It’s hard, but don’t lose your temper

On chocolate tempering and why to bother

You could say that chocolate has a finicky temperament. It requires a lot of work, knowledge and care to be made just right, but the result is incredibly rewarding.

One of the most important steps for an indulging chocolate result is the tempering.

What’s chocolate tempering?

The cocoa butter, which is the fat of the cocoa, can crystallize in six different forms, but only one of the forms (the form V crystal) gives us the pleasure we seek in chocolate. When in form V, the chocolate is shiny, it breaks with a snap, and it melts in your mouth, and not in your hand, with the perfect smooth texture.

Tempering chocolate is the process in which we manipulate the cocoa butter inside the chocolate to solidify in a form V crystal. If chocolate cools at an uncontrolled rate, different crystals will form and we’ll get a dull gritty and patchy chocolate.

To be exact, the tempering process is essentially a pre-crystallization process, as the crystallization takes place when the chocolate cools and solidifies in the mould. The tempering process directs the creation of the desired form V upon cooling, by creating enough crystal seeds in the molten chocolate for the remaining fat to set around them with the same type of crystal when cooled.

How to temper chocolate

There are several methods to temper chocolate, that is to create enough crystal seeds in the chocolate:

TTM- Time Temperature Movement:

In this method we first heat the chocolate to fully melt all the crystals to about 45°C, then cool it below crystallization temperature to create crystal seeds, and then warm it a little bit to melt all none form V crystals so we will be left only with form V crystals. This process should be done under shear, aka mixing that restricts the creation of big aggregates in the liquid.

Tabling is one well known technique that apply this method- first you melt all the chocolate, then you cool 2/3 of the melted chocolate by pouring it onto a marble slab, and spreading it back and forth with a metal spatula until it begins to thicken due to the crystal seeds. This mass is then added back to the remaining melted chocolate under constant stir, which cause a slight heating and the excess of crystals melt.

You can get similar results by cooling 2/3 of your molten chocolate in a bain-marie on an ice tab under constant stirring. It is less photogenic than tabling, but the process is cleaner and you can get the same result.

Another well known method is tempering through seeding. In this method we first melt all the chocolate, but then instead of cooling it with external element, such as the marble slab, you can add ready form V seeds to the mixture. Their melting cools the chocolate to about 30°C and leaves microscopic form V seeds, and voila you got your chocolate tempered. Preferably the ready seeds could be small chunks or drops of solid tempered chocolate, the same kind you’re using.

The last method is to start with a tempered chocolate without loosing its temper. To do that you can gently warm the chocolate to melt it while steering, but be carful not to overheat. In this case you would like to heat the chocolate to 30-32. Above that there are not enough crystal seeds in the molten chocolate to maintain its temper.

It’s a lot of work tempering chocolate, but it is worth the effort. I like to use a machine that tempers the chocolate for me. What’s your method?

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