Inside Out (Australia)

tempering chocolate – a quick and easy guide


The heading above is quite misleading, as there is no quick, easy way to temper chocolate — and secondly, ‘tempering’ is the wrong term, as temperatur­e alone will not bring the chocolate to its correct crystallin­e form; ‘pre-crystallis­ing’ would be a more accurate term.

The cocoa butter in chocolate is the reason why you need to pre-crystallis­e your chocolate, as once melted, it can reset in several difffferen­t forms, making it rather unique as a fat — but also, alas, somewhat difffficul­t to work with.

The aim of pre-crystallis­ation is to set the cocoa butter in its ‘beta’ form, giving your chocolate the shiny, set finish we all know and love.

First, we need to melt the chocolate. Start with 500g chocolate in total. Place 300g of it in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water; never use a direct heat source to melt chocolate, as this can easily scorch it. Melt the chocolate to between 40°C and 50°C on a sugar thermomete­r, then take the bowl offff the heat.

Now comes a combinatio­n of all three elements: time, temperatur­e and movement. If the bowl of chocolate is left to cool down by itself, it will set after a long time, but the chocolate will look dull and grainy. By adding movement (stirring constantly), the time it takes for the chocolate to cool down will be reduced, and the agitation will help form the correct crystallin­e structure.

Using the remaining 200g chocolate, gradually add small amounts while stirring. This ‘seeding’ process will also aid in the cooling process, as the introducti­on of the hard chocolate will drop the temperatur­e of the whole, while adding the stable crystals of the hard chocolate. Make sure each amount is completely melted in before adding more – add about 25g–30g at a time.

Once the temperatur­e reaches 34°C, stop adding any more chocolate and continue stirring until 32°C is reached.

If all goes well, the chocolate should be pre-crystallis­ed (tempered) now and ready to use. Things to look for are a reflective appearance to the surface, and a slight thickening of the mass. You can place a small amount on some paper on the tip of a knife — if it is correctly pre-crystallis­ed, this small amount will harden evenly within minutes and display the attractive gloss we all desire.

Other factors to account for are the room temperatur­e, and the temperatur­e of the chocolate itself before starting.

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