What is tempering chocolate?

Apr 23, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. ET

If you've ever tried working with chocolate, you know that it can be a bit tricky. These tips for tempering chocolate correctly will help you succeed in making candy and other chocolaty treats perfectly.

Melted chocolate

If you’re an avid baker or chocolate lover, you’ve most likely tried making your own chocolate truffles. And sure, they were good, but they were probably soft and had to be refrigerated. Once you get the hang of tempering chocolate, you'll be able to not only make truffles but your other chocolate confections will be shiny, smooth and have a nice snap to them.

Working with chocolate correctly requires technique, but it's not something you have to be afraid of. With practice, you'll be tempering chocolate in your sleep!

What is tempering?

Tempering is the melting and cooling down of chocolate to achieve a shiny and smooth chocolate confection. It allows us to achieve great results with minimum steps and temperature control. A thermometer is helpful when tempering chocolate. After some practice, you'll be able to tell the temperature of the chocolate with your wrist. One of the most used and best thermometers on the market right now, preferred by chefs and chocolate makers alike, is the ThermaPen.

Why do we need to temper chocolate?

  • Tempered chocolate will set and harden quicker, with a shiny and smooth texture. It will last longer and retain its original flavors and texture.
  • Untempered chocolate will take much longer to set (at times requiring a few minutes in the refrigerator) and, when set, will have a streaky appearance and grainy texture.

Find out how to salvage overheated chocolate >>

Basic methods of tempering chocolate

  1. Seeding: This method refers to melting 3/4 of your chocolate and then "seeding" chopped chocolate into the warm , melted chocolate. The introduction of formed crystals in the new chocolate will help bring the entire bowl to temper. The great benefit of seeding is that all your chocolate is contained inside of the bowl, while when tabling (method below) your chocolate could get a little messy all over the table.
  2. Tabling: The tabling method requires that you bring all your melted chocolate to a marble tabletop and quickly spread the chocolate all over, continuously moving and spreading it until it cools down. It's crucial to do this on a marble tabletop as marble retains cooler temperatures, but you can also do it on a stainless steel tabltop if need be.

Quick tips

There are some general precautions to take into account if you want your results to be great. While melting your chocolate, keep it away from water. Even a drop can cause it to seize, so make sure that all your tools, bowls and table tops are dry. Another friend/enemy of chocolate is heat. Sure, heat is used to melt chocolate, but overheating will cause it to thicken and turn grainy, so always try to keep your dark chocolate below 120 degrees F and milk and white chocolate under 110 degrees F.

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