View Full Version : Is there a chocolate diva in the house?

10-31-2001, 10:28 PM
Hey ReneeV, I need your tempering expertise!

I took a fancy-pants chocolate making class last weekend, and the fancy-pants instructor glossed over tempering because she brought her $4000 computerized chocolate tempering machine to class. She did mention that we could bring our own chocolate to temper by placing it in a stainless steel bowl on a heating pad for 6 hours or so, or by placing it in a crockpot on low.

My question is: if I buy already tempered fancy-pants chocolate (like Callebaut), I don't need to worry about tempering it again unless I get it too hot, right? I can just get it to the tempering temperature (80° or so depending on the brand and type) and use it from there???

TIA, I'm trying to learn and had no idea how complicated it was.

11-01-2001, 08:39 AM
bumping this up...

11-01-2001, 10:03 AM
Seriously, somebody (obviously someone older and wise than I) PLEASE reveal to me the secret about WHY we temper chocolate?

Isn't tempering merely the step of adding some unmelted chocolate to the melted chocolate until the desired consistency/temperature is reached? Or have I been living under a rock all this time? WHY would someone spend so much on a tempering machine?

(I'm not really as worked up about this as I sound as if I am... but I am very curious. I am not a very good chocolatier, I guess...)

11-01-2001, 10:21 AM

11-02-2001, 08:38 AM
Hi Lisa,
Too bad your instructor didn't bother to stress the importance of tempering and teach a method that doesn't require an expensive machine. Sheesh!

Unfortunately, even high quality tempered chocolate needs to be retempered when melted. Actually, all chocolate from Hershey's to Callebaut comes tempered and needs to to be retempered once melted.

When chocolate is melted the cocoa butter separates into alpha and beta crystals on the molecular level. If you don't temper the melted chocolate, the beta crytals will not reform properly so the chocolate will not set up correctly upon rehardening. What usually happens is that the chocolate has a dull finish and a "rubbery" not quite set up texture at room temperature. It's not shiney and does not have the "snap" when broken, that properly tempered chocolate has. More importantly, it does not have that "silken" mouth-feel when eaten. It can taste gritty or chalky and not melt well in your mouth.

One last thing about the importance of tempering: if you plan on casting the chocolate into shapes using molds, if it is not properly tempered, it WILL NOT come out of the mold, no matter how long you let it set up, or refrigerate it.

The crockpot WILL NOT work. It keeps the chocolate at too high of a temperature, even when it is set to low. Tempered chocolate should feel almost cool to the touch. (80-85 degrees)

If you don't have a tempering machine, the easiest method is probably the 2/3 - 1/3 method. You melt 2/3 of your total weight of chocolate in a double boiler. Don't let the temperature of the melted chocolate exceed 100 degrees, (try to keep it around 95-50 degrees). Grate the remaining 1/3 chocolate. Take the melted chocolate off the heat. Add the grated chocolate a little at a time and stir until melted. This is called "seeding" the melted chocolate. The introduction of unmelted chocolate helps the beta crystals reform properly. The total melted mass should have a temp of about 85-80 degrees. That's about it. You can use it as needed to mold, or dip, or whatever. It's not fool-proof, but it is the simplest method and works pretty well.

A few tips: if you don't have a chocolate thermometer, (regular candy/frying thermometers start at too high a temp), 90-100 degrees feels warm, but not hot. 85-50 degrees feels luke to cool.

If you are using chocolate in a recipe such as cake or mousse, it doesn't need to be tempered.

I do a lot of chocolate work semi-professionally, so for me, it was worth it to invest in a tempering machine. My model cost about $350. Besides being fool-proof, it frees you up to do other things while the chocolate is melting and tempering. It also holds the tempered chocolate at the correct temperature indefinitely while working. If you only do chocolate work occasionally such as the holidays, you probably wouldn't want to invest in this machine, but I love mine and it was worth every penny!

Finally, there are some good quality compound chocolates which you can melt in your microwave and do not require tempering because some or all of the cocoa butter has been replace with vegetable oil. Obviously, these do not taste the same as good quality chocolate, but I do use them occasionally for detail/ornimental work where taste is not really important.

Sorry this is sooo long, but I hope it helps,


11-02-2001, 08:43 AM
WOW Renee...I've knew it was important to temper..but have tried it only once when I tried to make chocolate bowls on balloons (many of them poppped), so I've been watching this thread to see what happened as I'd love to give it a shot to make some cute stuff for the holidays. How many times do you figure it flops for the novice before you kind of get a feel?

Thanks! Karen

11-02-2001, 10:33 AM
Thank you Renee!! This is exactly the info I needed, and you gave me the confidence to give it a go on my own. You rock! I'll let you know how it turns out.

11-02-2001, 12:04 PM
Good Luck Lisa,
No problem. I'm glad I could help. Let me know how it all turns out.

I think the one thing you need to get familiar with and used to is the temperture of the chocolate. Tempered chocolate almost feels cool to the touch.

Also, when it is tempered correctly, the liquid chocolate oddly holds it's shape when you drop a spoon of it on a plate, yet at the same time it is fluid, not gloppy or thick.
(You'll know immediately what I mean, when you get it right.)

Hope these tips help. Unfortunately, hand tempering is never fool proof. You can do everything "right" and still have the occasional disaster. I will say it is much easier to be successful in the cool weather than in the warm.

Happy Chocolatiering!


11-02-2001, 04:03 PM
Originally posted by ReneeV
A few tips: if you don't have a chocolate thermometer, (regular candy/frying thermometers start at too high a temp), 90-100 degrees feels warm, but not hot. 85-50 degrees feels luke to cool.

One last question, Reneé-- I've been searching for a chocolate thermometer, but haven't been able to find one either online or in my small-ish town. Any suggestions on where I can get one?

11-03-2001, 03:16 PM
Hi Lisa,

A lot of fancy smancy cookware places carry them, but they charge ridiculous prices. Also confectionary supply and cake decorating shops sometimes sell chocolate thermometers.

If you have niether of these places near you, I would suggest the on-line catalogue at www.sugarcraft.com. It's a fabulous supply place for any and all confectionary equiptment and supplies. Even though I live in NJ very near NYC, I often order from her because her prices are so terrific and she only charges you the exact UPS shipping costs, no sliding scale and nothing for that illusive "handling" charge.

I went on line to her site and saw that she carries chocolate thermometers for only $11. I believe you will find them under general equiptment, click on the letter "T" and there will be a link to candy thermometers. It's fun just to browse around and look at all the remarkable "stuff" available for sugar and chocolate work. She has items for the beginning novice who just wants to make a character cake for there child's birthday all the way up to very sophisticated equiptment for advanced sugar work.

Have Fun!


11-03-2001, 07:02 PM
Thank you! That's an awesome site.