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.