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Guide to Tempering chocolate, including Microwave method.

Tempering is the process by which the cocoa butter in chocolate is pre-crystallised to a stable form (consistent size of cocoa butter crystals), by use of controlling the correct working temperature when melting, so that the finished item’s chocolate surface retains its shine and hardness, without appearing blotchy or dull.

Chocolate that has not been tempered (or tempered correctly) will tend to be softer at room temperature. It may also appear dull or the surface may incorporate lighter streaks or even spots/patches.

Although most couverture (cooking chocolate) is already pre-tempered, the Belgian chocolatier Callebaut being a notable example, melting the chocolate will destroy the tempered state of the chocolate and re-tempering will be necessary if retaining that surface finish is important to you.

Of course, if you’re melting chocolate to use within a recipe like a chocolate ganache or a chocolate mousse, then you won’t need to bother, but if you’re using the melted chocolate for moulding or enrobing (coating), then you will probably want to take that extra little bit of time and trouble to temper your chocolate first.

You can temper chocolate with a cold marble surface. Belgian Chocolatier’s Callebaut recommend melting the chocolate at a temperature of between 40 and 45 degrees C. Then removing about 2/3 of the melted chocolate and stirring it continuously on a cold marble surface until it starts to thicken (at around 4 to 5 degrees lower than its working temperature); before adding this slightly cooled chocolate back to the rest of the melted chocolate and stirring in until a smooth consistency is achieved.

Tempering applies to White, Milk and Dark chocolate taking care to note that the working temperature will be lower for milk chocolate and lower still for white chocolate.

If you don’t have easy access to a cold marble surface, then by far, the easiest method to use for tempering your chocolate is a *microwave:

  • Start by adding some pre-tempered chocolate callets (chips) to a plastic or glass bowl.
  • Place in the microwave and set the power level at between 800w – 1000w.
  • Remove the bowl of chocolate chips after 15 seconds and stir well. Repeat the process until the chocolate is almost melted. Some small pieces should still be visible in the bowl. Remove from the microwave.
  • Stir the chocolate well until all the solid pieces have blended into the liquid chocolate and the chocolate has slightly thickened and has an even consistency.
  • The chocolate couverture is now tempered and ready to use.

Remember not to leave the chocolate melting under the power of the microwave for too long and remember to keep stopping and removing the chocolate for stirring. This will help ensure that the temperature is distributed evenly throughout the chocolate and it doesn’t burn.
(*source Callebaut)

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