Recipes and instructions by: Anita Ferron
Tempering is done by melting solid chocolate to a temperature high enough that the crystals in the cocoa butter (yes, there are tiny crystals in your chocolate) break down. This temperature is between 110-120F. Once the chocolate is fully melted, it must be cooled to about 82F, a temperature at which crystals will start to form again so that the chocolate can eventually re-solidify.
Chocolate that has been tempered is smooth, with a shiny finish and a satisfying snap. Chocolate that is simply melted and not tempered tends to be soft or sticky at room temperature, and can also have gray or white streaks or spots. Tempering is the solution to avoiding these common problems and to producing beautiful, delicious chocolate candies.
Make sure that the chocolate you start with is in good temper, meaning it is shiny and hard. If it has white or gray streaks, or is crumbly, it is not a good chocolate to use with this method of tempering. Also avoid chocolate chips, which are much more difficult to temper.
1. Chop three-quarters of your chocolate. Separate out about a quarter of your chocolate, and set it aside for now. Chop the remaining three-quarters of the chocolate into small pieces, and place them in a microwave-safe bowl.
2. Melt your chocolate. Microwave the bowl of chopped chocolate in 30-second increments. Stir after every 30 seconds, and heat and stir until the chocolate is entirely melted and smooth.
3. Bring the chocolate to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 C) for dark chocolate or 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 C) for milk or white chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted, take its temperature with the chocolate thermometer. If it is not at 115 F, heat it in short bursts until it reaches that temperature, but watch it carefully. Do not allow the chocolate to exceed its recommended temperature.
4. Add the remaining chunk of chocolate to the bowl of melted chocolate, and stir gently to incorporate. Stir almost constantly to melt the big chunk. I like to use an almost scraping motion against the block of chocolate, to incorporate it into the melted chocolate. The warm chocolate will melt the chopped chocolate, and the newly added chocolate will bring down the temperature of the warm chocolate.
5. Cool the chocolate to 90 F (32 C) for dark chocolate or 87 F (30 C) for milk or white chocolate. Continue to stir the chocolate while it cools, until you reach the prescribed temperature.
6. Test the chocolate's temper. Smear a small spoonful of chocolate on a piece of parchment or waxed paper, and watch it to see if it sets. Properly tempered chocolate should begin to set in just a few minutes. You will first see it lose its shine and take on a slightly more matte look, then it will start to set around the edges. At cool room temperature, a streak of tempered chocolate should set within 4-6 minutes. Don't stick it in the refrigerator to speed up the process--this will not tell you if it's actually in temper! If it doesn't appear to be tempered, continue to stir and cool the chocolate for another 1-2 degrees, then test it again. Different brands of chocolate and different environmental conditions sometimes require slightly different tempering temperatures.
7. Remove any chunks of chocolate in the melted chocolate. If the block of melted chocolate has not melted away entirely, remove it from the melted chocolate so that it does not continue to cool down the chocolate too quickly.
8. Your chocolate is tempered and ready!