When Tempering Goes Bad
Melting Minutes Chocolate Academy - Lesson 6
I’ve mentioned before that tempering chocolate is not without risk. Sometimes tempering goes bad and you get bloomed or cracked chocolate. It’s the worst. You invest all that time and precious ingredients only to have an ugly mess that is far from the beautiful masterpiece you envisioned. The good news is that it can often be avoided.
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!
There are two kinds of chocolate bloom:
- Fat bloom
- Sugar bloom
Let’s go over each so you will be able to recognize them when they occur. With this information, you will be able to identify what went wrong and alter your method to avoid it in your next batch of chocolate.
I’m sure you’ve seen bloomed chocolate before. You open up a candy bar that has been sitting in your car for awhile, only to realize it is covered in white. Is it mold you wonder? Nope. The chocolate has bloomed. Fat crystals have settled at the surface of the chocolate and has caused it to become chalky or streaky looking. Perhaps it even has a crumbly texture. It’s safe to eat, but it’s so unappetizing you might not want to.
The scenario of the candy bar left in the car is the result of fat bloom. The chocolate was exposed to fluctuations of temperature that were too severe. It’s safe to assume it got much hotter than the ideal 75°F (24°C) storage temperature in the car.
Fat bloom can happen during storage, but a flaw in the tempering process is the likely culprit. If the target temperatures we discussed in The Nuts & Bolts of Tempering are not achieved, the good cocoa butter crystals are destroyed and the bad ones are formed.
Let’s review the table from Lesson 4. The polymorphic effect of cocoa butter crystals impact the presence of blooming. You will notice that a concentration of Type I and II cocoa butter crystals result in the most obvious blooming. However, Type III and IV will result in some blooming. Chocolate needs to be manipulated so that only Type V cocoa butter crystals have been formed.
Inadequate Agitation could also be to blame for bloomed chocolate. Stirring distributes the cocoa butter crystals evenly and prevents over crystallization. Most problems we encounter during the tempering process point back to the Three Fundamentals of Tempering. If you think you have bloomed chocolate due to inadequate agitation, try stirring more often and more thoroughly.
Fat Migration is another problem that can lead to blooming. This occurs when the oils of a filling migrate to the surface of your chocolate. This is particularly an issue with peanut butter and nut fillings. The solution is to increase the thickness of the chocolate shell that surrounds the filling. A thin shell is much more susceptible to fat migration than a thick one.
Here’s a summary of the likely causes of fat blooming:
- Improper Storage Temperature
- Incorrect Temperatures During Tempering Process
- Inadequate Agitation
- Fat Migration
When even the tiniest amount of liquid makes contact with your chocolate, we start seeing sugar bloom. We’ve already discussed at length the importance of keeping your hands and utensils dry and keeping an eye out for steam when using the stovetop method. After the chocolate is tempered, we still have to be diligent about avoiding moisture. Chocolate gets exposed to moisture in ways you might not expect.
Sugar bloom occurs when moisture dissolves the chocolate sugars and causes a rough, hardened texture to form in the areas affected. Sugar bloom’s appearance is generally spotted or flecked. Unlike fat bloom, where it can be successfully retempered, sugar bloom that is moderate to severe should not be retempered.
A common way sugar bloom happens is when placing molds in the refrigerator. The extremes in temperature between the refrigerator and a warm room causes condensation on the surface of your chocolate.
The best way to avoid this is to not place chocolate in the refrigerator. If you do, don’t do it for more than a few minutes so the mold and chocolate temperature doesn’t drop too much. If you’re transferring the chocolate from the refrigerator to a very warm room, you might want to wrap the mold with towels to ease the temperature up slower than if you just exposed it to the warm air.
Working in a humid area can also cause sugar bloom. If possible, take steps to prevent humidity when making and storing your chocolate.
Water left in molds from cleaning is another common cause of sugar bloom. Intricate designs can especially hide moisture. I try to make sure my molds have been cleaned well before I begin tempering, and then I place them where they won’t make contact with moisture.
Here’s a summary of the common causes of sugar bloom:
- Placing Molds in Refridgerator
- Working in Humid Area
- Water Left in Molds
Sometimes chocolate will crack when it’s popped out of the mold. Cracks can occur for a few reasons:
- The shell was too thin.
- Too much chocolate was left on the back of the mold.
- The chocolate was exposed to too cold of a temperature.
I experienced cracks when making hollow dark chocolate Easter bunnies. I left them in the refrigerator too long and failed to gradually transition them back to the warm air of my kitchen. I got some sugar bloom as a result but I also had bunny ears that cracked right off.
Fingerprints and Dirty Molds
Your fingers have oils that can transfer to the surface of molded chocolate. For the best presentation and shine, do your best to not touch the chocolate once it comes out of the mold. Chocolate Handling Gloves are a good idea because they’ll allow you to handle the chocolate but won’t cause fingerprints.
Chocolate will take on a mirrored image of whatever is in the mold. I’m not just referring to the shape and design of the mold. Any residue or fingerprints left in the mold will transfer to the chocolate. This can be avoided by carefully cleaning your molds and shining them with a cotton ball to ensure there is nothing hiding in there that will affect the final product.
I sincerely hope this information helps you to avoid the most common issues related to bloom, cracks, fingerprints and contaminants. May your days be filled with chocolate that glosses and shines!
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