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seawakim

Tempering Chocolate

390 posts in this topic

I have a block of Callebaut milk chocolate that I used this past Christmas, when there were no problems with it at all. Recently I used it to mold chocolates, and it was a failure--had a grayish color and streaks and unmolded with great difficulty or not at all--symptoms of dirty molds and/or untempered chocolate. It got quite warm that day before I turned on the air conditioning, and I thought that might be a factor. I should add that along with the milk choc. I used dark and white in other confections, without incident. Today I decided to experiment with that same milk chocolate to try to get to the bottom of what was wrong.

I tempered the choc. in a Chocovision machine (same as previously). I tested it at the end of the process, and it looked tempered to me. I had prepared molds in three different ways: some plain, some "greased" with cocoa butter, some ungreased but decorated with colored cocoa butter. I had cleaned them repeatedly and polished them with cotton balls (no signs of previous use came off on the cotton). I filled the prepared molds, and everything looked fine--no streaks in the chocolate. But when I unmolded the chocolates (or tried to), I encountered all the previous problems--sides and bottom had a grayish color, top had developed a marbled effect. As far as the greasing of the molds experiment went, the ones with (plain) cocoa butter unmolded significantly more easily than the ungreased ones, whereas those with colored cocoa butter were the most difficult, and the cocoa butter stayed in the mold. But all had the gray and streaked appearance.

As far as the possible heat factor goes, today isn't that warm (the room is about 72 F.--which I know is a bit too warm for chocolate work, but I have done it before without incident).

I'm beginning to conclude that there is something wrong with this milk chocolate. I used previously melted and hardened pieces for the procedure, but I'm assuming that doesn't matter since they are melted (with all crystals) in the tempering process. For seeding I used a fresh piece from the Callebaut block. In other words, I did everything in the tempering process as I always do.

Can a block of chocolate go bad? Can chocolate be untemperable? Is the chocolate cursed? Any suggestions would be most welcome. These experiences have shaken my confidence; I guess I was just enjoying beginner's luck in all my previous chocolate work.

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Is it possible that your block is out of temper because of time spent at higher temp before your a/c turned on? If that's out of temper, then using it for seeding will not result in tempered final product. Can you try tempering it without seeding? It takes a little longer, but not a big deal in small quantities....

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Is it possible that your block is out of temper because of time spent at higher temp before your a/c turned on? If that's out of temper, then using it for seeding will not result in tempered final product. Can you try tempering it without seeding? It takes a little longer, but not a big deal in small quantities....

Excellent idea. I will give it a try tomorrow and report back. If it turns out to be the explanation, then I will know that chocolate is more temperamental in terms of storage temperature than I previously believed.

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Can a block of chocolate go bad? Can chocolate be untemperable? Is the chocolate cursed? Any suggestions would be most welcome. These experiences have shaken my confidence; I guess I was just enjoying beginner's luck in all my previous chocolate work.

Yes, a block of chocolate can most definitely "go bad," both in terms of flavour (any type of fat will eventually turn rancid; milk and white will spoil faster than dark) and in terms of temper. Like Kenneth T said, if your block got out of temper between Christmas and "recently," then it's useless for seeding. If you have a marble or granite slab, you could temper some by tabling it, and if you've been successful, use the tabled bit to precrystallize the rest of the choc block. If you have a cocoa butter block, you can try chef Eddy's method, my favourite for small quantities of chocolate:

http://www.chefeddy.com/2010/03/temper-or-pre-crystallize-chocolate-using-cocoa-butter/

Can chocolate be untemperable? If you got water into the melted chocolate and it seized, then yes, it is untemperable (can still use it in some baked stuff etc). Otherwise, whenever I had issues with crystallization, it was "operator error."

Is the chocolate cursed? Sometimes it feels that way, doesn't it. Chocolate sure does have a way of keeping us humble. Milk and white are more finicky usually. Sounds trite, but practice really does make perfect.

I am not familiar with the Chocovision machine, but my suggestion would be that you try tempering by hand. Seed with cocoa butter or chocolate that you are certain is in temper, or table the chocolate on marble to precrystallize without the use of seed. Always test the temper before pouring the chocolate in moulds. Hit your moulds briefly with a heat gun before pouring in the chocolate, so the chocolate is not shocked by a very cold mould. Make sure heat can escape quickly from the chocolate in the cavities, so that residual heat does not knock your chocolate out of temper.

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If you have a cocoa butter block, you can try chef Eddy's method, my favourite for small quantities of chocolate:

http://www.chefeddy.com/2010/03/temper-or-pre-crystallize-chocolate-using-cocoa-butter/

Thanks for all those tips. I had read Eddy's method previously but had forgotten about it. I have cocoa butter in the form of small chips. I would think they would work as well as grating it. What do you think? I like the fact that using cocoa butter is so foolproof. If it turns out that my block of milk chocolate (which is now quite small since I am switching to an E. Guittard product) is ruined, then I have to rethink what I am going to do with my supply of chocolate during the coming Virginia summer. It seems extravagant to run the air conditioning night and day just to save my chocolate, but .... Thanks again for your help. One unsettling thought: What is to prevent cocoa butter from going out of temper just like the milk chocolate appears to have done? It does melt at a higher temperature, so I would guess it would be safer longer.

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I bought a small wine fridge which holds temperature at about 15C and humidity of 50%, which is where I store all my chocolate now. It was only about $200 iirc. and hey, if I get sick of chocolate - somewhere to store wine. It's win-win :P

easiest way to temper by hand (IMHO) if you don't have a nice marble slab is to seed - heat your chocolate to 45C, add 25% of the weight (ie 800g melted + 200g solid) in solid chocolate and stir until it is all melted and at working temp. Another easy way is Chef Eddy's method. It is quite important that you have fine grated butter though - if you add 10g of cocoa butter chips at 35C I think they would probably not completely melt before reaching working temperature.

Finally: Stick at it. Chocolate is particularly tough in warmer weather, so even if you stop for a few months and pick it up when the weather cools again! You've produced some really nice things and it looks like you're learning tons, so keep on learning!

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I bought a small wine fridge which holds temperature at about 15C and humidity of 50%, which is where I store all my chocolate now. It was only about $200 iirc. and hey, if I get sick of chocolate - somewhere to store wine. It's win-win

I was just about to search the internet for a wine fridge when I saw your reply. How's that for a nice coincidence? I also saved a link to a post on eGullet from the head of The Chocolate Life website who says it is OK to freeze chocolate if it is wrapped properly.

Thanks for your encouragement. Fortunately enough of my chocolates have been successful that I am not ready to give up, at least not yet. By the way, do you make chocolates for a living or as a hobby? You have produced some beautiful items.

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Chris,

Can you tell me the brand of your wine/chocolate fridge? Or at least its capacity? I have done some looking, but it's rather confusing since the fridges are described by the number of bottles they hold (which is not immediately translatable to kilos of chocolate!).

Thanks,

Jim

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I thought I should report on progress with the ruined milk chocolate. I haven't had a chance yet to try to temper it by tabling, but I did try Eddy van Damme's method of adding cocoa butter. I had it in the form of chips, so chopped them finely. They did take quite some time to melt (I used an immersion blender), but it worked. It was an amazing experience to see the chocolate that formerly would only set up with streaks and refused to come out of molds now drop out of the molds without even banging them on the counter. This seems to be proof that the unusually warm day we had took the chocolate out of temper. Interestingly the dark choc. was in the same room, but it was fine. I had some other milk that I will have to test carefully. I would assume that milk choc. would have to get to more than 86 degrees F. to go out of temper, and I didn't think the day was that hot.

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It sounds as though you just didn't have enough beta crystals to start with, if adding more fixed your problem. Streaks on your test are a sure sign that you need more movement of the chocolate to induce crystallization. If it's in temper, milk chocolate won't magically drop out of temper at 30C (86F), I often heat it higher than that during the course of a day - you need to give your chocolate what it needs! If it's thickening up, the temperature is either too low, or, if the temperature is fine, then you've got lots of beta crystals you need to melt out with a heat gun. This is going to raise the temperature of your chocolate over 30C, but so long as you have enough crystals in there, take a test and see how it looks.

I've sent you a PM :)

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I know that it takes longer to test the temper of milk and white chocolates, but sometimes it takes so long that I assume something has gone wrong. Today I tempered some milk, but in 10 minutes the sample on a knife had not hardened. I went ahead and poured the chocolate into the molds, and eventually they looked fine. The shells came out of the molds with no problem and had no streaks. I have read that it should take less than 10 minutes for the test. Letting chocolate sit that long means you have to pay careful attention to where the temperature is going. So is a 10-minute wait not that unusual?

Any help would be appreciated.

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I'd say for milk or white and when it has just been tempered that 10 minutes would not be totally out of line to wait. But as Lisa says the temperature of the room would be a contributing factor for sure.

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Try doing the test on a slip of paper-- the choc. as thin as possible, so you don't have to wait so long.

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Thanks for those ideas. The room was not particularly warm, but the sample on a knife was a bit thick--of course, milk choc. is thicker. I'll try using a slip of paper next time. I saw a video online that said to put the sample in the fridge, but as I understand from other sources, that makes no sense since chocolate in any condition will harden in the refrigerator.

I have written previously about stored chocolate getting too warm and (apparently) going out of temper. It's a real pain to go through the tempering process with seed chocolate that is (unknown to the user) itself out of temper, so I always do a test now. I have also been searching for chocolate storage ideas for the Virginia summer that is about to start. At the suggestion of forum member Keychris, I have ordered a wine fridge that I can keep at the proper temperature, and at the suggestion of Clay of The Chocolate Life, I have ordered a Moso bag of charcoal to absorb some of the humidity in the fridge. We'll see if this keeps the chocolate safe.

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In ideal room temps (18-22C), a test sample should set in

Dark: 5 mins

Milk: 6-7 mins

White: 7-8 mins

Airflow over the sample can help as well (eg., a fan or air-conditioner blowing air over the sample)

As said above, there are variables around this but I find these pretty good indicators.

You can use the fridge as well for a temper test, but it is not ideal: put your sample in there, leave it for a while (5-8 mins) and take it out. If you push it with your finger and it squishes, it's no good. If you push it with your fingers and its hard, it is probably OK to go. Being based in Australia, I have to do this at times when the kitchen is warm.

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In ideal room temps (18-22C), a test sample should set in

Dark: 5 mins

Milk: 6-7 mins

White: 7-8 mins

Airflow over the sample can help as well (eg., a fan or air-conditioner blowing air over the sample)

As said above, there are variables around this but I find these pretty good indicators.

You can use the fridge as well for a temper test, but it is not ideal: put your sample in there, leave it for a while (5-8 mins) and take it out. If you push it with your finger and it squishes, it's no good. If you push it with your fingers and its hard, it is probably OK to go. Being based in Australia, I have to do this at times when the kitchen is warm.

All very helpful ideas. Thank you very much.

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Jim D. are you sure that your block of Callebaut milk chocolate went out of temper? Other than having problems tempering a new batch of milk chocolate were there any signs of temper loss on the Callebaut block (bloom / color change)? I am wondering if you problems tempering were due to the Chocovision machine and room temperature or if it was truly caused by lack of tempered seed chocolate. As you have probably discovered, just because the Chocovision tells you your chocolate is tempered, does not mean that it is tempered (it may need more time and agitation before it is in temper). Just something else to consider.

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Jim D. are you sure that your block of Callebaut milk chocolate went out of temper? Other than having problems tempering a new batch of milk chocolate were there any signs of temper loss on the Callebaut block (bloom / color change)? I am wondering if you problems tempering were due to the Chocovision machine and room temperature or if it was truly caused by lack of tempered seed chocolate. As you have probably discovered, just because the Chocovision tells you your chocolate is tempered, does not mean that it is tempered (it may need more time and agitation before it is in temper). Just something else to consider.

No, I'm not sure the chocolate was out of temper as there were no other signs. But the block did get a bit soft and sticky to the touch, and that is the way the molds stayed for a long, long time. I have used the Chocovision many times with not a single tempering issue before this one. I know there is a first time for everything.

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I thought, in the interest of accuracy, I should post an update on that difficult block of Callebaut milk chocolate which was discussed in this thread. Curls' question: "are you sure that your block of Callebaut milk chocolate went out of temper?" called for some experimentation. I did it by hand, not machine. Today I tempered some chocolate from that block that had been used before, and for seed I used some other milk chocolate (E. Guittard). A test for temper showed success within a couple of minutes. Then I remelted that Callebaut, but this time used part of the original block of Callebaut (which I didn't know I still had) as the seed. I expected it to fail, but the batch was perfectly in temper. So, Curls, you were correct--it was not the Callebaut. I think the cause of the earlier failure--by way of eliminating all the variables I can think of--is that the kitchen was very warm on that day. Someone had suggested, and I thought it made sense, that the heat had affected the Callebaut used as seed, but it was the whole procedure that was affected. I guess I had never taken seriously the warnings about room temperature, but I certainly will from now on.

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Jim D. thanks for running additional tests and reporting back. Sounds like you are making a lot of progress and becoming very comfortable with tempering.

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I have had a lot of mysterious experiences in chocolate-making, but I think I have now encountered one of the oddest. It has been hot and humid where I live, but when I prepared to make a few chocolates for a gift, I turned the AC to a cooler-than-usual temperature and began the process. The pieces looked great, but when I unmolded them, about half of the 15 pieces came out without a serious problem, whereas the others stuck and came out damaged in various ways. A few had cracks in the shells, but most of the unsuccessful ones had that familiar grayish look of chocolate that is no longer in temper--they were too ugly to take as a gift. I put the rejects aside as a consolation for the unsuccessful chocolatier, and--regardless of appearance--they were delicious. Today, three days later, I went to eat the remaining ones, and--lo and behold--they now look perfect! All that gray is gone. I wouldn't say they are actually perfect because I just left them out on the counter and so they are a little soft and no longer have the snap of tempered chocolate, but they do in fact look quite presentable, even have a shine. I would certainly feel confident to take them as a gift. Maybe I have hit upon an easy solution for unsuccessful chocolates--just let them sit around for a while! I like to try to understand what happens when things go wrong in making chocolates, but haven't a clue as to the explanation this time. Any ideas?

I have to mention one triumph when the chocolates I took were passed around: One guest, obviously not all that familiar with tempered chocolates, innocently asked how they came to have such a glossy appearance. I couldn't have fed her a better line if I had thought about it for days! Of course I didn't mention the ones that were sitting at home.

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did you use a mint oil? or some type of fat that could migrate to the surface of your chocolate?

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