Tempering chocolate is a technique that controls the formation of cocoa butter crystals in order to yield snappy and shiny solid chocolate. When tempered chocolate is melted, it must be re-tempered or it will lose these properties upon solidification. Untempered chocolate is soft, melts easily, and does not hold its shape well.
A variety of techniques exist for tempering chocolate, but the basic principle is the same. The chocolate must first be heated to its melting temperature to liquefy it and melt all the cocoa butter crystals. The chocolate is then cooled to the crystallization temperature and agitated to encourage the formation of small seed crystals. Next, the chocolate is gently heated again to eliminate all but the desirable high-melting-temperature crystals—this is called the working temperature. Finally the chocolate is spread or molded as desired before complete cooling.
All types of chocolate follow the same tempering stages: melting, crystallization, and working. However, the desired temperatures for these stages differ depending on what kind of chocolate you use. The following table indicates the temperatures to aim for when working with dark, milk, and white chocolate.
|Type||Melting temperature||Crystallization temperature||Working temperature|
|White chocolate||40-45˚C (104-113˚F)||25-26˚C (77-79˚F)||28-29˚C (82-84)|
|Milk chocolate||45-50˚C (113-122˚F)||26-27˚C (79-81˚F)||29-30˚C (84-86˚F)|
|Dark chocolate||50-55˚C (122-131˚F)||26-27˚C (79-81˚F)||31-32˚C (88-90˚F)|
Seeding Method Edit
In the seeding method, already-tempered chocolate is used to seed the melted chocolate with the desirable crystals
- Chop chocolate into pieces. Reserve about 25% of the chopped chocolate to use for seeding.
- Fully melt the chocolate, bringing it to the indicated melting temperature.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved seed chocolate until smooth. Cool to the indicated crystallization temperature.
- Gently heat the chocolate to its working temperature.
Tabling Method Edit
In the tabling method, melted chocolate is worked on a marble slab to generate seed crystals.
- Melt the chocolate, bringing it to the indicated melting temperature.
- Pour about ½ to ⅔ of the melted chocolate onto a clean marble slab.
- Use a spatula or pastry scraper to spread and work the melted chocolate until it begins to thicken and turn dull. It should be a few degrees below the working temperature.
- Return the tabled chocolate to the remaining melted chocolate. Stir and heat gently if needed to reach its working temperature.
Sous-vide Method Edit
The sous-vide method uses the precise control of a sous-vide to consistently bring the chocolate to the exact temperatures required for tempering.
- Chop the chocolate. Place in a sous-vide bag, and vacuum seal shut.
- Place in a sous-vide bath set to the indicated melting temperature. Let melt completely, massaging the bag.
- Set the sous-vide to the indicated crystallization temperature. Add a few ice cubes if desired to help it reach this temperature quickly. Massage the bag every minute or so to encourage even crystal formation.
- Once the sous-vide hits the crystallization temperature, set it to the indicated working temperature. Massage the chocolate every few minutes until the working temperature is reached.
- The chocolate can be left at working temperature until use. Massage the bag before opening it and using the chocolate.
Freeze-dried Cocoa Butter Method Edit
This method uses freeze dried cocoa butter powder (e.g. Mycryo) to generate the desirable crystals.
- Fully melt the chocolate.
- Cool the chocolate to about 33-34˚C (91-93˚F).
- Add 1% by weight of freeze-dried cocoa butter powder, and mix well.
- Keep the tempered chocolate around its working temperature until use.
Tempering Machine Edit
Tempering machines exist to ease the tempering process, especially when working with large amounts of chocolate. These machines use computers to precisely control the temper of the chocolate. They range in size from countertop models to large commercial machines.