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Feb 26, 2011 01:55 PM

Tempering Chocolate

I know there are many posts on this subject and I don't have any major problems when it comes to the tempering process. My only issue is that once I have melted the chocolate it takes a VERY long time for it to cool down to the low 80s. It's not a problem but I am wondering because I have read in many places that the cooling process takes about 15 minutes but for me it takes more like 45 minutes. I am using a pretty big chunk of chocolate to seed the melted chocolate after it's melted. Anyone else have this problem?

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  1. You are not completing the tempering process.

    Tempering usu. involves not only melting the chocolate, but also seeding it (or if you have a marble slab, folding it onto itself).

    To seed the chocolate, once the chocolate has fully melted and reached a temperature of over 105°F, remove it from the heat. Then, add a piece of unmelted chocolate to provide the seed crystals. This piece can be as big as 2 or 3 ounces, or can be chopped up into a few smaller chunks. Now, stir until the chocolate's temperature enters the tempering range, 88-90°F.

    This should not take 15 minutes, much less 45.

    Hope this helps.

    12 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately, this is what I'm doing. Melting the chocolate and adding a big chunk. Temperature takes forever to go down.

      1. re: ebsg

        I follow what you're saying, and I think you may be using too big a chunk of chocolate for the seeding. The idea is that the room temp chocolate is going to absorb the heat from the melted chocolate, thereby bringing the temp down on the melted and up on the chunk. But if you're using a really big, chunky piece, the center of the chunk is too far away from the heat source to do any good. Basically, you don't have enough surface area of cool chocolate cooling down the melted. Try using several smallish chunks.

        1. re: ebsg


          Like what sbp said, I think you are using too much chocolate to seed. Try either a smaller piece, or chop it up and use less.

          Good luck.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I've studied chocolateering in french so i hope i'm not miss-translating "seeding" as giving the chocolate it's temperature shock so that it will crystalize properly without bubbles or white currants.

            There are many ways to do this. Like the others said you can melt your chocolate to about 50 C and incorporate unmelted pieces. Usually i break it up into pellet size (1 inch round disks) or work with pellets directly.

            Here is the key: Everything should melt and it might take a few minutes of stirring. You may have some tiny pieces of unmelted chocolate at the end. This is fine, just remove them, filter them or use a hot air gun (found in hardware stores) to bring your chocolate back up. If your pellets melted very quickly then it is possible you didn't use enough pellets. Add more.

            Dark chocolate, after this temperature shock, should be around 32 C. Less for milk and white choc. Do a test on a knife or a spatula to see if the chocolate will "set" correctly in a few minutes.
            White currents: chocolate is too cold.
            Bubbles: chocolate is too hot.
            Wont set: not enough of a temperature shock.

            If you still have trouble with this technique then you can try "the old way" and pouring 2/3 of the tempered chocolate on marble and working it to 27 C (eyeball it, don't measure it haha) and re-incorporate in the remaining 1/3 of tempered chocolate.

            Good luck and let us know if you succeed!

            1. re: SourberryLily

              Well said, SourberryLily.

              And, yes, you've described seeding exactly right.

              Also, to add, seeding, and doing it properly, will come with practice. The more you do it the more natural it becomes and you will just naturally realize how much chocolate to add without having your chocolate freeze up or do something totally odd.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                One thing I'm still not clear on is how long does the chocolate have to remain in the "temper zone" before the temper stabilizes. That is to say, clearly, the chocolate doesn't have to remain at 88 degrees forever in order to be tempered. It is obvious that a tempered solid piece of chocolate is no longer in the temper zone.

                On the other hand, if you simply lowered the temp from 105 to room temperature, it would, in fact, pass through the temper zone on its way down, but that doesn't work either. So I've simply assumed you have to keep the chocolate in the temper zone for some period of time before you can coat your confection, mold it, etc. and thereby lower it's temperature out of the zone.

                It would be nice to know how long this time period is, since I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to keep the chocolate in the zone the whole time I'm working with it, when it seems this is not necessary. It seems to me that once tempered, it shouldn't matter if you enrobe or mold while the chocolate is in the zone or once it starts cooling from there. How would the chocolate "know" that it is cooling down while coating a caramel as opposed cooling down in the pot?

                1. re: sbp

                  SBP - My understanding of the process is that you have to melt the chocolate, seed it to bring the temperature down to about 80 farenheit, and then gently reheat the chocolate to 88-90 (for dark chocolate). It's not that it has to stay in that range for a certain amount of time, rather, it must cool past that temperature and then be brought up again. I'm basing this on the David Leibovitz approach:

                  1. re: sbp

                    It needs to be held at the right temperature long enough for the sugars to crystallize so if you let it just cool, it won't do that. I think cooking for engineers has a good explanation, though, it doesn't tell you how long for amount of chocolate.


                    The chocolate needs to be kept at that temperature the whole time you're working with it, which is what I find the most difficult--not letting it cool too much while working with it. But, your last question is a good one. As long as the chocolate has been tempered, it should be fine to keep dipping whatever it is and still get that tempered coating. Maybe I've been worrying for nothing about it getting too cool.

                    As for your OP, the obvious question to me is how hot you're heating the chocolate and how much chocolate you're doing. It shouldn't take as long as yours has. Smaller seeds would help.

                    1. re: chowser

                      I want to clear something up in case some people are reading this and wondering why some chocolates don't need to be shocked into crystalizing.

                      There are different categories of chocolates out there which might generate some confusion when you are doing research. What most of us are talking about here is "Chocolat Composé" (wiki has no english translation for this). This is good quality chocolate which requires the temperature shock "seeding". Examples that i know of are Barry or Belcolade brands.

                      Compound chocolate, or composé in french, is lower grade, does not have the same fats that hold it together and therefore do not need to have the temperature shock. Melt it, cool it, that's it. Think the Baker chocolate sold in stores.

                      Ebsg and chowser describe it correctly. Chocolate melts at a certain temperature (depending on black, milk or white), but will not re crystalize by simply letting it cool. Eventually, it will but it would take a great deal of time and wouldn't have the "look"... that shininess you see in shop chocolate. Like i said before, if you want to know if your chocolate is going to crystalize correctly, dip a knife in it and let it sit. Wait. Check out if it set and if the chocolate looks nice and uniform. After 5 minutes you should start seeing it set. after 10, if it's still wet you have a problem.

                      Chocolate is somewhat of a science project. In order for it to crystalize quickly you need to melt it down at a temp. that wont burn it, give it a cold shock to activate the crystallization, then bring it back up. Dark chocolate is 50C -->27C --> 32 C. (That's in theory but i've diverted a few degrees and still obtained great results)

                      I only worked with temperer machines at the shop, at home i use a "bain marie" or plain old microwave. Yep, Microwave! It is more difficult to control because you don't want to over heat but it gives the same results. Just be careful with white chocolate because it burns easily. If using a temperer machine then we would just let it on constantly and hold it around 40-50 C.

                      EDIT: found this interesting article on wiki. Explains some stuff that's been said.

                      1. re: SourberryLily

                        this is where i get a bit confused - everyone says to test the temper by dipping a knife and waiting 5 minutes... but of course, if you stop everything and wait 5 minutes, the chocolate will now have cooled down significantly from where it was when you tested it. :) Do you hold the temperature somehow while you're testing and working with the chocolate (and if so... how?)? Or do you have to keep reheating it gently the whole time to keep it in range?

                      2. re: chowser

                        It's not the sugars crystalizing, it's the fats. Cocoa butter has 6 types of fat, all with different melting points. Melting to 120F melts them all, then seeding reintroduces stable crystals.

                        1. re: babette feasts

                          Funny I don't even remember writing that post but I don't know what I was thinking, other than maybe just mistakenly typing sugar instead of fat. Glad it was caught, even months later, thanks. That article I posted does talk about crystallizing cocoa butter so hopefully, people followed that link and got it right.

          2. What vessel are you using to temper the chocolate in? If you heated it up in a big earthenware or glass bowl, that may be retaining a bunch of heat.

            2 Replies
            1. re: slopfrog

              Thanks slopfrong. I think this may be a big part of my issue. I always use glass bowls.

              1. re: ebsg

                use stainless steel bowls. If the chocolate gets too cold you can pop the bowl right on top of a pot with water (bain marie) and re-melt. Remember to redo the crystallization.