For a far more detailed tutorial on tempering chocolate, please have a look at our Chocolate #101: Tempering at Home post. Thank you!
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Pete finds these ironic. Whilst they have the shape of a regular chocolate frog, they’re really an adult version – 70% dark Belgian chocolate studded with cacao nibs (crushed cocoa beans). They’re super dark both in colour and taste, and I’m sure they’re good for you, given that 70% dark chocolate is supposed to be both low GI and high in anti-oxidants.
Several years ago, instructed by David Lebovitz’ The Great Book of Chocolate, I taught myself to temper chocolate. It’s a great skill to have up your sleeve and, once you’ve got your head around it, it’s actually quite easy to do.
It’s helpful to understand from the outset that all candy making works on similar principles. Whether you’re tempering chocolate, making fudge or creating nougat, the aim is dissolve the crystal structure and teach it to reform in a different way.
Tempering chocolate is about melting the chocolate into a liquid form, then teaching the crystals to reform in a manner that will allow it to set hard and glossy, rather than dull and brittle. From experience, there are two important elements in all candy making – temperature and patience. If you want to temper chocolate well, you need to invest in a good thermometer. Mine is digital and waterproof and I use it as frequently as my dishwasher, so it has well and truly justified its $70 purchase price.
Tempering Chocolate #101 – Dark Chocolate
Step 1: Pour some chocolate callets (50 – 70% cocoa) or finely chopped chocolate into a small pyrex bowl. The amount isn’t really important, although you want enough to make it worthwhile – I use a minimum of 400g.
Step 2: Melt the chocolate in short 30 second bursts in the microwave. You need to get the melted chocolate to a temperature of 115F to ensure that all the crystals are dissolved. Make sure it doesn’t get much hotter than that, or you’ll scorch the chocolate. (Now you can see why a good thermometer is critical.)
Step 3: Put a large chunk of tempered chocolate into the melted liquid. The theory here is that the tempered chocolate will “teach” the melted crystals to reform in a particular way. I keep large pieces of chocolate in the fridge specifically for this purpose. Keeping them cold speeds up the process, but you’ll still need to be patient.
Instead of one large lump, you could use pieces of chocolate – the important thing is that the chocolate should be hard and glossy (tempered) to start with.
Give the bowl a good stir and check the temperature. Allow the molten chocolate to drop to a temperature of between 88F – 90F. Go away, read a book or play solitaire on the computer, coming back occasionally to give it a stir.
Step 4: When the melted chocolate has reached 90F, start testing it by smearing a little onto a plate and putting it in the fridge. Once it’s tempered, it will set hard and glossy quite quickly (untempered chocolate will stay soft and sticky). Using a large fork, scoop the remains of the chunk out of the melted chocolate and wrap it in a sheet of parchment paper to reuse another day.
Step 5: In order to work with the chocolate, it needs to be kept at a temperature of 88F – 90F. If it falls below this it will be out of temper (cranky?) and won’t set properly. I use a heat mat covered with a folded tea towel, which holds the chocolate at the perfect temperature for enrobing.
Step 6: The tempered chocolate is now ready to use. You can stir inclusions into it, as I did (they’re cacao nibs you see in the photo below), dip truffles into it, pour it into moulds or pipe it onto a cake. One of the easiest things to make is nut bark, which involves stirring in a variety of nuts and then spreading the whole mix onto a large sheet of parchment. Once it has set hard, it can be broken into irregular shapes and stored in an airtight container.
Note: Milk and White Chocolate can be tempered in the same way, although the setting temperatures for these are slightly lower than for dark.
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