Ask the Alchemist #166


Level: Alchemist

Read time: 6 minutes

I have been bowl tempering with good success until the ambient temperature in my kitchen went up.  Typically in the morning when I temper the kitchen is about 60 degrees.  We had some unusually hot weather and we have no air conditioning, so my kitchen was about 80.  However, knowing this I took my liquid chocolate directly from the melanger, cooled it with a bowl of 65-degree water to 79 when it started to thicken, then immediately put it into a bowl of 100-degree water and slowly brought it up to 88.  The molds then went immediately into a 45-degree refrigerator for 30 minutes, and then into my basement where the ambient temp is about 70.  It’s with a bean, Bolivia, that I use a lot and my normal formula and melanging time.  Yet the finished product had a soft temper.  It was OK but I would not call it a full temper because it was softer than usual.  It did not have the same snap and when you laid one bar on top of another it did not have that satisfying click.  With this close control over my temperatures why did that 80-degree ambient temp have an effect on it, when the chocolate was not left at that temp at any time?  (I even melted it down and re-tempered with the same result).  Seems like I am not getting enough type 5 in there but can’t figure out why.

 

This is a really great question and I have to admit had me stumped for a little bit.  You are correct, it sounds like everything should be working perfectly.  Yet clearly it isn’t.

When I first read this I had an idea what it might be, but I needed to ask a few question In order to suss out.

It turned out that when it was not as hot, the molds hung out on the counter a little while since there was no rush to get them out of the heat.

This difference, the time on the counter, between going into the mold and chilling in the refrigerator, was the key.

Most of the time this time does not matter.  But it can matter.  Clearly.  The problem was not so much that there was not enough Type V.  It was that there was not enough time to allow it to do it’s job.  By going from 88 F and a nominal amount of V, it was plunged straight into the equivalent of deep freeze.  The Type V didn’t have time to do its job and propagate throughout the chocolate.  Basically it was flash frozen.   And the result was a soft temper.

Chocolate needs a little time for the Type V matrix to form.  Just 5 or 10 minutes will often do the trick.  At 80 F, as in this kitchen, it might have needed 15-20 minutes.  The other alternative, which quite a number of chocolate makers use is to use a cooling cabinet.  Those are cool, say 50-60 F, but not really cold.  They give the Type V time to spread throughout.

In your case here I would have just taken the chocolate straight down to the basement where it was 70.  Or alternatively, just left it in the 45 F refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.  Not enough to flash freeze it as it were, but to take the edge off, get it cooling and crystalizing but not too fast.

And if you don’t have that 70 F basement, and the refrigerator is all you have, you may just need to wait out the heat.   Chocolate can be a demanding and finicky lover.

So, in these warm days of summer, do keep that in mind.  It’s still all about balance.  You have to hit that Goldilocks zone.  Get the chocolate chilling, but not too fast and not too long as you can have too much of a good thing.

Good luck and try to keep cool.

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