.
As a general rule, when chocolate is cooled, good crystals are formed. When it is reheated, bad crystals are eliminated.
When we temper chocolate, we are heating it to a temperature that eliminates all six cocoa butter crystals (104-113°F/40-45°C). This starts us off with a clean slate. Then we lower the temperature to where there will be mostly Type IV and V cocoa butter crystals (81°F/27°C). And finally, we reheat the chocolate to bring it in temper (86-89°/30-32°C). Holding the chocolate in temper for several minutes helps transform the remaining Type IV crystals to Type V.
It’s worth noting that the temperatures I mention are approximates. It’s always best to refer to your chocolate manufacturer’s packaging for the recommended heating and cooling temperatures. Some manufacturers will recommend higher temperatures and others will recommend lower.
The crystallization curve below shows the heating and cooling that takes place during the tempering process. These are the target temperatures to follow as you temper. You’ll notice that milk and white chocolate have different target temperatures than dark chocolate. This is due to the increased chance of scorching because they contain more milk solids and sugar.
In the previous lesson we talked about the three fundamentals of tempering: temperature, agitation and time. We’ve covered how cocoa butter crystals melt and form at certain temperatures. But to prevent over crystallization, we continuously agitate the chocolate by stirring. Then we give the cocoa butter crystals enough time to form and grow. These fundamentals can’t be reinforced enough. It’s not enough to just hit target temperatures, you need to work your chocolate by stirring often and you need to give enough time for good cocoa butter crystals to form. I guess you can say they all work in harmony and are equally important in the process.
One of the ways we manipulate the types of crystals we want is by reducing the temperature at a faster rate than would occur by letting the chocolate cool on its own. There are various methods for cooling your chocolate, such as a tempering stone, but a very common technique is called seeding. The seed refers to chocolate that is in perfect temper.
The seeding process is accomplished by withholding 1/4 of your chocolate until you have achieved the first target temperature of the rest of your chocolate. Then slowly add the reserved chocolate and watch them melt into your already heated chocolate. This will not only bring down the temperature of your chocolate and help you achieve a temperature as low as 81°F (27°C) quickly, but since the seed chocolate is tempered, you will be introducing the good Type V cocoa butter crystals.
Once your chocolate is tempered, you can hold the temperature to give you enough time to use it for your project. The KitchenAid Precise Heat Mixing Bowl works well for this, but depending on what method you’re using, a good alternative is a heat pad. You can also just place the chocolate back on the double boiler or in the microwave for a few seconds to warm the chocolate back up. If the temperature decreases lower than 82°F (28°C), you will need to retemper it since you’ve introduced too many bad crystals. If it stays above this temperature, just simply reheat it to your working temperature.
I find that the longer you hold your chocolate in temper, the more crystallized it seems. You will notice the chocolate is thicker and more difficult to work with. If this happens, increase your temperature but do not exceed 93°F (34°C). If you do, you have no choice but to retemper since the Type V crystals have been eliminated.
Congratulations! You now have a good enough foundation to roll up your sleeves and start melting chocolate. Be sure to continue to Lesson 5 to learn about the various tempering techniques.
Next Post: How to Temper (Lesson 5)
Previous Post: The Three Fundamentals of Tempering (Lesson 3)