Chocolate is a sensual, luscious food that has been scientifically proven to put people in the mood to make sweet love down by the fire.
This is where I help out. (with tempering chocolate that is...)
With Valentines day right around the corner, you should temper a big ol' bowl of chocolate, get some assorted foods to dip into it and surprise your loved one with these goodies.
Cocoa butter is the fat in the cacao bean that gives chocolate its unique mouth-feel and stable properties. To be considered “real” chocolate, a chocolate bar or chunk can contain only cocoa butter, not any other fat. Cocoa butter is the reason why you have to “temper” real chocolate.
Cocoa butter is fat that is composed of three to four glycerides of fatty acids. What complicates matters in chocolate making is that each of these different fatty acids solidifies at a different temperature. Once you melt a chocolate bar, the fatty acid crystals separate. The objective in tempering melted chocolate is to entice the disparate fatty acid crystals of cocoa butter back into one stable form.
Tempering is like organizing individual dancers at a party into a Conga line. For chocolate, temperature and motion are the party organizers that bring all the individual dancing crystals of fatty acids together in long lines and, in the process, create a stable crystallization throughout the chocolate mass.
Also, strange as it may sound, the temperature at which well-tempered chocolate melts is much higher than untempered chocolate because the fatty acid crystals in tempered chocolate are locked together tightly—it takes a higher temperature to pull them apart. Being tightly bound, well-tempered chocolate is resistant to developing chocolate bloom—that whitish film, streaks or spots of cocoa butter that form on the surface of chocolate.
In the tempering process, melted chocolate is first cooled, causing the fatty acid crystals to form nuclei around which the other fatty acids will crystallize. Once the crystals connect, the temperature is then raised to keep them from solidifying.
To help the chocolate to crystallize during the tempering process, chocolate makers use one technique called seeding. The "seed" is tempered chocolate in hunks, wafers or grated bits. It is added at the beginning of the tempering process. These crystals of tempered chocolate act like magnets, attracting the other loose crystals of fatty acids to begin the crystallization process that results in well-tempered chocolate.
Now with all of that chocolate education out of the way, here are instructions on how to temper some dark chocolate
- Chop your chocolate. It is best to use at least 1 pound of chocolate, as it is easier to temper (and retain the temper) of larger amounts of chocolate. If this is more than you need, you can always save the extra for later use. Be sure that your chocolate is in block or bar form, not chocolate chips. The chips have additives that allow them to retain their shape at higher temperatures, and so they will not temper properly.
- Melt 2/3 of your chocolate. Place it in the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water. Securely clip a chocolate or instant-read thermometer to the side of the boiler to monitor the chocolate’s temperature.
- Stir gently but steadily as the chocolate melts and heats up. Use a rubber spatula, they work best.
- Bring the chocolate to 115 degrees (for dark chocolate) or 110 degrees (for milk or white chocolate). Do not allow the chocolate to exceed its recommended temperature.
When it is at the right temperature, remove it from the heat, wipe the
bottom of the bowl, and set it on a heat-proof surface.
- Add the remaining chunks of chocolate and stir gently to incorporate. The warm chocolate will melt the chopped chocolate, and the newly added chocolate will bring down the temperature of the warm chocolate.
- Cool the chocolate. Once the chocolate gets below 84 degrees, remove the remaining chunks of chocolate. They can be cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and saved for another use.
- Reheat the chocolate briefly.Place the chocolate bowl over the warm water in the double boiler for 5-10 seconds, remove it and stir, and repeat, until the temperature reaches 88-89 degrees (87 for milk and white chocolate). Do not leave the chocolate over the hot water, or allow it to exceed 91 degrees.
- Your chocolate should now be tempered! To make sure it has been done properly, do a spot test: spread a spoonful thinly over an area of waxed paper and allow it to cool. If the chocolate is shiny and smooth, it is properly tempered. If it is dull or streaky, it has not been tempered correctly.