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seawakim

Tempering Chocolate

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Chocolate can be horribly frustrating until you understand what it is you're doing, then once you've got the hang of it, you'll be just fine.

The solid chocolate you're getting should already be 'in temper'. Cocoa butter is a fat, and when this particular fat solidifies, it can do so in 6 different ways. The problem is, that only one of them will yield a finished product that has nice gloss, doesn't melt when you touch it, and doesn't turn whitish (bloom). The process of handling it to end up with this one particular form, is called tempering the chocolate.

There are a number of different methods of tempering, and there are few hard and fast rules (although there are some, we'll get to that). You don't mention how you're doing it, and Steve gave some good pointers (if you're using a microwave, use a plastic bowl - not glass as glass tends to hold excess heat and throw your temper). Usually when I temper, I've got a hot plate and a cooling tunnel (think 'fridge). I'll melt the chocolate completely to about 120F - this melts out any and all traces of the solid cocoa butter crystals. I'll then put it in the cooling tunnel, stirring intermittently, until the chocolate reaches a temperature of about 80-83 - again, no hard and fasts here - different chocolates will require you to handle them differently. Dark chocolates usually are closer to the 83 degree point here; milks typically require that you go lower in temp at this phase. What you're doing is forming 3 of the crystalline forms that are possible for the cocoa butter to take - with one of them being the final one you need for temper. The reason milk chocolates need lower temperatures are that they usually have higher amounts of milk fat (butter) in them, which makes it more difficult to form the temper, but once you've got it, milk fat makes your end product more bloom resistant. You'll recognize that you're at the correct temperature here as you'll often start to see the chocolate forming small clumps, take on a duller looking appearance, and leave a thin film behind on your vessel as you scrape it with a spatula. It often thickens up quite a bit here as well, but should still be plastic and semi fluid, if not entirely fluid.

Once at this temperature, I'll take it out of cooling and put on on a hot plate (double boiler is fine), and heat - usually to around 88-89F. NEVER* go past 92F, as that's the point where your going to melt out the form of cocoa butter that you absolutely need to have for temper. The lumps you began to form will melt out, the product will thin a bit, and you'll be good to go.

*IF you go past 92F, you may be able to 'save' it by adding in finely ground tempered chocolate (grate your purchased chocolate with a cheese grater), and add in perhaps 1/3 of the wt. This will melt, lowering the temperature of your chocolate as well as 'seeding' it with good temperred material.

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Excellent explanation Steve.

My first instruction was from a Hungarina pastry chef who worked for my mother and he spoke practically no English and I certainly couldn't understand Hungarian. I watched and did what he did but it was years before I understood why I had to do it just so.

Then about 25 years ago I bit the bullet and bought a tempering machine and paid through the nose for 2 extra bowls. They are much more reasonably priced now, particularly for the small ones. I don't do much of this work now but like to keep the equipment up just in case....

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Thanks Sebastian for that excellent contribution as well--but just to give an example of what I mean about "potential" conflicts in advice--which can be confusing to a beginner--I'm gonna take your comment about never using a glass bowl, Sebastian, and provide a counter argument FOR using a glass bowl: some pastry and chocolate pros prefer using a glass bowl precisely because it does "seem" to hold heat better than plastic--and as a result they learn to take this effect into consideration when they are directly warming it in the microwave, they pull it out x seconds sooner, and then use the fact that their glass bowl retains heat a bit to their advantage--they can work with it longer before having to either re-warm in the microwave or add warm chocolate to it.

As long as you understand the principles of tempering, or in this case, how you are retaining temper as you directly warm tempered chocolate--both the glass and plastic bowl approaches are valid. I don't actually direct warm in glass, I use plastic just like Sebastian--and when I've taught vocational classes I've preached plastic as well--but I know why some pros opt to use glass. The key is that they adapt their sensitivity and timing to glass whereas Sebastian and I adapt to plastic. From the perspective of a teacher, I'm with Sebastian on this--beginners should use plastic, the heat is more easily quantifiable--but then make up your own mind once you get some proficiency.

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It's like i said in the original post, there are few hard and fast rules when it comes to chocolate 8-) However, there are paths of least resistance, if you will, and there are multiple ways of tempering chocolate, as I'm sure you're aware of. It often comes down to the background of the person you're talking with and the equipment they have to work with. Did you know you can temper chocolate in a metal bowl in the microwave as well? I wouldn't run out and try this, but it can be done (yes, w/o blowing up your microwave!). Even though it's possible to do it, there's a reason why I don' t recommend it to most people. Purists gasp at using a microwave at all, and insist that all you need is a good flat piece of stone and a spatula. Other's use hot plates and fans; whereas still others use waterbaths and jacketed vessels or heat exchangers.

The important thing, I think, is to understand the mechanics behind *why* you're doing what you're doing, and then experiment with a few methods to find what works for you. I'm a hard and fast physical scientist, and struggled for a lot of years with exactly trying to quantify chocolate. It really is as much art as science, and once i accepted that, I've been much happier 8-) My experience has taught that those who use glass bowls for microwave tempering, while they may not be able to iterate exactly chemically what's going on, have worked with chocolate long enough to understand what's going on. They can 'feel' it, get to know the subtlties of it's appearance, how it strings at various phases, how much is needed for a given bowl size given the amount of latent heat in the bowl, etc. It's not a great way to start to learn the process, however 8-) but it absolutely, certainly can be done.

Play with it. Unless you're microwaving it way too long, you're not going to hurt the product, and you'll be able to reuse it again and again until you've got it down. If you've gotten it too hot, the process for reusing it will be different than if you're starting with tempered product, but there's a learning curve and it's a process you go through. Keep at it, and all of a sudden the light'll go on and the frustration will go away, and you'll be one with the chocolate. chocolate zen?

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Chocolate Tao: Going with the flow of the ever-changing process.

Thanks for that explanation!

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You also need to learn that tempering is used for specific items, for specific reasons. There aren't that many items I use tempered chocolate on/with as a working pc, I think that might be a suprise to some people. I only temper chocolate for candy and decorations I want a high shine on or items I want to store at room temp..

Untempered melted chocolate can be used almost exactly as tempered chocolate to make garnishes and coat candies. But it will be different in looks, snap and melt then tempered chocolate. In some instances that creates a better product (in some peoples opinion, not everyones) in others it's totally unacceptable. Non-tempered chocolate is refridgerated to set and refridgerated to hold. It does seem to melt quicker in your mouth then tempered chocolate. Non-tempered chocolate will begin to bloom when held at room temp. for a period of time. Non-tempered chocolate doesn't mean anything goes when melting and using it. It also has rules that must be observed. As Steve mentioned Alice Medrich takes this approach of using non-tempered chocolate in her books. I suggest you do read through her books as part of your education and learn her approach because it does have applications.

In my opinion, to learn about tempering you'll learn more if your not successful right away. Be a mad scientist, allow yourself to explore your failures and learn from them. If you miss your temp.s I suggest you continue making your product (hopefully it won't be too expensive) and learn what happens. Make yourself a note so you remember what you did wrong and what it's effect was. But continue working with the unsuccessfully tempered chocolate. Try sticking it in the refridgerator or freezer right after use, see what happens. Notice the texture of it, the color, does it have a glaze to the surface while it's still liquid? Thermometers are great tools but you should learn what tempered chocolate looks like when it's liquid verses untempered chocolate. You should taste the differences, check the mouth feel, check the shine. Eat bloomed chocolate, cut it, see the layers, etc... My point is you have to learn about failures to understand why and how they happen. It's also pretty important to learn how to deal with waste product because in a professional kitchen you'll need to recyle product when ever you can.

When you don't need to temper: as you learned you don't want to waste your time taking steps when the steps aren't essentical.

1. I can't think of an instance when chocolate does need to be tempered WHEN your adding another major ingredient to it. Major as in butter, cream, sugar. So when your making a ganche, frosting, coating, your chocolate does not need to be tempered. As Steve mentioned with the glaze you were making for your torte. (In fact, recently we talked about glaze for a opera torte and I used the recipe Lesley offered up. I thought it was sensational, handled like a dream and I would highly reccomend using that over anyone elses similar recipe.)

2. If your making a cake or cookies and you need melted chocolate you can use the chocolate that is way out of temper if you have any from your practice (learning how to temper), don't throw that chocolate away. Even horribly bloomed chocolate will work in baked goods when melted down and incorpated with other ingredients.

3. When you learn to use a wagner sprayer to coat items in a thin layer of chocolate your mixing chocolate and cocoa butter 50/50 and supprisingly you don't need to temper your chocolate for this purpose either..........because your adding another major ingredient and your spraying this on a frozen item.

4. Coating a frozen item in chocolate doesn't require tempered chocolate. As soon as the chocolate coats the item it instantly sets and the crystals that normally would develop into bloom can't.

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Chocolate zen. I like that.

thanks for all the great responses and encouragement. If only I'd known on Saturday that I didn't really need to temper the chocolate for that glaze! (It did have a small amount of clarified butter added to it) At least I got some practice, and as you say, Wendy, learning from the experience.

I was using the hot water/cold water bath method, mainly because I didn't know you could use the microwave, I don't have (and can't afford a marble slab), didn't want to use additional chocolate to seed, and didn't think to use the fridge either. And I was using a glass bowl, mainly because that's what my mixing bowls are.

My instructor has demonstrated tempering once, and I know that we'll do a lot more of it as time goes on, especially when we get into chocolates.

A big part of me wants to get this down. I ain't afraid of no chocolate! I sort of feel like it's kind of a macho thing, or part of being a pc.

An aside, I thought that the difference between an Opera cake and the Clichy was that the Opera cake has a praline buttercream?

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I don't have (and can't afford a marble slab)

If you really want one, visit your local counter top refinishing place. They've often got excess laying around from previous jobs that's scrap, and you can get decent sized pieces for 10 or 15 bucks..the edges likely won't be all nice and shiney (at least, not all of them..), but for 10 bucks and a chisel you can finish it off nicely yourself!

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I don't have (and can't afford a marble slab)

You're in San Francisco, right? There are a number of stone dealers in the East Bay which might be worth looking at. I disagree that the per-square-foot price for a small piece will be the same as for a countertop-sized piece, for reasons of supply and demand, if nothing else. (Any stonecutting shop that's been in business for a while will create lots more smallish scrap pieces than huge ones. It's like sewing - fabric that costs $18/yard if the salesperson cuts it off the bolt may cost $9/yard if you get it from the remnants bin. Of course, it may only be 3/4 of a yard long, but if all you need is 3/4 of a yard, you're golden!)

Architectural salvage yards can be a good place to look. I seem to remember seeing a number of marble slabs in different forms (most were countertops or vanity tops) the last time I was looking around the yard at Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley.

[edited to correct spelling error]


Edited by Lexica (log)

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Of course, my ideal thing to do would be to remove the section of countertop (tile) that's my primary workspace, and replace it. It's only about 30x24, give or take, and of course, wouldn't match the rest of my beautiful beige tile, but it would mean not having to haul out the big pull-out cutting board every time I get out my rolling pin or am kneading bread...

Ohmega Salvage is a good suggestion. I'll try to get over there this week (gives me an excuse to go by Acme and Scharffenberger - why not?) :smile:

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I do think that when your learning how to temper using a marble or granite slab is a good way to learn. You can really see and feel the temp. changes in the chocolate. But before you buy one consider that you'll want a large piece (and it's never large enough) and it's heavy to drag in and out when you use it. If you make it part of your permanent counter, in time you might not use it much and may regret the modification. I can see you baking alot at home as you study but if your planning on making this a career you might find that it's rare for you to bake at home. If I need baked goods it's just easier to make something at work.......once you get used to a professional kitchen with someone else washing your dishes making a mess at home is a pain.

But there really are many ways to temper. I use a hot water bath seeding techinque with my immersion blender. It's the least messy and most comfortable for my situation.

If you attempt to temper using your microwave, make sure you own a decent one. The micro I have at work doesn't have a turn table and has a horrible hot spot........making it unsuitable for melting chocolate.

When you wanted to temper but didn't want to use more chocolate to seed it, you should have used the amount of chocolate called for as your total weight........you didn't need more. You would have taken 3/4's of your total amount, melted it to temp., seeded it with the remaining 1/4th and you'd have the right amount.

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I do think that when your learning how to temper using a marble or granite slab is a good way to learn. You can really see and feel the temp. changes in the chocolate. But before you buy one consider that you'll want a large piece (and it's never large enough) and it's heavy to drag in and out when you use it. If you make it part of your permanent counter, in time you might not use it much and may regret the modification. I can see you baking alot at home as you study but if your planning on making this a career you might find that it's rare for you to bake at home. If I need baked goods it's just easier to make something at work.......once you get used to a professional kitchen with someone else washing your dishes making a mess at home is a pain.

But there really are many ways to temper. I use a hot water bath seeding techinque with my immersion blender. It's the least messy and most comfortable for my situation.

If you attempt to temper using your microwave, make sure you own a decent one. The micro I have at work doesn't have a turn table and has a horrible hot spot........making it unsuitable for melting chocolate.

When you wanted to temper but didn't want to use more chocolate to seed it, you should have used the amount of chocolate called for as your total weight........you didn't need more. You would have taken 3/4's of your total amount, melted it to temp., seeded it with the remaining 1/4th and you'd have the right amount.

Can you tell me more about the immersion blender and what it does for this process? Just moving the chocolate around so it cools more and faster?

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Are there absolute temperatures? I've seen a couple of small variations in the temperature ranges. My recipe source ("The Art of  Cake" by Paul Bugat) said to cool the chocolate to 80-84 F, then bring it up to 86-91F. Bo Friberg in The Professional Pastry Chef says 80-82F and then bring it up to 87-90F for dark chocolate.

Stick with the Pro- 'cause Bo knows.

And everyone above has given excellent suggestions, as well. :biggrin:

Here's my two cents:

1) It is much easier to nail a temper (& keep choc. in temper) when you work with a larger amount. Think a 2# mininum.

2) Try a hair dryer. It will deliver controllable amounts of dry heat to your choc. while you stir, and you don't have to worry about accidentally overheating portions of choc. due to "hot spots." <- This is to keep your choc. in temper. Half the battle!

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Can you tell me more about the immersion blender and what it does for this process?  Just moving the chocolate around so it cools more and faster?

When you temper on marble you can see the temp. change happening as the chocolate thickens. It's a no brainer when you've reached your low temp. Then when you reheat it back to working temp. 90 or 92 it takes a while to do this gently and sometimes you get small clumps that don't want to stir out at that temp. If you use your stick blender it breaks down those bits nicely, giving you a nice smooth bowl of chocolate in seconds.

When you use the seeding method it's hard to get the temp. of your bowl of chocolate down stirring it (I think it takes longer). I reach a point where the seeded chocolate almost refuses to continue melting. You can stir and stir and it takes forever to get the whole bowl liquid.

With my stick blender I can force the chocolate into temp. changes more dramaticly. After I've reached my highest heat melting, I dump in my seeding chocolate and using the emursion blender it quickly breaks down the seed chocolate (even though I start with pistoles). I can go down into the 80's (seeing the temp. change clearly) even well below my targeted temp. and the chocolate remains more fluid. That makes reheating back to 90 or 92 take moments and I don't have any clumps to struggle with melting.

P.S. The correct tempering temp.s are written on or enclosed in your box of chocolate..........chocolate brands differ in the temp's they reccomend, it's not just authors.

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For what it's worth, I just got another marble slab today for free (3.5'x1.5'). Basically I called a couple of places, asked about their scrap or sink cutouts. First place wanted a hundred bucks for it, the second gave it for free (they had, quite literally, i'm guessing 2 tons worth of scrap in the back). It's a beautiful black marble, i wish i had enough to do my entire kitchen in it 8-)

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I taught myself how to temper chocoalet, guittard just sucks, i dont like it. They're white chocolate is probably my least favorite of all brands.

Barry-Callabeaut is a wise choice for progressive learner. It's very resiliant climate conditions (meaning it does harden too quickly and doesnt fall apart in your hand), and at the same time it's not top of the line so its not the most expensive.

Just dont try anything new with Valrhona... might cost you more than you bargained for.

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I use E. Guittard 58% to enrobe all my hand-dipped ganache, and I have never had a problem with it. I use the 38%, 58%, 61% and 72% in my ganache and couldn't be happier with the taste.

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I taught myself how to temper chocoalet, guittard just sucks, i dont like it.  They're white chocolate is probably my least favorite of all brands.

Barry-Callabeaut is a wise choice for progressive learner.  It's very resiliant climate conditions (meaning it does harden too quickly and doesnt fall apart in your hand), and at the same time it's not top of the line so its not the most expensive.

I prefer Callebaut dark/milk/gianduja and will work with others if I have to. But when it comes to white, I won't go anywhere near anything but Callebaut. It's the only edible white chocolate I've come across.

Speaking of white chocolate, I'm tired of hearing everyone repeat over and over again "technically, white chocolate isn't chocolate." No shit. Instead of repeating this verity ad nauseam, isn't it time someone came up with a more appropriate name for it?

'White cocoa butter confection' would work if wasn't so wordy. Ideas? Just think... if we come up with a term that fits/make sense, a couple of years down the line, we may find it in the dictionary.

What's 'white' in latin? Is there a language that has one term for 'cocoa butter'?

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Years ago, before the advent of designer chocolate, wasn't it just called "white coating"?

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Speaking of white chocolate, I'm tired of hearing everyone repeat over and over again "technically, white chocolate isn't chocolate." No shit.  Instead of repeating this verity ad nauseam, isn't it time someone came up with a more appropriate name for it?

'White cocoa butter confection' would work if wasn't so wordy.  Ideas?  Just think... if we come up with a term that fits/make sense, a couple of years down the line, we may find it in the dictionary.

What's 'white' in latin? Is there a language that has one term for 'cocoa butter'?

Actually, as of 1/1/04, white chocolate technically *is* chocolate, at least in the united states. It's in the Code of Federal Regulations - prior to 2004, there was a proposed standard of identity for it, which meant that you had to petition the gov't for permission to call it white chocolate. Not any more. From a technical and legal perspective, white chocolate is indeed chocolate.

Of course, it's not the nice brown *chocolatey* chocolate...

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Speaking of white chocolate, I'm tired of hearing everyone repeat over and over again "technically, white chocolate isn't chocolate." No shit.  Instead of repeating this verity ad nauseam, isn't it time someone came up with a more appropriate name for it?

'White cocoa butter confection' would work if wasn't so wordy.  Ideas?  Just think... if we come up with a term that fits/make sense, a couple of years down the line, we may find it in the dictionary.

What's 'white' in latin? Is there a language that has one term for 'cocoa butter'?

Actually, as of 1/1/04, white chocolate technically *is* chocolate, at least in the united states. It's in the Code of Federal Regulations - prior to 2004, there was a proposed standard of identity for it, which meant that you had to petition the gov't for permission to call it white chocolate. Not any more. From a technical and legal perspective, white chocolate is indeed chocolate.

Of course, it's not the nice brown *chocolatey* chocolate...

Okay then :) That's good to know. The next time some SSB kicks in with their "white chocolate isn't technically chocolate" whine, I'll point them in that direction.

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I've been using that stuff called Mycryo to temper chocolate lately and it works great. Melt the chocolate to 115, cool to 90 and add 1% of Mycryo and stir it in well. Seems like you need a way to hold it at 90, because it sets fast and hard.

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    • By JohnT
      I have heard over the years of bakers using beetroot in chocolate cakes to "enrich" them. I have never done this and I am not too fond of beetroot in its various forms (a childhood "thing"). However, I have been requested to bake a chocolate cake using "beetroot juice" in the recipe - the person requesting the cake even supplied me with the recipe!
       
      Right, this is a first time for me doing this and I need to make a sample cake to make sure it results in an edible cake. The recipe calls for 250ml (a metric cup) beetroot juice. So my question is, how would I produce a cup of this beetroot juice? Just wiz a few raw beets in a blender and strain out the juice? Do I boil the beets first or use them raw? Ignorance is sometimes bliss - but sometimes not.
       
      Help with this dilemma would be appreciated for this beet ignorant sod in "Darkest Africa".
      John.
    • By Kasia
      MILLET GROATS CHOCOLATE CREME WITH CRANBERRY MOUSSE
       
      Today I would like to share with you the recipe for the best chocolate crème I have ever eaten. It is thick, smooth and very chocolaty in flavour and colour. Despite the chocolate, the dessert isn't too sweet. But if somebody thinks that it is, I recommend serving it with slightly sour fruit mousse. You can use cherries, currants or cranberries. You will make an unusually yummy arrangement and your dessert will look beautiful.

      My children were delighted with this dessert. I told them about the fact it had been made with millet groats after they had eaten it, and ... they didn't believe me. Next time I will prepare the millet groats crème with a double portion of ingredients.

      Ingredients (for 4 people)
      chocolate crème
      100g of millet groats
      200g of dark chocolate
      1 tablespoon of dark cocoa
      250ml of almond milk
      fruit mousse
      250g of fresh cranberries
      juice and peel of one orange
      half a teaspoon of grated ginger
      4 tablespoons of brown sugar

      Boil the millet groats in salty water and drain them. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. Blend the millet groats, chocolate, cocoa and milk very thoroughly until you have very smooth crème. Pour the milk in gradually to make the right consistency of your desert. Prepare the fruit mousse. Put the washed cranberries, ginger, juice orange peel and sugar into a pot. Boil until the fruits are soft. Blend. Put the chocolate crème into some small bowls. Put the fruit mousse on top. Decorate with peppermint leaves. Serve at once or chilled.

      Enjoy your meal!


    • By ChristysConfections
      I am trying to find boxes like these pictured below, with matching candy trays and candy pads. They are about the size of a piece of paper and about 2-2 1/2 inches high. Haven’t had any luck finding them domestically. Anyone else use something like these? How do you store/package your bulk chocolates?
       


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