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Tempering Chocolate


See Also:     Chocolate Ganache  |  Origin, History & Uses of Chocolate  | Chocolate Recipes  |  National Chocolate Week



Jump to:-   What is tempered chocolate  |  How to temper chocolate without a thermometer  | How to temper chocolate with a thermometer  Uses for Tempered Chocolate


In recipes where chocolate needs to be added to other ingredients as a flavour, nothing more needs to be done than merely melting or chopping/grating it. However,  when an ultra smooth and shiny effect is required, such as coatings on cakes and confectionary or delicate decorations, tempering the chocolate is key to achieving the desired finish.


Much is spoken/written about tempering chocolate which can put people off giving it a go especially when it comes to using thermometers however, as with jam and sugar craft, it is not absolutely necessary to use thermometers provided the mechanics of the task are understood.


What is tempered chocolate?


Chocolate naturally contains six different sized cocoa butter crystals, but it is only a particular size of crystal which gives the characteristics required for tempered chocolate. Tempering chocolate increases the amount of those particular crystals whilst reducing the other five, making the chocolate more stable, particularly at room temperature.


Bought bars of chocolate have already been tempered which is why they are shiny and have a snap to them however, in order to use chocolate for coatings, it must first be melted and the process of melting chocolate  "un-tempers" it as it melts all the crystals, resulting in chocolate which is dull and soft once it re-solidifies.


How to temper chocolate without a thermometer (seed method)


In order to encourage the correct size crystals to form, melted chocolate needs to be "inoculated" with more crystals and then cooled to a certain temperature which will encourage the correct crystals to form. This is done by adding pieces of the original solid chocolate and stirring quite vigorously until the solid chocolate melts into the liquid chocolate. This solid chocolate is referred to as "seed" chocolate.   The agitation of the mixture through stirring is a very important factor to increase the amount of correct sized crystals.


Once the point is reached where no more chocolate will melt, the mixture has re-tempered and is ready to use for coatings. To test whether chocolate is properly tempered, place a small amount on a piece of parchment or greaseproof paper. If it sets to a shine quickly then it is properly tempered.


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Tips when tempering chocolate without a thermometer


Only melt 2/3rds of the amount of solid chocolate. This can be done in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave and is more easily achieved by chopping or breaking the chocolate into small pieces

Make sure you don't get any water in the chocolate as it will not temper if you do

Melt the chocolate until liquid but not too hot

Off the heat, add half of the remaining solid chocolate pieces and stir vigorously until melted

Continue adding the solid chocolate a few pieces at a time, making sure you continue to stir vigorously until the chocolate melts

The chocolate is tempered when it is cool enough that no more solid chocolate pieces will melt



How to temper chocolate with a thermometer


For those of you eager to use a thermometer here are the instructions. Remember there are six types of crystals, each of which have different characteristics and, more importantly where this method is concerned, melt at a different temperature


Type of Crystal Melting temperature Notes
I 17 C (63 F) Soft, crumbly, melts too easily
II 21 C (70 F) Soft, crumbly, melts too easily
III 26 C (79 F) Firm, poor snap, melts too easily
IV 28 C (82 F) Firm, good snap, melts too easily
V 34 C (93 F) Glossy, firm, best snap, melts near body temperature
VI 36 C (97 F) Hard, takes weeks to form



Heat chocolate to 45 C (113 F) to melt all types of crystals.

Cool the mixture to 27 C (81 F), which allows crystal types 4 and 5 to form.

Agitate the mixture by stirring vigorously to create lots of small crystal "seeds"

Heat the mixture to 31 C (88 F) to eliminate any type 4 crystals, leaving just type 5 crystals. After this point, any excessive heating of the chocolate will destroy the temper and you'll have to start again


Uses for tempered chocolate


Dipping Coating Moulding Receptacles Toppings and decorations



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