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Troubleshooting Tempering


seawakim
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Thanks everyone for such quick responses! To answer a few questions - I don't think my chocolate is bad (no water touched it, wasn't refrigerated), although I have previously used it to dip chilled truffle centers so maybe it's possible the centers had some condensation. I have gone through the tempering process several times with my chocolate, so it is well "used" - but from what I understand that's not supposed to be a problem. On my last attempt I used a 2nd thermometer to make sure my ACMC wasn't way off, and they were pretty close (usually within 1 degree, occasionally 2 degrees briefly). My seed chocolate is Callebaut block, so it is definitely tempered.

Based on your feedback, it sounds like I'm adding my seed at too high a temp and also not giving it enough time to form the beta crystals at the lower temp. (Although adding seed too early doesn't seem like it would hurt anything if you still have unmelted seed at the end - i.e. all your seed wasn't melted at too high a temp, is this correct?) And given that my machine is always agitating the chocolate, it seems that although my chocolate might not be tempered as soon as it drops to 89, it would eventually become tempered after more time just from the agitation, which I didn't find to be the case.

This is what I'll try next: melt at 120F, hold for a while, drop temp to 93 and then add seed chocolate, drop to 82, hold for 10 mins, bring back up to 89, hold for 10 mins, then remove leftover seed. Is that leaving the seed chocolate in too long? I know it might be; I guess now I'm paranoid I'm not seeding enough so I'm trying to stack the deck in favor of that.

If this doesn't work then I'll try starting with fresh tempered chocolate instead of my very used untempered chocolate, and see if that works. At least that will eliminate one variable.

Thanks for your help!

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You are making this way too hard. Melt the choc to 120. Turn the temp down to working temp-90? Throw some broken up block in the back of the baffle. Turn the bowl on and walk away. When it hits the working temp, you are ready to go. Leave the block in the back, or what is left of it. Keep seed in the back while you are working. This will slowly melt and you can continue working. If it seems to over crystallize, turn the temp up 1-2 degrees.

Ruth Kendrick

Chocolot
Artisan Chocolates and Toffees
www.chocolot.com

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You are making this way too hard. Melt the choc to 120. Turn the temp down to working temp-90? Throw some broken up block in the back of the baffle. Turn the bowl on and walk away. When it hits the working temp, you are ready to go. Leave the block in the back, or what is left of it. Keep seed in the back while you are working. This will slowly melt and you can continue working. If it seems to over crystallize, turn the temp up 1-2 degrees.

I second this. In my own case, I remove the seed when the bowl reaches 90F so as to prevent over seeding.

Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

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  • 8 months later...

I've been meaning to learn how to temper chocolate for some time now, and seeing as how my latest batch of truffles are much too fluid to be served as-is, I suspect I may as well get at it. I'm aware of the standard procedure of heat to 120F, cool to 86F, and heat to 90F, but I'm a bit perplexed as to how I might go about keeping this temperature mostly constant. A thick ceramic bowl and maybe a towel would appear the most obvious solution, but perhaps I'd be better off turning the stove very low and monitoring the thermometer?

Also, on a semi-related note, could anyone comment on my ganache-preparation technique? I've been using a microwave to melt the chocolate and butter, and adding hot cream with a little corn syrup. I've never had any trouble with emulsions, though I suspect that this is mostly because Trader Joes' dark chocolate has lecithin in it.

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Re tempering: an electric blanket can be used to keep the chocolate warm, or heat periodically in the microwave or have a heat gun (ie., paint stripper from local hardware store) to add a bit of heat every now and then. The more chocolate you have in the bowl, the more it will hold its heat.

Re your ganache: there are many ways. Most common is to boil cream and glucose. Pour over chocolate. At 32C add the butter. You can also try melting the chocolate, tempering it, heating cream to 30C and combining with chocolate, then adding butter. This theoretically keeps the ganache chocolate in temper which some believe extends shelf life.

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I bought this Cara Heating Pad w/ Select Heat, which allows me to set the pad to a specific temperature. I place that in a large mixing bowl and then set my bowl of tempered chocolate on top of the pad. The outer bowl allows the pad to wrap around the bowl of chocolate to heat all around it instead of just from the bottom. I make sure to stir the chocolate often and I'll check the temperature w/ my infrared thermometer. If I need to bring the temp up a bit, I'll pop the bowl in the microwave for 10 seconds or so or hit it with my heat gun. I'm able to keep about a kg of tempered chocolate at its working temp for much of an afternoon with little fuss.

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What I find that people new to tempering often get fixed in their head is that if the chocolate gets cool it needs to be tempered again - which it doesn't -just reheat making sure you don't go over the working temperature. So as suggested above you can reheat with a heat gun, a hairdryer, a few seconds in the microwave. It may take 12 or 15 seconds in the microwave - but I never give it 15 seconds at once - I tend to do 5, then 5, then 5. I never go over temp that way - but I would if I did all 15 seconds together.

Re the ganache. I make most of mine in the Thermomix these days which just makes it so simple - but doing it by hand - I have my chocolate at about 30 C, my cream (and glucose) at about 40 C and mix them together until I get an emulsion. I usually stir in the room temperature butter after.

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When I need to warm my tempered chocolate a bit, I'll wave it over a very low flame for 10 - 15 seconds while stirring continuously. I generally keep the bowl about 12" - 18" above the flame so as to prevent too concentrated a hot spot.

Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

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What I find that people new to tempering often get fixed in their head is that if the chocolate gets cool it needs to be tempered again - which it doesn't -just reheat making sure you don't go over the working temperature.

This one secret made the whole process so much easier. While not 100% ideal, it seems that the temperature of the chocolate isn't hugely important so long as it has achieved temper and not exceeded 91 degrees.

I ended up tempering my chocolate in a coffee mug. I melted some milk chocolate (it's what I had on hand) in the microwave, using an instant-read meat thermometer to verify it hit 120 degrees. Adding further chopped chocolate wasn't enough to bring it down to 86 degrees, so I used a cool water bath before moving the mug into some simmering water to bring it back up to 91.

While the process was a bit of a kludge, the truffles came out great!

I'm curious, though - does anyone else here pipe out their truffles? I tried it, and had a lot of trouble producing chocolates of the desired shape. Should I just go out and invest in some moulds?

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Personally I would be reluctant to use a water bath to either cool or heat melted chocolate. Just a tiny bit of water getting into the chocolate will cause it to seize and you will not be able to temper it at all. I guess for such a small amount, you're not risking that much but I know if that happened to me I'd be pretty frustrated.

Also, I don't think milk chocolate needs to be heated to that high of a temperature to melt all the crystals. 120F is about the high end for dark. Milk chocolate should be taken to around 110F at the most. And the working temp of milk (and white, for that matter) is a few degrees lower than it is for dark, more around 82F-85F. But if what you did worked for you than I guess it doesn't really matter.

As for piping ganache, I've never done it for hand dipped truffles. I just let the ganache crystallize in a bowl than scoop into balls and dip. But given the choice, I much prefer to use molds and pipe the ganache into shells. Guess it all depends on the look you're going for with the final product. But if you use molds, you'll definitely want to work with a larger batch of tempered chocolate, like was suggested before.

Edited by Tony S. (log)
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I'm curious, though - does anyone else here pipe out their truffles? I tried it, and had a lot of trouble producing chocolates of the desired shape. Should I just go out and invest in some moulds?

You can pipe truffles without worry or you can mould them - both will take time and practice to learn though :smile:

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On a semi-related note, can anyone comment on my use of alcohol in truffles? The recipe I used calls for the addition of 1/4 cup liquor to a mixture of 4oz cream and 8oz chocolate. While the end result was fabulous, I'm told that the addition of water (of which most booze is at least 60%) can break the emulsion very easily. While I suspect I was saved by the presence of lecithin, I'm wondering if I would be better off adding the alcohol to the cream before mixing and simmering away the extra water and ethanol?

I'm curious, though - does anyone else here pipe out their truffles? I tried it, and had a lot of trouble producing chocolates of the desired shape. Should I just go out and invest in some moulds?

You can pipe truffles without worry or you can mould them - both will take time and practice to learn though :smile:

The problem I had with piping is that I ended up with very irregular shapes with extremely coarse sides. The chocolate would not separate from the nozzle, instead hanging there until I shook it off. Aside from being unsightly, these irregular lumps also meant that the truffle agglomerated up a lot of chocolate during dipping. I admit my Ziploc bag piping apparatus is not the best, but it's much easier than hand-shaping ganache that goes liquid at body temperature.

On a related note, I highly recommend Trader Joe's "pound plus" milk chocolate for idiotproof dipping. I suspect I may have done the whole procedure in a highly un-optimal fashion, but the stuff has enough emulsifier and cocoa butter to make it a non-issue. It tastes pretty good, too, and at slightly less than $4/pound, I can afford to make mistakes.

Edited by jrshaul (log)
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You usually want to keep the alcohol because it is a preservative. If the truffle is too soft, you can replace some of the cream with butter (therefore making the cream + butter + alcohol combination about the same fat:water ratio as cream alone), or just use less cream.

Edited by pastrygirl (log)
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  • 4 months later...

Assuming you don't want to invest in a machine, I find using the microwave and an infrared thermometer to be an easy way to do it. You should look for instructions in a book, like the ones by Andrew Shott or Peter Grewling.

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Grits12: Please check out the forum on the 2012 Confection Conference that will be held in March in the Washington DC Metro area. Everyone is welcome to attend, I'm sure we will have a session on chocolate tempering techniques, giving you the opportunity to try different methods of tempering chocolate.

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  • 3 months later...

Hi all -

I'm about to have my first go at tempering chocolate for making spiced PB cups, and I've of course obsessively been doing research about how to temper. From what I've seen, if you have quality block chocolate that is already in temper, and don't heat it above around 95 degrees, it should stay in temper. I have a dehydrator with a thermostat that will let me set the chamber to 90 or 95 degrees. I'm wondering if I could simply chop my chocolate, put it in a glass bowl, and stick it in the dehydrator until the chocolate has melted?

Emily

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Yep, but it takes a long time (overnight, typically). You might be better off just learning the seeding method for tempering chocolate, if you ever plan to do any more chocolate work.

Agreed. As someone new to this whole chocolate making thing (and learning thanks to people like Chris) I can say that the seeding method is really not hard. Use a scale and a microwave and it's pretty easy.

The one thing I was surprised by is how quickly the chocolate can heat up in a microwave. When instructions say to go in 5-10 second increments once you are getting close to target temps, that is not an exaggeration. 5 seconds can heat a pound of chocolate several degrees, better to check the temp more often than necessary than to have to toss it and start over.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi,

I've just started experimenting with a bit of chocolate making and am loving it - I've had a few problems with tempering and I'd love a bit of analysis of my results:

The chocolate i've been using is Lindt 70% dessert chocolate (labelled as a good one to use in desserts/pastry, not sure if it's actually different % cocoa butter).

However, it's out of date by 6 months now, and i don't know if that is the source of my problems. One of my blocks had gotten slightly warm and looked like this when I opened it, the fat had separated I guess, but when I melted it it looked fine.

chocBlock.jpg

Anyway, I tried to temper but didn't have a thermometer, so I'm pretty sure I got it wrong. That's fine, I've just bought one so will try again and anticipate more success! Do you think the results I've gotten (see below) are all caused by lack of temper, or is the age of the chocolate also a problem? The big blob is a pool of leftover stuff after I dipped, and it set up with a weird swirl pattern and also was a bit crumbly when I snapped it... this is what I'm unsure about (the streakiness I guess is just varying temperatures of the chocolate around the bowl?).

chocDisc.jpg

These are three truffles from the same batch of chocolate - the different combinations of matte, slight shiny bits (is that in temper?!) and even some blooming have me a bit confused.

truffles.jpg

And lastly, one general question that I haven't seen an answer for - I've been using the method in Kerry's Demo, but I wonder if the chocolate needs to be already tempered to work? (i.e if I buy "regular" chocolate from a supermarket, apart from maybe not tasting great, will it still temper if I get the technique correct?.

Thanks :) I look forward to many more adventures!

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