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Tempering Chocolate -- How Frustrating is That!

Last night, after making caramels and buttercrunch, I attempted to temper about 1.5 lbs. of Callubaut bittersweet chocolate to enrobe the caramels and coat the buttercrunch. I used a chocolate thermometer and followed all the directions (raise temp. to 125, reduce to 86, raise to 91) and it failed. Then, I began all over again and my attempt failed again. (So now all my candy is in the fridge and needs to be eaten before those white streaks start forming.) I've successfully tempered chocolate in the past (though not for at least a year) and I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas to prevent another failure. It's a very messy business and frustrating when it doesn't work. Anyone have any thoughts on tempering machines? Thanks.

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  1. I have to be honest that I don't use a thermometre when tempering chocolate -- it comes off the double boiler, it gets set in ice water, and I whip it until it glistens... that's it.

    1. Did you put in a piece of chocolate as a seed? This helps the melted chocolate to reform in the same crystalline structure as the seed.

      David Lebovitz has a very clear description of the process here (scroll all the way down, it's the August 3 entry):

      1 Reply
      1. re: cheryl_h

        Thanks. I did add several chunks of the chocolate to the melted chocolate, once I took it off the heat. I'll check out the link -- thanks for that!

      2. I have been making chocolates for over 30 years and thanks to the invention of the microwave melting and tempering chocolate is so easy now. I just put my chocolate in a plastic microwave proof bowl and start it on 1 minute intervals. I usually take it out every 30 seconds and give it a stir then continue to heat until it melts. You have to watch this carefully because the chocolate will burn really fast this way. The chocolate usually doesn't heat up as hot this method and I just stir quickly until it glistens. Using the microwave helps prevent the chocolate siezing due to water contamination.
        It makes life much easier than having to heat it so high and then letting it cool down to temper. No white streaks ever!

        1 Reply
        1. re: MeffaBabe

          once the chocolate melts, do you seed it then? or will one single melting in the microwave work for the temper?

        2. What I do is I'll melt my chocolate & then add a big block of chocolate to it & then stir until the block can't melt anymore. Always works.

          1. Some gourmet stores offered tempered chocolate chunks that are ready to go and can save you a LOT of trouble...


            7 Replies
            1. re: Dommy

              I think that all bar chocolate is already tempered -- however it goes out of temper once it's melted, and I need to melt it to dip caramels in it!

              1. re: Susan Hope

                Sorry, I should have explained myself better... Restaurant and Gourmet Stores offer "molding' Chocolate which doesn't need to be tempered. It's like already tempered dark chocolate. All you need to do is melt and dip...



                1. re: Dommy

                  Yes, I think that's often called summer coating, which I've never used, because I've been told that it's not "real" chocolate and lacks flavor, though after last night's disaster, it's very tempting! Thanks for the suggestion.

                  1. re: Susan Hope

                    Maybe more inexpensive brands, but it IS chocolate... But although not as good as Valhrona, this brand is pretty tasty! They make a white chocolate as well! :)


                    1. re: Dommy

                      What you are talking about is "non tempering chocolate" or "molding chocolate" or "coating chocolate." It varies from "real" chocolate in that it contains little or no cocoa butter, which is replaced by vegetable shortening. For chocolate to be in temper the cocoa butter crystals must be lined up in a certain fashion on a molecular level. "Non-tempering chocolate" does not require this process of tempering because the vegetable shortening will be solid at room temperature (think Crisco) and will coat your candies accordingly.

                      1. re: Dommy

                        So can you use it as a dipping or coating chocolate? We make these yummy chocolate creams at Christmas time, and for about two decades now we have been trying to avoid using the paraffin that is called for in the original recipe. We haven't found any other way (including our own fiasco-laden attempts at tempering) to get the chocolate coating to set up well.

                        1. re: zorra

                          Yes, I was introduced to it in a Truffle Making class as the Tastiest and EASIEST thing to coat truffles with.


              2. Thankfully, if those white streaks form, you can just melt down the chocolate and whisk them back in. It's called bloom, and all it is is the cocoa butter in the chocolate rising out of the chocolate.

                The last time I worked with chocolate (I made chocolate praline crunch sheets to wrap around a cake), I did a quick temper by melting the chocolate in a double boiler, then taking the chocolate off the heat while there were still quite a few chunks of unmelted chocolate. I then stirred the chocolate until it was uniformly smooth. It worked perfectly.

                1. I think your tempering temperature at 86 was on the high side--your other temperatures agree with the Cordon Bleu textbook I just picked up. Note that temperatures are different for dark chocolate vs. white chocolate (white requires lower temperatures for the 3 different steps).

                  All that said, I don't know how much time is required to let seed crystals form during the low temperature phase; I'd guess like any chemical reaction it either requires plenty of time or some form of energy to speed up the reaction (stiring?).

                  Can a chocolate expert explain the need for the initial higher temperature melt? Is this to blend a variety of disparate chocolates and cocoa butters? If you're just using one type of chocolate, why not melt it to the stage where undesirable crystals melt but desirable crystals stay formed (~91 in this case)?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: SteveG

                    The initial higher temperature is needed to melt all of the fat crystals in cocoa butter. There are several different types of fat crystals that melt at different temperatures. They must all be melted to get a chocolate that is out of temper back into temper.

                    There are three methods to temper chocolate--Tableing, Seeding, and Direct Tempering. You can only use the direct method with chocolate that is already in temper--ie starting from solid bar chocolate and not exceeding 91.4 degrees.

                    1. re: Non Cognomina

                      Two questions:
                      1) I'm assuming out of temper chocolate has the messy undesirable crystals and a few of the crystals with the correct structure--is that wrong? Is an untempered bar a bar that only has the large messy crystals?
                      2) When you say Tableing, what is different about working the chocolate on a marble surface compared to working the chocolate in the same bowl as it cools? Can you achieve the same effect by carefully controlling the cool down process in a bowl?

                      1. re: SteveG

                        1) Chocolate is either in temper or out of temper. It's like being pregnant. There's no sort of in temper/sort of being pregnant. As soon as any one crystaline structure is out of line/out of temper it's considered out of temper, regardless of (molecularly) how may other crystals may be aligned.

                        2) Tableing is one category of tempering. It's what I like to think of as old school terminology (kind of like how my dad asks if I want any new "records" for Chrismas). It refers to taking one specific amount of chocolate, melting it all to about 120 F. Pour about 2/3 of the melted chocolate onto a marble table and, working quickly, use a paddle/spatula to work the chocolate on the table, mixing and moving it to cool it down until it is about the consistency of fudge. Return the tabled chocolate back to the bowl with the 1/3 still warm melted chocolate and stir until the entire mass is smooth, warming gently over a water bath as necessary to proper working temperature.

                        You are correct in suggesting that working the chocolate in the same bowl as it cools is a variation on tableing in a certain sense. But believe it or not it takes much more finesse. The bowl can be set over an ice water bath, but can't stay there. Having it stay over an ice bath will cause the chocolate to cool too quickly on the sides of the bowl, making the final chocolate lumpy and impractical to work with for enrobing, etc. It may be in temper, but if it's not usable, what's the point?

                        To make the tableing-in-a-bowl work, you need to set your metal bowl (the one with the melted chocolate) into an ice bath for a few seconds, stirring vigorously, remove from the ice bath, continuing to stir vigorously, return to the ice bath for a few seconds, repeating the process until you bring the temp down. Also, if any water gets into the bowl of chocolate, it will cause the couverture to seize and you will not be able to retemper it. And if you don't stir fast enough or leave the bowl on the ice bath too long you get lumpy chocolate.

                        Like I said, it takes finesse.

                      2. re: Non Cognomina

                        Thanks for your reply. Could you please explain what direct tempering is? I've never even heard of that method!

                        1. re: Susan Hope

                          Direct tempering only works with chocolate that is already in temper. Couverture can be taken direct from the manufacturer in whatever form it comes (block, pistole, etc), placed directly into a heat controlled environment (around 90 F) and allowed to melt. Because the chocolate is not heated beyond the point that it will go out of temper, there isn't any actual "tempering" going on, just keeping the chocolate in good temper. It is not practical for home cooks because it involves special equipment and a lot of time. When I know I'm going to be using a lot of chocolate that needs to be in temper (making a centerpiece/showpiece) I will use a heated chocolate cabinet that can hold several hotel pans worth of chocolate. Not very practical at home.