Everyone loves chocolate, am I right? But, did you ever stop and think about what you can do with chocolate? There’s a lot you can do with chocolate and all of its individual components. The one trick that I feel everyone needs to learn is how to properly temper chocolate. This means to have the chocolate set up hard and with a nice shine on outside.
What does Tempering actually do?
Tempering does two things to chocolate: strengthens it and increases its shelf-life. This is what gives properly tempered chocolate its characteristic “snap” and “shine.” Also, it’s that added strength that allows massive chocolate sculptures to be built, much like the ones you see on television. Tempering is an extremely useful skill to learn and a very easy one to learn, to boot.
How to Temper Chocolate.
The very first step is to, of course, melt the chocolate you would like to temper. Make sure it is completely melted without any part of it melting. The easiest way to accomplish this is to set up what is known as a Double Boiler. First, bring a pot of water to a full boil. While it comes to a boil, place all the chocolate you wish to temper into a large, stainless-steel bowl. It is important that the chocolate is in small and uniform pieces. Use small chocolate chips or, if you’re breaking down a large block of chocolate, make sure to chop the chocolate into evenly-sized pieces. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat to its lowest setting and place the bowl with the chocolate in top of the pot. Stir until all the chocolate is completely melted and there are no chunks floating around. There are many ways to properly temper this mass of melted chocolate, but in my opinion, there is one very simple way to accomplish it: the Seeding Method.
The Seeding Method is just as it sounds: “seed” the melted chocolate with little bits of already tempered chocolate. This can be int he form of some reserved bits of the bar you were chopping up earlier or a few handfuls of chocolate chips. By this time, your melted chocolate should be well over 100-degrees Fahrenheit. Keep adding seeds of chocolate and stirring, but not aggressively. Keep a constant speed while stirring to avoid air bubbles in the chocolate. When you notice the chocolate mass begin to thicken, it is time to start taking what is known in the industry as a “Temper Test.” Take the back of a spoon or a small sliver of parchment paper and dip it into the chocolate. Set it aside in a cool place to allow the chocolate to temper. It should set up completely solid in 3 to 5 minutes. If it does, your chocolate is ready for the next step. If it isn’t set, keep adding small handfuls of seeding chocolate to the melted chocolate and keep taking temper tests. Once your chocolate is set, put it back over the hot pot of water and bring it up to 90-degrees Fahrenheit. NO HIGHER THAN 90-DEGREES. I cannot stress this point enough. If you go any higher than 90-degrees, your chocolate will loose its temper and you’ll have to start all over again.
So now you have a properly tempered mass of liquid chocolate. HOORAY! Now, what can you do with it? The better question here is what CAN’T you do with it? Honestly, the sky is the limit! You can pour it out onto a piece of parchment paper, comb a design into it, punch out some rounds and you have a nice set of chocolate garnishes for a cake. Or, if you have some molds handy, pour the chocolate into the molds, place the molds in a cool, dry place, let the chocolate set up and viola: home-made chocolate bars/bunnies/dogs/cats/whatever. You can ever put the chocolate into a piping bag and pipe out a design that will set up hard and then you can transfer it elsewhere as a garnish.
One neat trick that I learned at the CIA is Chocolate Cigarettes. Spread your chocolate onto a wooden surface and let it set up, but not all the way. Then, take a bench knife and, while holding it at an angle, scrape the chocolate up off the wood and it should curl on itself to form a tight chocolate cig. It’s a fantastic garnish and a great snack.
- DO NOT put chocolate refrigerator. Excess moisture will only serve to damage the chocolate.
- Keep chocolate away from excess light and heat, as well. Ever smelled burnt chocolate? Nasty stuff, I can assure you.
- Above all else, WORK QUICKLY. You need to keep this chocolate in a liquid state while working with it, which means moving FAST.
Believe me, tempering chocolate is a lot easier than it seems and the results are fantastic. Give it a shot!