For many recipes, tempering the chocolate first is the key to a shiny surface free of white streaks and blotches. But tempering chocolate isn't just about melting it. It has to reach exact temperatures in the right order to prevent the cocoa butter in the chocolate from forming the wrong kinds of crystals that can cause a multitude of unattractive results.
In addition to preventing blotchiness, tempering actually raises the melting temperature (and, therefore, the cooling temperature) of chocolate, meaning it won't melt on contact with your fingers when candies are dipped in it, and it will cool more quickly after dipped. It also gives those candies a shiny, glossy appearance and a crisp snap when it's broken.
Tempering chocolate can be done in a variety of ways. You can even use the microwave for melting, though you'll need to run it on half power for no more than a minute at a time, stirring between sessions. Some people find the stovetop easier because the microwave doesn't save any active time.
How to temper chocolate
1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces, or use chocolate chips.
2. Set up a double boiler, and bring the water to a simmer.
3. Add 2/3 of the chocolate in the top of the double boiler, and bring melting chocolate to the following temperatures, stirring constantly. Remove from heat once you reach the respective temperature (1 or 2 degrees off is OK). Continue stirring off the heat if chocolate isn't completely melted.
4. Add the remaining chocolate to the melted chocolate a little at a time, stirring constantly, until all the chocolate is melted. Try to keep the mixture at the following temperatures, bringing it back to heat if the temperature starts to drop too much (again, 1 or 2 degrees off is OK).
Make sure the temperature of the chocolate stays within 2 or 3 degrees of the cooler temperatures while you're using it, using a heating pad if necessary. If it gets too hot or cold, it will lose temper, and you'll have to start over.
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