How tempering chocolate works


How tempering chocolate works
How tempering chocolate works

Tempering chocolate is the art of the chocolatier. Tempering is the critical process for making chocolates that have a beautiful and flavorful appearance. Chocolatiers specialize in creating small pieces of art with each product they produce. Simply melting a bar of chocolate is not enough to use it in another form, such as coating or molding. Only if chocolate is tempered correctly will it melt smoothly in the mouth, retain its proper flavor, and retain its shine. So how does tempering chocolate work?

Chocolate is complex. For the sake of this article, we will leave out the science that will make your eyes glaze over and focus on chocolate gloss instead. 

If chocolate were a person, it would be that person we all have in our lives that has so much potential if they would only try. Chocolate is unmotivated. It needs someone to give it a swift kick in the bottom to get it going. Chocolate is like Humpty Dumpty; once it's melted, it cant make itself stable again. Unstable chocolate has all of the ingredients scattered and disorganized. Chocolate in this state is called a bad Temper. So whats inside our Humpty Dumpty chocolate?

Most chocolate contains just a few ingredients:

  1. sugar 
  2. cocoa butter
  3. milk fat solids
  4. cocoa liquor
  5. lecithin
  6. vanilla
  7. cocoa.

All of these ingredients are present in all forms of chocolate. The tempering process organizes these ingredients to retain its qualities in other forms. Organizing these components comes down to heating and cooling the chocolate. It sounds simple enough, but it is one of the most challenging and frustrating processes. It takes many years of experience to be able to temper chocolate consistently. 

How do companies temper chocolate. 

  1. Huge companies don't manually temper chocolate; it is all done automatically. They used Tempermeters, automatic tempering melters, and don't have to worry about how their chocolate tempers. (Automatically)
  2. Small to midsize companies use a combination of timers, mechanical tempering units, and manual tempering. (Manually with some help)
  3. Small companies do everything manually. (All manually)

Tempering chocolate requires finished chocolate bars or disks. Melt chocolate to a specific temperature generally over 115 degrees. Then cool chocolate to a particular temperature, below 90 degrees. (temperatures will vary depending upon chocolate used. 

Different ways to temper chocolate:

  1. Automatically, the entire process happens and in real-time with specialized machines
  2. Seeding, Adding small or finely chopped pieces of tempered chocolate to melted chocolate to slowly and naturally bring the temperature down to the desired point using a tempering bowl, a double boiler, or on a marble slab.
  3. Adding Cocoa Butter, after heating, then cooling the chocolate, when the chocolate is close to 90 degrees, add cocoa butter, usually a minimal amount of powdered cocoa butter. 
  4. Tabling chocolate on a marble slab. This is the traditional and most authentic way of tempering chocolate that, in my opinion, is only done in culinary school. 

No matter how you choose to temper chocolate, the process of heating and cooling to organize the ingredients is the same. Patience and practice is the primary skill needed to master this culinary skill