If you're reading this, chances are you already know what tempering chocolate is. But if you don’t, it's a way of treating the chocolate so that when melted chocolate hardens, it will do so to a hard shell with a lovely, shiny gloss to it. It's a fab way to get your chocolate covered deserts looking their best.
Despite what lah-dee-dah chocolatiers will have you believe, you can learn how to temper chocolate easily – using items you already have in your kitchen. Tempering chocolate does rely a lot on using the correct temperatures at different stages, so a sugar thermometer is a must-have item.
It's Getting Hot in Here
You first need to start with a double-boiler
, which is nothing more than a bowl that fits snugly inside a pan filled with boiling water. Use enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and make sure it can’t get into the bowl.
You will get the shiniest results by using the darker chocolate varieties, but you can also use milk chocolate. Throw half your chocolate into the bowl to get started. Heat the chocolate up and stir it often to get all the chocolate to melt evenly. Stick in your thermometer and watch for when the temperature in the bowl reaches 118°-120° F (116°-118°F for milk chocolate). Then you can remove the bowl from the pan.
Now add the rest of the un-melted chocolate, and stir it through, until the temperature reaches 80°F. With all the chocolate melted now, put the pan back on the boil, and return the bowl to the pan. Now heat the entire mix until it gets up to 88°-91°F (85°-88° for milk).
Cool It Baby!
Use a flat board covered in foil, and transfer two thirds of the chocolate to this board with a spatula to cool it down. Move and spread the chocolate around the board with the spatula for a while to increase the cooling area. Using a metal spatula will help to bring the temperature of the chocolate down more quickly, which is what we're looking for—too much messing around with the chocolate can make it grainy, or form small bubbles.
See how lovely and shiny your chocolate is now! What? It isn't? Then heat it up again to the ideal temperature and start over.
If it is shiny, continue the cooling down process with the rest of the chocolate using the spatula—tempered chocolate achieved.
You can use the chocolate right away, or you can leave it to harden, and melt it up when you need it a few days later. It will still be in a nice temper and produce the shiny finish you want.
Now that you know how to temper chocolate, you can use it to create perfectly professional chocolate covered strawberries, add some pizzazz to dried fruit, or pimp up your cookies and cakes. You can even take your newly acquired chocolatier skills further and make your own molded candies, perfect for Valentine’s Day or any other occasion.