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Tempering Chocolate

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FYI, I ate some of seawakim's chocolates last night, and they were very high quality--great job with the tempering and molding. I especially liked the coffee liqueur filling.

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OK, first off, a machine is not a substitute for knowing how to temper, knowing the ins and outs of tempering and being able to do it consistently by hand. And "knowing" how to do it versus being able to do it are different things sometimes, especially when it is warm and humid in your kitchen. Let's rule that out in your case, it will make things easier. There are some potentially misleading things on this thread, at some point as people weigh back in, try the methods and tips, we might uncover them and solve some problems, as stuff works (yeah seawakim!) and doesn't work for people trying what has been recommended here.

In your case, let's not get too far ahead:

1. What exact milk chocolate are you using? How old is it?

2. Have you successfully tempered this particular milk chocolate manually and can you do it repetitively? If so, how have you done it? Seeding, direct warming?

3. Do you have a thermometer to check your temperatures and to see how the machine lines up with a second opinion?

By the way, tempering milk is difficult, more difficult than tempering dark.

And yes, all the guideline temperatures for milk chocolate (and white chocolate) should be lower than dark chocolate and you really risk damagae by overheating milks and whites. So if your rough dark numbers are heat to 45C--cool down to 27--raise and work at 32 (116F--80--90), your milk numbers should be roughly 40C--26--30. Depends on the chocolate variety--some are higher, some darks you can work with at 92F. Most good tempering machines allow you to program other temperature cycles in--one for dark, usually pre-set, which I suspect is the one you are using and others for white, milk, etc. Not all dark chocolate tempers at the same points, so some allow you to set a few degrees up or down in the range if you want your chocolate for dipping versus molding, etc. But that's advanced stuff.

We'll deal with the machine, the programming quirks, after the basics. But quickies:

"what do I do when I have lots of leftover melted choc that may or may not have been tempered correctly? Can I just let it harden then pop it back into the machine and start all over?"

Yes, just chop it up first before you add it back to the machine. If your not going to be using your machine for a while, it's more efficient to start off with melted chocolate--don't use the machine to melt it from solid, it will take forever. Microwave or bain marie it and then add it alreaady melted.

"how do I temper already melted chocolate that has been sitting around for awhile? Do I need to add seed choc and bring it up to melting temp again, or what?"

Always return your out-of-temper melted chocolate to 45C to begin the process all over again--which could then involve "seeding"--but "seeding" is one way you cool the 45C chocolate down. You don't "seed" chocolate that you are planning to warm. With me?

A CAVEAT: there is a difference between chocolate that has been sitting around for awhile--but is in temper--and chocolate of unknown origin that is melted but not necessarily in temper. In the first case, you have a bowl of tempered chocolate, you're working with it, and it gets cooler--BUT IT IS STILL IN TEMPER. It is just too cool to work with--in this case, just warm it a few degrees but do not go over the upper limit of your working range--say 92F--and the chocolate will still be in temper, still work, still be fine. With just a bowl of melted chocolate--that you didn't temper and that you have no idea about--always raise the whole bowl to 116F or 120 or so and then begin the tempering process. Still with me?

"how many times can I put the same chocolate through the tempering process?"

After once or twice, after stirring and stirring, your chocolate will thicken slightly, if you whiz it with an immersion blender it will be thicker--so your best bet is to blend in some pure, tempered, new chocolate so it is more fluid, more workable. It's usually not a good idea to dip in "old" chocolate--use old chocolate for molding, showpieces, ganache, liquid center cakes, etc.

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Thanks for the quick reply. Also glad to hear seawakim has had success -- how inspirational! To answer your first questions:

1. I'm using Callebaut milk chocolate couverture and it's brand spankin' new. (BTW, from a pro's POV, is this a decent choc or no? Should I go Valrhona?)

2. I have NOT managed to successfully temper it manually. In today's attempt I used the bain marie approach, melted it to 41ish just fine, then attempted to cool simply by removing from heat and seeding the chocolate (using a mixture of new chocolate chunks and the previously melted lumps from other attempts). After 30 or 40 more minutes and continuous stirring and seeding, I had only managed to get down to 28ish. I admit to some impatience, and brought it up to 30-31 a bit too early, and of course it was too thick. So I poured it back in it's bowl and had a cup of coffee.

I will say that somewhere during the cooling period, around 30 C, the chocolate had a lovely gloss and seemed to be at the right viscosity for molding or dipping. But I was so intent on temperature readings and the conviction that it simply HAD to cool to 26 C first, I just ignored what may have been a correct temper.

Is it possible that it is not always necessary to cool then warm again? Some of the advice in this thread led me to believe that some folks were doing only two steps (melt to 40, cool to 30), rather than three (melt, cool, warm), which has confused me a bit.

3. I am using a Taylor digital thermometer, which seems fairly useless as the temp goes up and down, up and down. (I saw the suggestion to swirl it around a bit, which I will try next time). BTW, when I put that therm in the machine the other day, it showed 1ish degree less than the machine temp.

My tempering machine is supposedly one of the better ones and it does allow me to set my own temperatures, at least for the melting. (And I do believe the preset is for dark choc). But it seems to me that if it says "beginning tempering process", that includes both cooling and rewarming, not just cooling. But I will call the manufacturer on that point...now I'm more concerned with being able to do this manually in under two hours!

Thanks SO much. At least I can say that my raspberry ganache, while topless, is incredibly tasty... :wacko:

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Oh, Hannah, if I could only take you under my wings for 15 minutes I could solve all your tempering problems. Please refer to my earlier post. It may sound like an incredibly simple method, but it works. I have taught thousands of students to temper chocolate that way and they do so now fearlessly--and successfully. So you want to be able to temper a bowl of chocolate in less than 2 hours???? How would you like to melt 2 pounds of well-tempered chocolate in a microwave in about 2 minutes--without breaking its temper?

Chocolate's tempermental reputation is grossly exagerrated. Trust me.

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Is it possible that it is not always necessary to cool then warm again? Some of the advice in this thread led me to believe that some folks were doing only two steps (melt to 40, cool to 30), rather than three (melt, cool, warm), which has confused me a bit.

The reason that you rewarm it, is because it can become to thick to work with after the cooling. If its in a state that works for you, then you don't have to rewarm it.

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That's an OK milk chocolate hannah, it's thick but temperable, but here's the thing--milk is tougher for a beginner to temper and work with. Milk is always softer, less snappy, even when it's in temper. Usually, it is best to get comfortable working with dark chocolate--which is more fluid and crystallizes better and goes through all the stages better--than milk--because it has much more cocoa butter in it. Then once you're comfortable working with dark try milk or white, which doesn't have the same comfort zone as dark does.

Learn with a dark chocolate couverture first.

Then you write this:

"I have NOT managed to successfully temper it manually. In today's attempt I used the bain marie approach, melted it to 41ish just fine, then attempted to cool simply by removing from heat and seeding the chocolate (using a mixture of new chocolate chunks and the previously melted lumps from other attempts)."

And bingo--we have a winner: you can't "seed" this way. You'll never get back into temper by seeding with "a mixture of new chocolate chunks and previously melted lumps from other attempts." You can only seed with brand spankin new chocolate, preferably pistoles but yes chopped new chunks will work. By adding the older, out of temper, leftover lumps you are introducing chocolate that will not re-crystallize properly. That stuff will stay in your mixture, as you cool it down, and stay out of temper, and screw up all your work with it. So, we've accomplished something--that was an error you can correct, try again and you now know what not to do and why not to do it.

That's why there is that upper temperature of 116+ so at that temp you unlock all the various cocoa butter crystalline bonds. In this case, you're adding improperly bonded chocolate--and those bonds stay misshapen if not re-broken by heating to 116/120.

I agree with Elaine that tempering chocolate is easy--until something goes wrong with the "method" you've decided to use and then you're left with not really knowing how to fix it and not really knowing why you went wrong. Elaine's right--working alongside someone who can show you what you should be doing and what the chocolate should look like at each stage--seeing and doing is always easier than reading--and also that this shouldn't be taking you so long Hannah. And once you get more confident it won't. I still think what might be holding you back is you're 1) "learning" on milk and that might be self-defeating and 2) trying to deal with two problems simultaneous--you and your new machine. Get comfortable doing it manually then get the machine to do what you do manually. Machines aren't a substitute for your understanding what's going on. Many pros now direct warm in the microwave, as Elaine advocates, it's a method that was first taught in Europe 15-20 years ago when manufacturers, like Cacao Barry, converted from 11# block production to boxes of pistole production and that pastry chefs have been using ever since--where each and every pistole was perfectly in temper and could be shaken out into a bowl and microwaved evenly.

As we've mentioned here often, direct warming isn't tempering--it's microwaving your chocolate with short zaps of power and gradually heating it up to a workable temperature--so say from room temp of 72 up to 90 for dark chocolate. In essence you're keeping it in temper, it was in temper all along and you're just retaining its temper. So by all means try this a few times. Zap for 20-30 seconds, take out your bowl and stir, put it back in and zap some more, etc. Here are a few caveats to keep in mind though lest you thought this was so simple: 1) you might have difficulty doing this with chopped up block chocolate. See, the blocks are molded very thickly and don't always cool evenly when they set up. Cut open a block and you'll see it is not perfectly shiny and smooth all the way through. Chop this up, direct warm it to 90 and take a temper test and bingo, you have streaks no matter how often you stir it. You'll have streaking and dullness likely in your final product. Some pastry chefs just put whole blocks in a warming cabinet (or in their oven with a pilot light on) and then direct warm their chocolate overnight that way up to 90. Sometimes this works--but sometimes it doesn't and when it doesn't it's usually because there's that small percentage of chocolate in that block that hasn't cooled and set properly--then you have to take all this up to 120 and temper using any method you understand--like seeding, tableiring, cooling down in an ice bath; 2) this direct warming method doesn't work as well in a bain marie or work as well in a microwave without a turntable. Try it, but if it doesn't work, it's because the heat isn't as evenly and consistently applied as it is in the microwave with a turntable even if you stir well; which leads you to 3) what happens if you mistakenly direct warm your chocolate pistoles in your bowl over 92, instead going to 93 or 94? Then you are out of temper. What you do at this point is up to you--most pros would then heat that bowl up to 120--unlocking all the cocoa butter crystals again--and then seed back down.

But only "seed" with brand spankin new pistoles.

And you need to know how to temper all this leftover chocolate you're going to accumulate because you will have leftover chocolate. And none of this leftover chocolate can be direct-warmed again--only pristine new out of the box chocolate can be direct warmed. So even when you succeed with the easy, simple straightforward method of direct warming--you still need to be able to go beyond that.

It's these "potential" problems, these little tempermental aspects that often get glossed over and leave you hanging when the simple method doesn't work out. But there is no substitute for doing over and over again and eventually you will identify where you are getting hung up. The take home: direct warming in the microwave works with new pistoles and you get one shot at keeping it under 92. (This is for dark chocolate, milk chocolate temperature ranges are lower and will be more difficult for you to hit accurately.)

Try direct warming and re-try your previous "seeding" attempt but this time only seed with new stuff. I'm hoping for two successes! Oh, and yes, if you're "seeding" a bowl of 120F chocolate down, you don't have to go all the way down to 80 and then back up--just seed it down to working range--88 to 90--and then take a temper test. If it's in temper, just start working. I agree with Mike when he answers:

"The reason that you rewarm it, is because it can become to thick to work with after the cooling. If its in a state that works for you, then you don't have to rewarm it."

This applies to any bowl of tempered chocolate you are working with--say it cools to 86 and you need it at 91 to dip--just zap it for a few seconds in the microwave, stir, and you're good to go, as long as you don't take it over 92.

But--that low point on that oft-repeated temper curve of heat way up, cool way down, heat up slightly, which might be confusing you, is a key step for other methods--like tabliering or cooling down in an ice bath--and the reason you don't have to go down to that low point with seeding is because you are adding "tempered" chocolate back in as the seed mix. With tabliering and the ice water bath you are not introducing seed chocolate--so you do have to generally go up, down and up with those methods--if you don't go all the way down to full crystallization and setting--if you don't get something thickened--these methods will not work. And while direct warming is great--eventually you get to a point where you have all this used chocolate lying around and you want to use it. And these are the methods you will have to employ when you have no brand new chocolate to seed with or to direct warm.

So long term, there's no escaping acquiring a full knowledge of the ins and outs of all these methods--direct warming, seeding, tabling, ice bath--so you understand what is going on with each method. That way you can adapt to your situation and environment and temper with any chocolate you have on hand. And this take a while to embrace, too much, too soon can be overwhelming.

Relax as Elaine suggests, try direct warming in the microwave; then try seeding again later-- warm that chocolate up, seed again but just seed down to working temp with "new" chocolate and report back!

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Oh, woeful, miserable failure!

Perhaps I should just not be allowed to touch chocolate ever again.

It's been a long, long day.

Attempt 1: Yes, I switched to dark chocolate. I do not have a reliable microwave, so I tried Elaine's direct warming on a bain marie. I weaned myself from the thermometer and just heated very slowly until my chocolate was fluid, as she said. Then I removed it from the heat and added new seed chocolate and started stirring. Out of curiosity, I did check the temp after removing from heat and found that it had already reached over 120F before all the chocolate was melted, so what's a girl to do? I knew then I was doomed, but I kept going anyway. So the direct warming was failure #1.

Question: Why does everyone else's chocolate melt before 90F, and mine doesn't??? Is the microwave the secret to this particular method?

Attempt 2: I decided to keep going, as I said, just for practice with the seeding. Needless to say, I did reach 90F after a short time, but it was of course a moot point. I poured some in a test mold anyway, just to check at least viscosity, which has been a big problem these past few days. It was thick and did not drip out when I turned the molds over. Again for the sake of practice, I brought the heat up a couple degrees to test viscosity, but it didn't make much difference. So seeding (using small chunks, not pistoles) was failure #2.

Questions: Is this chocolate ruined forever because of the too-high heat?

How thin/warm must the chocolate be for molding? Why isn't the 88-90F temp good enough? This is a huge mystery to me at the moment, and one that is really getting my knickers in a twist.

Attempt 3: Out of sheer frustration and curiosity I turned once again to the machine. I really just wanted to see what it did that was different from what I did. I changed the default settings to melt dark choc to 45C, then temper/cool to 31.5C. At that temp, it still seemed a bit thick to me, but I did a knife test which turned out ok (the first one that has!). Then I dipped some truffles, which came out rather well and, to my surprise, actually hardened within a reasonable amount of time and had a decent (though not great) shine.

THEN I tried to mold again and found the chocolate just too darn thick to work with. The first I put in at the 31.5C temp -- it did not drip out and now will not come out of the mold period. So I increased the heat by a couple of tenths at a time, molding something every two tenths or so up until I reached 32.2C. The same result each time. Too thick going in, and NOTHING drips out when I turn them over. ( I did warm the molds before use). And so far I have had nothing actually come out of a mold once it's gone in.

So that's where I am. This mold thing is really sticking in my craw because I can't believe that it's just me -- everyone and his grandmother is out there tempering, dipping, and molding, so why am I having such issues? I find it all rather bizarre.

Would the fact that it has been raining here in Providence for the last ten days have anything to do with it? Or must I truly accept all the blame? I ran around trying to control the temp in every room before I started this morning, but I can only do so much -- the chocolate needs to meet me half way.

I have not given up, but I honestly don't know what else to do at this point. I have gotten so much great info from this thread that I'm not sure there is anything else that anyone can add. I would just really love an explanation for the behavior of my chocolate, especially when molding. Plus, even

BTW, of course I realize that seeing and reading are two different things. The scary part of all this is that I actually was trained by a real live person in Italy (but apparently not well). He's an Italian who has spent his 45-year career in Switzerland working almost exclusively with chocolate. The man knows what he's doing but, unfortunately, was not so great at imparting that knowledge to a class of neophytes. We were all a bit in the air about the technical stuff, and he never actually let us temper ourselves, if you can believe it! I even persuaded him to walk me through it personally, but the man was just full of good intentions and no talent for teaching. Most of the course was spent watching him prepare ganaches and fillings and harping about good practice (he was crazy for keeping that bowl clean!) and the virtues of Gran Cru, so I came away with a lopsided education, which I just knew would be a problem. And that's the back story to my failure as a temperer. But he would be proud of my clean bowls and naked ganache...

If there is further help for me, great. If not, I completely understand and I'll just keep trying all the stuff I already know about until I am successful. Something's gotta give!

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Hannah--what dark chocolate are you using? Is it a couverture? (meaning a high percentage of cocoa butter, >31%?) Not all dark chocolate is "couverture." If you're not using a couverture, which is designed specifically for tempering that could account for some of your difficulty.

Some that amateur and pro alike temper are Valrhona Grand Crus like Guanaja, Valrhona Caraque, Cocoa Noel, Cacao Barry "Favorites mi amere"which is a 58% but has alot of cocoa butter, Cacao Barry 64%, the E. Guittard 61% or 72%--these are all "couvertures" and all easily temperable, meaning they'll get fluid right away. You might be working with a chocolate designed to be thick and fudgy--usually a cheaper, inferior chocolate, without a lot of cocoa butter or perhaps called "ganache chocolate" in the trade, and yes, you'll have difficulty tempering "ganache chocolate." Ganache chocolate is created to be thick.

And for your other questions, yes, couverture chocolate melts before 90--that's how you are able to direct warm it to 90 and start working with it; yes, humidity can really screw up your ability to temper and work with chocolate no matter which method you employ, especially anything about say 35/40% ambient humidity in your workspace will affect the fluidity and viscosity negatively. In my lab I run an air conditioner and a de-humifier set to 40% constantly and this week I have been doing a lot of chocolate work, some artistic pieces for the American Museum of Natural History, and both of these have been running constantly since it has been rainy and 100% humidity; and yes, chocolate that has been heated too high (for dark, say over 120/125 degrees) is ruined for tempering at least because you will probably overheat and fuse some sugar crystals and there are other things that you can do to it as well--so instead use it for brownies!

In addition to high humidity, as we've discussed on this thread, chocolate thickens from overuse as well--lots and lots of stirring--in addition to over-heating. All of these could be coming into play in your various attempts and explorations so far.

As you've learned by doing--there are pitfalls, but you are identifying them one by one. You're learning that the kind of chocolate you use is important, that chocolate is sensitive to temperature and that 90 degrees is really not that warm--it's ten degrees below body temp right? Wean yourself from a thermometer once you know what your chocolate looks like and acts like at 90 and 120. Get familiar with one brand of dark and learn its unique personality and performance. You'll get there, you just have to try again, probably with a different chocolate, a microwave with a turntable, with pistoles--or all three.

(BTW--who taught you in Italy, was it Eliseo Tonti?)

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Would the fact that it has been raining here in Providence for the last ten days have anything to do with it?


Don't give up!

East coast humidity is some of the worst.

Steves place must be a gem.

I'm originally from D.C , lived in NYC for a long time too and the humidity is killer.

It can't be helping and if you're in a shop I'll bet it's not the most climate controlled place in the building.

It's funny , but I was getting all psyched up to start working with chocolate, experimenting w/ tempering,etc, here in New Mexico, one of the dryest climates you can find.

And then, they turned on the swamp coolers...

Evaporative Water Cooler style air conditioning.

Everything is soggy. Tuiles, caramelized filo. It doesn't matter if it's locked up,sealed, silica gel bags everywhere, it's all going to hell.

The chocolate work will have to wait.

Dehumidifier on the way, can only hope it helps

I'm sure that Steve,Michael, and all the other people here will get you going.

Good Luck!

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Hannah, I feel your pain. Let's temper a bowl of chocolate together. (It will probably take you longer to read these instructions than it will to actually melt and temper a bowl of chocolate.)

Since melting is the first step, let's start there. As Steve suggests, chocolates have different viscosities--some melt more fluidly than others. Chocolate chips, for example, have less cocoa butter (and more lecithin) than bar chocolates because they're meant to hold their shape in a cookie. If forced to melt, the mass will be as thick as mud. You want to use a bar of chocolate.

Chop 2 pounds of well-tempered chocolate (shiny, with no signs of bloom) into almond-size pieces. Cut an additional 8 ounces of well-tempered chocolate into two-inch chunks. Set the chunks aside.

Many of the problems attributed to chocolate's cranky disposition are really the result of improper melting procedures. To melt chocolate in a hot water bath, I recommend filling the bottom pan with enough hot water (130-140 degrees) drawn from the tap, or heated briefly, to touch the top bowl when it is in place, but not so much as to allow it to float. If you heat the water on the stove, be sure to do so before the top bowl is in place, never while it is over the water. Always melt chocolate slowly, at a low temperature. Since a piece of chocolate will melt in your mouth (at 98.6 degrees), it doesn't make sense to risk overheating the chocolate by putting it over boiling or simmering water that may be 212 degrees. Overheated chocolate becomes thick and unmanageable.

Place 1/3 of the chopped chocolate in the top bowl and position it over the hot-water bath. Let the chocolate begin to melt before stirring it with a rubber spatula. Stirring prematurely actually slows down the melt. Add the rest of the chopped chocolate gradually, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. If the water cools before the chocolate is completely melted, set the top bowl aside while you replace or reheat the water and continue the melting process.

Lift the bowl from the water bath as soon as the chocolate is nearly melted, dry the bottom, and place it on the work surface. Stir until it is smooth and shiny. Ideally, the chocolate should be about 100 degrees at this point. If it's warmer than 110 degrees, set it aside until it cools to about 100 degrees.

One of the simplest ways to temper chocolate is to drop those reserved chunks of tempered chocolate into the bowl of melted chocolate, stir them, and watch what happens. It doesn't take long for the chunks, which are full of stable cocoa butter crystals, to begin to melt, flooding the bowl with the same kind of crystals that the chocolate needs to regain its temper. Those crystals act as "seed" to produce a bowlful of melted chocolate with stable crystals. In chocolate work as in gardening: you reap what you sow. Once you add the chunks, stir them around gently until you see the chocolate begin to thicken and lose its high shine.

Take the chocolate's temperature. Dark chocolate is in temper when it reaches about 90 degrees or lower (milk and white chocolates are in temper at about 88 degrees). To achieve the proper tempering results, chunks of chocolate must be present in the bowl when the chocolate reaches those temperatures. If you see that you're running out of chunks, add more.

Scoop out what's left of the chunks and place them on a sheet of waxed paper, refrigerating them briefly until the chocolate sets. They're reusable. Don't overlook any of the pieces in the bowl or they will continue to cool the chocolate and cause it to become lumpy. (This is why I prefer to seed with chunks, which are easy to retrieve, rather than with shaved chocolate.)

To test your tempering prowess, smear a thin sample of the tempered chocolate on a small piece of waxed paper and refrigerate it for 3 to 5 minutes. If, after that length of time, the sample is dry to the touch and evenly glossy, the chocolate is ready to use. If not, add another chunk of chocolate and stir gently to lower the temperature a degree or two.

There is a good deal more I could tell you, but I suggest you check one of my books for more information: The Art of Chocolate or Chocolate Artistry (out of print, but available in many libraries).

I hope this helps. Remember, chocolate is forgiving. If at first you don't succeed, remelt your mistakes and try again.

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Yes, it was Eliseo Tonti. Does that mean something I should know about?

I just want to extend my warmest thanks and gratitude to the eGullet Disaster Relief Squad, especially Steve, Elaine and Chefette, all of whom have gone above and beyond to wake me from this tempering nightmare.

Today is my day, I just feel it. The next time you hear from me I will have joined the ranks of successful temperers.

Off I go...

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I spent some time with Eliseo (and his daughter, who is also a skilled pastry artist) in Italy four years or so back, I was there invited to give a chocolate demonstration in Rimini at a big professional pastry show--and Eliseo and his family hosted me, made sure I ate at all the right restaurants and had all the equipment I needed. We really had to scramble, though--all my chocolate work, molds, equipment, tools, colors, etc. were flagged and held up in London when I connected on to Bologna. And this was pre-9/11. So there I was in Italy, I don't speak Italian, under pressure to do something artistic and interesting for all these European pastry chefs with nothing. Eliseo helped me round stuff up, introduced me to a few Italian pastry chefs who helped me out, like Frederic Bourse, and also the wonderful editor of Pasticceria Internazionale, Livia Chiriotti, who also helped me beg and borrow what I needed. There I was this one dumb American amidst all these great Spanish, German, French, Italian and Swiss pastry chefs trying to find someone with a common language--whatever it might be--in order to communicate with another pastry chef or chocolatier through a common language. Fortunately for me Bernd Siefert of Germany, Livia and Frederic spoke English and could pass my comments to someone else who just spoke French, etc. And I came back home regretting I let most of my Spanish from college lapse.

But it's situations like that--and by the way what you are going through now-- that reinforce your confidence because you never know what equipment or environment you'll have to temper chocolate in--and as a pro you just have to be able to adapt. If you spent time with Eliseo you were very lucky--he is so knowledgeable and giving, I absorbed a lot from him and I don't speak any Italian and he doesn't speak any English. Taking a class on chocolate in Europe, especially at their professional schools, say a CAST Alimenti or Yssingeaux, can be challenging, since they operate at a whole other level, and in several languages to boot. Maybe you didn't get all you needed from Eliseo, but one day you might be in a better position to appreciate what you did get.

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Hi All,

It's so good to hear people be relaxed about tempering chocolate. I recently experimented and part of the experiment was seeing if I could temper enough chocolate that I would feel more confident in myself. I tested with the smear on waxed paper and even doubted that result so that I tempered one batch a couple of times and drove myself batty trusting the result. I did manager to temper different types of chocolate with different techniques successfully but not without standing next to it holding the digital themometer saying to myself...ok 87, 87, 88, 88, 88,.....89....D'OH it's ruined! Do over!!

So long story long -- I will keep this post handy so that I can try to relax about it more.

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As you see from the variety of direction provided in this thread, everyone has their own approach to achieving the appropriate temperature. The key is getting the right temperatures in the right order - yes? Of course 90 degrees F achieved one way is different than 90 achieved another way in terms of fluidity.

Just this weekend I was having a discussion on tempering methods. I was questioning the instructions provided by some large chocolate manufacturers on how chocolate must be tempered: Melt 2/3 to 120, add 1/3 fresh to that and stir to melt. My belief is that you can gradually add the chocolate and stir until you achieve the correct temperature/temper then stop (thus conserving chocolate).

We decided to test the logic with three equal bowls each with 600g 120 degree F dark chocolate E. Guittard couverture.

to bowl number 1 we added 300 g new pistoles and stired to mostly melt then used the immersion blender to smooth out remaining lumps. We easily achieved temper, but the chocolate was thick, like the cocoa butter crystals were over-activated and difficult at 90 degrees;

to bowl number 2 we gradually added pistoles stirring between additions until we achieved temper. We did this with 250g fresh pistoles and still had to blend out lumps. This chocolate was more fluid at 90 and maintained temp longer;

to bowl number 3 we added 100g pistoles and stirred til they melted completely (temp 108) we then added another 100g and stirred till completely melted bringing the temperature down to 94 then added another 50g pistoles and stirred until we hit temper and blended out lumps. At 90 this chocolate was beautifully fluid and workable maintaining its temperature the longest.

I think that this shows that method 1 proposed by some chocolate manufacturers is designed almost to guarantee temper by brute force. I think we also proved that forcing the chocolate to dissipate heat energy with smaller quantities of chocolate and thus a lower ratio of more solid chocolate mass resulted in a better overall temper that was more workable.

I then took this to another level questioning the necessity to temper dark chocolate with dark chocolate. To test my concept I started with 600g 120 degree dark and stirred in 300 g of right-out-of-the-box white chocolate pistoles (using the gradual method #3 above.) Yes, white chocolate into dark chocolate. Result, the cocoa butter in the white chocolate "tempered" the bowl of 120 dark just fine. I now had a milk chocolate colored chocolate with which to mold.

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So Hannah, How did you happen to work with Tonti? Was it a professional or a recreational class? Duration? nationality spread?

Do yuo think that he might not have taken your class seriously as students and so did not provide a really professional level of instruction, did he perhaps not believe that any of you would ever actually bother to temper? Or do you think that he just sees it as so elementary at this stage (probably having done it since he was about 12) that he doesn't even see it as an issue so why bother wasting time that way? Or, was this an advanced chocolate techniques class and he did not see any reason to teach advanced students something so elementary?

What else did he demo for you? What did you get out of it?

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ok, I said I wouldn't be back until victory was mine, but I lied.

Just wanted to respond to Steve and Chefette about Tonti. First, Steve, you mustn't think for a moment that I didn't/don't/can't appreciate the class I took with Eliseo. I knew I was in the presence of a true maestro, and was duly cowed. I also learned a great deal in a short amount of time, but because of my level of experience (which was/is zero) and the fact that Italian is not my first language (though Eliseo was very easy to understand), I may not have been in the best situation to truly respond to and absorb all that he had to offer. But in these past few days I find myself returning again and again to the materials from his class, going over his recipes (though he always said "Never learn recipes! Learn the WHY behind the recipe!" -- and ain't it the truth) and techniques, trying to understand more now than I did then.

As for Chefette's questions, the class was unfortunately a short one of only a week (I took it this past February at CAST Alimenti in Brescia, outside Milano). It was indeed a professional class but was entitled "Il cioccolato dalla A alla Z e cioccolateria artigianale" (Choc A to Z and Artisanal Choc), so obviously it was geared towards the chocolate novice or near-novice. There were only eight of us and I was the only non-Italian AND the only one without at least some experience in the food biz. The others were also newish to chocolate but were or had been working as apprentices or assistants in pastry, gelato, and chocolate shops around Italy. But I would say as far as chocolate goes we were all on equal footing.

I believe he took the class seriously because he takes chocolate seriously -- VERY. It is his life, that fact was very clear. He knew we were novices (hence the name and purpose of the class) and he DID teach us to temper -- theoretically. (In fact I just reread the page on tempering and he had us cross out every method but "riscaldamento" -- direct warming! NOW I know). But theory and practice are two different things, and like I said before, most of the time we sat in bewilderment as he prepared one ganache after another, or tempered bowl after bowl, without telling us whats or whys. We all (not just me) gleaned as much missing info as we could from his three harried assistants! The bottom line is, not everyone can teach, especially new info to new students. (Other classes before ours had complained to the director, so our experience was nothing new). I could tell Eliseo would be in his element in master classes, but a basics course was beyond him as a teacher, and I could see sometimes that he may have been frustrated with us. (BTW I have a master's degree in English Education, and was a kickass high school teacher, so I know whereof I speak). Let me put it this way -- there is a reason why some people teach high school and some people teach college -- it's a matter of temperament, patience, and interest. HS teachers teach first students, then the subject matter. College professors teach first the subject matter, then the students.

Eliseo is a professor, and one of the highest order. If I were already a pro, he's the one I'd seek out.

But don't get me wrong. I really liked the man, we had a few laughs, and he was very generous when I asked him to go over certain things. AND he was tough on me and made me explain things back to him in my broken Italian whether I liked it or not. I have the utmost respect for him.

Chefette, he didn't demo much -- the basics of chocolate sculpture and marzipan modelling. While fascinating, I was really hoping to spend the last two days of class in PRACTICE, which we didn't get to do. I left understanding how much I didn't know.

I don't know if any of you teach beginners, but if you don't, you should. You've all demonstrated the generous patience and intense interest in your metier that are necessary-- and hey, you could turn a coupla bucks...

Steve, I was in Rimini at the Sigep trade show in February. Did you get to go to the very lovely nearby town of Riccione while you were there? One of my favorite towns in Italy (explanatory note: my fiance is Italian (from the Tuscan coast, lucky me) and we lived in Tuscany until a month ago. Now we're here in this rainy no-man's-land just waiting for the day we can move back! So anyway, that's how I ended up at CAST Alimenti).

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

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Veni, vidi, temperus.... (I came, I saw, I tempered)

Ta-dahhh! We have success! Both direct warming (with Elaine's step-by-step and new microwave) and seeding (Steve and Chefette), and with all types of chocolate. And it only took two days to figure out! Whew.

I am now a dippin', moldin' fool.

Thanks y'all!

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Don't be too excited about my success, suechoc -- my beautiful tempered chocolate has opened up a whole new world of mind-boggling mystery! Like why do some chocs drop out of the molds like butter, and others hang out in there for hours without unattaching themselves?! And why do the molds work (most of the time) but the centers dipped in the same chocolate never dry?? And why so many air bubbles -- what's up with that??? Why such inconsistencies????

These are only a few of the great hurdles you are about to encounter on your journey...good luck, and let me know if you fare better than I (and how)!

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I can feel your pain hannah, I am going to attempt dipping and molding today, I will then give you a full report. :hmmm:

Do you place your molds with chocolate in the freezer so that they can finish setting or do you leave them to set at room temperature?

Edited by suechoc (log)

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Hi all, I have been reading this thread over and over and over, trying to see where I am going wrong. I have tried to temper the chocolate from 40ºC to 28ºC then to 30ºC, I took a text and it did not set after 5 min. Where did I go wrong. 15 minutes later the chocolate was still wet.

Someone wrote about the ice method, I am tempted to try that.

Someone also mentioned that tempering is not a monster, I think it is a very big monster.

Hannah, I think we are in the same boat, everyone else is sailing away. The day that I can perfect this temper business, is the day I will throw a very big party. :angry:

Edited by suechoc (log)

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This is a wild guess, but could it be that your room is too hot?

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Maybe it is mamster, I bought a thermometer for my kitchen, I found the temp in the kitchen at 23ºC when I was working, it that hot?

What about breezes, hot or cold, could that effect the chocolate while it is setting?

Another thing, I got a good temper, within 5 minutes the chocolate set, my question is why did the remaining chocolate have small specks all over the top after it set?( I think it is call "bloom"). The truffles I dipped also had them, but not very noticable. Why does that happen, this has been my biggest problem for so long.

Anyone PLEASE help.

Edited by suechoc (log)

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23 C is about 73 F which should not be too hot. I am no expert on this but I still wonder if it is something to do with the type of chocoate you are using. Could you test this using a different brand, one of the ones mentioned on one of the chocolate threads here?

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Where are you setting up your dipped truffles? Even properly tempered chocolate will bloom if it is allowed to dry slowly in a warm room. The rule of thumb for dipping is: the first dipped piece should begin to dry by the time you dip the fifth one.

Ideally, the room you temper in should be about 80 degrees (so that the chocolate doesn't cool down too quickly) and the room you dip in, about 68 degrees. If you don't have a cool environment in which to dip your centers, dip a few pieces at a time and refrigerate them while you continue dipping the rest.

Also, are your centers cold when you dip them? For best results, your centers should be no more than 20 degrees cooler than the temperature of the chocolate. Therein lies the dilemna. Most delectable truffle centers remain too soft to hand or fork dip unless you keep them refrigerated. If you dip a very cold center into tempered chocolate, the chocolate will set from the inside-out. As a result, the temper is broken slightly and you'll never get a good shine on the finished piece. Most importantly, though, when the center warms to room temperature, it will expand and crack the hard shell in which it is encased, causing small fissures.

To get around this problem, you can double-dip the centers, or--pipe the filling into a pre-molded chocolate shell (which is my preference).

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Oops! Regarding my previous post: The ideal temperature of the room for MOULDING should be 75 to 80 degrees so that the chocolate in the bowl doesn't set up too quickly. However, whatever you mould must be promptly removed to a cool environment to set--in many cases, the refrigerator is the best bet.

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