Level: Novice

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I am really sorry but I keep reading all the different ways I can temper and I am so confused.  I don’t know which way to pick.  It does not make sense that they can all work.  How should I temper my chocolate and do I have to do it right out of the melanger?  Will it be ruined if I don’t?

You are not alone in being confused about tempering.  And I’ve spoken about it in detail and at length.  But my self-imposed goal is to pass along information and teach and if you don’t get it, regardless of how much I’ve written, then I’ve not done my job fully.  To that end I’m going to review as many ways as I can think of to temper with the underlying goal being that you will recognize there is really only way to temper, and that you won’t be just going through the motions and hoping this magical process works but doing each step with an understanding of why you are doing it.

In short we are going to take a road trip and I am going to lay out the map, describing the different roads you can take, why you might choose one over the other, but at no time loosing that the destination is exactly the same, and as long as you know where you are, you can get to where you need to be even if you have to back track here and there.

I tell this story often enough, and it is especially apropos here.  I have a routine when I teach children how to make chocolate that I explain that I am not there to teach them to make chocolate.  I am there to lie to them.  It gets a great, but nervous laugh.  I go onto explain that all I mean by that is that I can’t tell them the whole truth because it would freak them out, and if it’s not the whole truth, it must be a lie. The same goes here;  lies, half truths and fuzzy analogies.  The point of course is not to deceive you but to get you to grasp the nugget of the concept so it is your guiding light in the darkness of tempering.

Let’s get onto it.

Chocolate or more specifically cocoa butter forms crystals.  Just like salt or sugar crystals.  They can form in a number of ways, but basically there good crystals and bad crystals.  Which is which?  Well, just like in a garden, you can have weeds and vegetables.  It is only our desire to have one over the other than makes one good (vegetables) and one bad (weeds).  Clearly we want good crystals.

Tempering is making good crystals, and destroying bad crystals.  That is it.   Each step in tempering, regardless of the method, is doing one of those things.  And you tracking where you are and what you have in your chocolate at a given time will allow you to get to the destination of only good crystals in your chocolate.  Let’s go through each method and I’ll talk you through it.

Slab and bowl tempering.

1)            Heat your chocolate to over 105 F (lots of places say 110 or 120 – I have no idea but it is overkill).  This destroys all crystals.  Good and bad alike.

2)            Pour 1/3 of your chocolate on a slab or a second bowl.  Stir and scrape until it thickens.  You have just created both good and bad crystals.  Now you have to get rid of the bad.

3)            Slowly add the warm chocolate until the temperature is 88 F.  This will destroy the bad crystals leaving only good crystals.

4)            Pour up the chocolate into molds.  The good crystals will act as a pattern for the rest of the cocoa butter to form all good crystals and you will have tempered chocolate.

Question:  What happens if you go above 88 F?  Right. You destroy the good crystals and you are back at step 1 because you have no crystals at all.

Chocolate seed tempering

1)            Heat your chocolate to over 105 F.  This destroys all crystals.  Good and bad alike.

2)            Cool your chocolate to 88 F.  There are still no good or bad crystals.

3)            Add finely grated chocolate seed.  This is just a piece of previously tempered chocolate.   You have just added good crystals to the crystal-less chocolate and since the temperature is 88 F, it won’t be destroyed.

4)            Pour up the chocolate into molds.  The good crystals will act as a pattern for the rest of the cocoa butter to form all good crystals and you will have tempered chocolate.

Do you see the pattern?  We are going to seemingly change it up now, just a little.  But I will of course explain why it is still the same and we are not breaking any rules.

Cocoa Silk tempering.

1)            Heat your chocolate to over 105 F.  This destroys all crystals.  Good and bad alike.

2)            Cool your chocolate to 95 F.  There are still no good or bad crystals. 

This is much hotter than before because the good crystal we are about to add is pure and because it is pure, it is much stronger and won’t be destroyed at higher temperatures.  It is sort of the difference between putting out vegetable seedlings that are delicate and vegetable starts that are strong and hardened off.

3)            Add finely grated cocoa butter silk.  Silk is just pure good crystal.   You have just added good crystals to the crystal-less chocolate and since this pure crystal is more hardy, the temperature is 95 F.

4)            Pour up the chocolate into molds.  The good crystals will act as a pattern for the rest of the cocoa butter to form all good crystals and you will have tempered chocolate.

It is the same pattern.

1.       Destroy all crystals.

2.       Make crystals and then destroy the bad ones or just add good crystals.

3.       Pour your chocolate into molds.

Which method should you pick?

Well, what equipment do you have and what technique do you like?

I prefer bowl tempering over slab tempering because it is neater.

I prefer Silk tempering over Seed tempering because I like how strong the crystals are.  And since the temperature is hotter, the chocolate is thinner and pours easier.

If you want to keep your chocolate exactly as you made it (no additions) you have to slab or bowl temper and make your own seed.

If you saved a little tempered chocolate from a previous batch, seed tempering sounds like the way to go.

If you don’t mind a little cocoa butter in your chocolate, I give Silk my wholehearted recommendation.

Hopefully that makes it just a little less mysterious and lets you pick the method that suits your needs.

As for your last question about it being ruined if you don’t use it right out of the melanger, the answer is a resounding no.  Think about what you just read and work out what you have.

Chocolate that has come out of the melanger and solidifies is nothing different from step 2 in slab and bowl tempering, just taken further.  It has good and bad crystals.  What do you do?  You get rid of the bad by heating to over 105 F.  There is no magic here, just reproducible science.

Comment