How to Temper Chocolate

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Introduction: How to Temper Chocolate

The 4 simple steps you need to know to temper chocolate perfectly every time.  There's no magic in getting chocolate to temper - it just seems that way!  Follow these easy steps and never be intimidated by chocolate again.

When you buy chocolate, it is already "in temper."  This means that all of the fat crystals are aligned to give the chocolate perfect snap and shine.  When you melt chocolate to change its shape or use it in a recipe, you are taking it out of temper.  The heat causes the fat molecules get all jumpy and if they aren't realigned correctly, you get what's called "bloom."  Bloomed chocolate still tastes great, it just loses its visual and textural appeal.  But even bloomed chocolate can be brought back into temper!

Tempering chocolate can seem like a big mystery, but all you need is a bowl, a pan and a thermometer to get it right every time.  For the most accurate results, I recommend using an instant-read thermometer.  


Step 1: Setup

If you have a double boiler, more power to you!  If you don't, you can set up a simple "bain-marie:"  
  • Rest a metal bowl on a saucepan with 1 inch of water in bottom.
  • Make sure the bottom of the bowl is at least 1 inch above the surface of the water - not resting in the water.
Using chopped chocolate or chocolate wafers, reserve a quarter of the amount of chocolate in a separate bowl to use as a "seed" later.

Grab a silicone spatula and a good thermometer, and you're ready to rock.

Step 2: Melt

Bring the water in your saucepan to a SIMMER  (do not boil)

Stir the chocolate continuously until it has all melted smoothly.

Bring the chocolate to:
  • 118oF (48C) for Dark Chocolate
  • 112oF (45C) for Milk Chocolate
Remove the bowl of chocolate from the saucepan and carefully wipe the steam from bottom of the bowl.


ONE DROP OF WATER IN THE MELTED CHOCOLATE WILL CAUSE IT TO SEIZE and, well, ruin it completely.    So, you know, be careful.


Step 3: Seed

Now we seed the melted chocolate with the reserved chocolate pieces.  This will help bring down the temperature of the chocolate.

Add in the unmelted chocolate, and stir until smooth.  Keep stirring with your spatula until the temperature of the chocolate reaches:
  • 89-90oF (32C) for Dark Chocolate
  • 86-88oF (30C) for Milk Chocolate
You may set your bowl of chocolate into another bowl of cool water to help speed up this process.


Step 4: Rewarm & Maintain

If the temperature of your chocolate drops too low, just SLOWLY reheat it over the bain-marie until it reaches its proper temperature:
  • 89-90oF (32C) for Dark Chocolate
  • 86-88oF (30C) for Milk Chocolate
Your chocolate is now ready to use!

Maintain the tempered chocolate at these temperatures using both the cool water bath and the bain-marie as needed.


Now wasn't that easy?!

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30 Comments

what about for white chocolate? I can never get it as thin as milk chocolate to dip my strawberries in :/

i'm not sure if white chocolate can be tempered. white chocolate is actually just cocoa butter, and there have been some debates as to whether it is actually "chocolate". i don't think the same principles of tempering apply as white chocolate and... well... normal chocolate are very different. hope i helped!

White chocolate is indeed not chocolate. It is made with cocoa butter but it contains no cocoa powder. They use flavor longs and powdered milk in the mixing. It can still be tempered like milk chocolate because the temperature is too high on dark chocolate. I hoooe this helps everyone. (I went to a chocolate factory and a master chocolate maker explained the making. I’m not making this up)

If anyone is interested in the why temper chemistry have a look here...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate#Tempering

Basically cocoa butter has 6 types of crystaline form depending on how it was last "set".

We heat to liquify the cocoa butter crystals and then control the setting temperature to make sure we get the most good type of crystals.

Given this then you should be able to temper white chocolate too but the temperatures might be lower again than the Dark and Milk versions that Schoochmaroo listed.

that's what I was thinking Pattus, through trial and error I think I might be heating it just a bit too high or too long? there has to be a way because Chocolatiers do it all the time and come out with beautiful results. I've come close to it but I added crisco it it to get those results.

White chocolate is best to be heated to at least 30-31 degrees celcius. I'm a catering student in my second year and it's part of an exam and it's worked every time at 31 degrees so far. I hope this was helpfull

What sort of white chocolate are you using? Some of the common brands (like Nestle and Toll House) contain hydrogenated or other cheap high-melting fats but no cocoa butter at all, which means that they don't melt properly.

The upside to the fact that these "chocolates" contains no cocoa butter is that they don't require tempering - you can hold them close to their maximum working temperature to thin them, which should be around 110 degrees F.

A mid-level white chocolate like that from Ghirardelli usually contains small amounts of cocoa butter in addition to the cheaper fats, and therefore does require tempering.

A high-quality (and, unfortunately, high-price) white chocolate like Guittard's contains only cocoa butter, and none of the cheap fillers.

The higher the cocoa butter content of the chocolate, the better it will look (and taste!) in the final product. Tempered crystals of cocoa butter give chocolate its characteristic high gloss and "snap." Because of this, the best fat to add to chocolate to thin it is cocoa butter! You can usually find sticks of pure cocoa butter at drugstores, usually sold by the skincare products. Just make sure it says "100% pure cocoa butter" or something similar - the cocoa butter blends smell nice, but taste terrible. ;)

Thank you! What temperature would you bring semisweet to?

thanks for the clear instructions because everyone i went to it had all these other stuff but thanks for making it easy

Can you temper chocolate via the seed method with chocolate that has previously cooled and in bloom?