Tempering Chocolate

Creating a masterpiece in the kitchen is only possible with the best ingredients and materials. If you’re in the baking industry, knowing how to best temper chocolate is key to your success.

So what is tempering and why is it important?

Firstly, you need to decide whether or not you really need to temper chocolate. are you using the chocolate for dipping or coating, or are you using it with other ingredients to make a brownie? For dipping and coating, you need to temper the chocolate. to use with other ingredients in baking you can simply melt the chocolate.

tempering chocolate is essentially all about getting the crystal structure within the chocolate correct. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually very easy.

If you melt the chocolate and just leave it to set on its own, the crystal structure will set in a way that leaves the chocolate dull in appearance and without that satisfying snap when you break a piece off. as well as being soft, it could also look quite greasy.

to get the chocolate tempered you must first release the crystals by melting the chocolate and bringing it up to approximately 48°C. then you need to get the crystals to form in a neat and military manner. to do this, you need to bring the temperature down to approximately 32°C fairly quickly. Please note, for white chocolate, you need bring the temperature to about 29°C and to 31°C for milk chocolate.

there are a number of ways to do this, but the easiest method is as follows:

* Over a double boiler melt 2/3 of your chocolate and allow it to come up to the temperature of 48°C;

* take the boiler off the heat;

* add half of the 1/3 of chocolate you have left (1/6 of the starting amount) and stir until melted; and

* With the thermometer in the chocolate, slowly add more of the chocolate you have left until it reaches 32°C. You may have a little bit of chocolate left over (just eat that – benefits of being the chef!).

Your chocolate is now tempered. Some handy tips when using chocolate include:

1. When making moulded chocolates, warm the moulds before you pour the chocolate in, otherwise you are pouring perfectly tempered chocolate into a cold mould and this will drop the temperature of the chocolate, sending all those military lined-up crystals into disarray.

2. Want to get creative? Use multiple chocolate in your moulds for decoration purposes. temper a different type of chocolate (i.e. white chocolate) and, using a clean narrow paint brush, paint a little motif, line, heart or whatever takes your creative fancy onto the (warmed) mould. Place in the fridge and allow to harden. then temper your main flavoured chocolate (dark or milk if you are using white as your decorative choice).

Once tempered, pour into the mould and use a spatula to drag the excess chocolate off and place in the fridge to harden. Once it has hardened, take it out of the fridge, pop the chocolate out of the mould and pat yourself on the back.

3. Melting chocolate for baking and not as a finished product? Chocolate is easy to burn and to overheat. although it is possible to melt in a microwave, I don’t recommend it. I know it takes a bit longer, but the best way to melt chocolate is in a double boiler. however, beware: chocolate and water do not mix! So, not only keep the chocolate away from the water but also from the steam of the double boiler.

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