Tempering has been the most magical, elusive part of the chocolate-making process for us. For the newbies of our readership, tempering is the final step in the chocolate-making process before setting the mixture in a mold. Successful tempering results in glossy texture and a clean break in your chocolate bar. Scientifically, it crystallizes the chocolate correctly, ensuring that the Beta crystals remain and the other five kinds of crystals melt away. In order to do this, the chocolate-maker must be able to determine the crystallization structure by temperature, sight, and touch. And let me tell you, it’s not easy!
Unsuccessful tempering results in fat bloom (the white streaks in the bars in the picture), very low melting temperature of your chocolate so it starts to melt as soon as you touch it, a short shelf-life, an unsatisfying break when you try to tear off a piece of your finished product.
So, what has our experience been like? Well, the more we think we know, the more fat bloom we’ve discovered in our final products. Frustrating? No! Science? Yes! Here’s what we’ve learned, so we can continue improving the shiny surface and clean break of our chocolates:
- There are many “right” ways to temper chocolate. Every home brew chocolate-maker has their own method and most of them work! So, like Clay told us, don’t believe anyone who says “this is the only way.”
- Despite that advice, there are smart guidelines to follow regarding temperature and movement. We’ve learned that exact temperatures are very important (and quite difficult to measure without a good thermometer, which will be our next chocolate purchase). We now understand that we should initially melt our chocolate liquor to at least 114 degrees, some say 122 to melt all the cocoa butter, and some even say 131 F. The next step is rapid cooling down. At this stage, we can either add some existing tempered chocolate (in which case, our cooled chocolate should reach about 88 degrees), or lower the temperature of our chocolate to about 80 degrees. We’re stubborn and want to try to get tempering right without adding any “seed” chocolate, as it’s called, so we always try the latter. The final step is to reheat the chocolate to the high 80s again. And as long as it doesn’t go above 94 degrees (or 90), when the beta crystals would melt and reset the whole process, the chocolate should be melted.
- Let me rephrase. Stir constantly. Movement is key! It helps keep the temperature of your chocolate uniform and exposes the chocolate to the forming beta crystals.
- Additives that emulsify (imagine shaking up mustard in your homemade oil & vinegar salad dressing) make it easier to temper chocolate. The most common emulsifier for homemade chocolate is lecithin. Lecithin helps coat the tiny chocolate particles with fat, evening out the texture of the chocolate.
- Finally, believe it or not, our chocolate still tastes good, even though it has fat bloom (and occasionally sugar bloom, which occurs due to condensation among other reasons). So, we’re not too hung up about this, but we intend to continuously improve our chocolate, which should, given our scientific process, eventually eliminate fat bloom!
There are some great resources online to learn to temper chocolate better. As usual, The Chocolate Life and Chocolate Alchemy are among the best:
- The Chocolate Life: Emulsifiers
- Chocolate Alchemy: Is there a tempering shortcut?
- ChocoMap: How to and why temper chocolate
- Fine Cooking: Why temper chocolate?
- Blommer Chocolate: Tempering lesson
For those experts out there, if you have any suggestions to reduce bloom and temper better, share your magic!