Interested in taking that next big step in your baking, or sweet and treat-making? Then you might want to start thinking about how to temper chocolate! This clever technique is what gives things like truffles, dipped sweets, and other confectionaries a glossy, crisp shell that snaps just wonderfully when you bite into it.
“But isn’t that something chefs and professionals do?” we hear you ask worriedly. Well, yes, it is something they do, but it’s also entirely possible for you to do it yourself at home! It’s straightforward when you read through our guide, so take a look and you could soon be tempering chocolate with the best of them!
First Things First, What is Tempered Chocolate?
Technically, tempered chocolate is a kind of melted chocolate. The difference comes with what you do with it after the chocolate has been melted, and this is where it all starts to get a bit science-y.
What we mean by that is that melting chocolate changes it at a molecular level. When chocolate is melted, the molecules in the chocolate separate (you’ll notice this when it becomes runny). When chocolate is tempered, the molecules are bonded back together, causing the chocolate to harden. This leaves the end product with a glossy, crisp finish. Experts have said that tempered chocolate looks like a curdled sauce under a microscope – it’s the same basic principle!
How Does Tempering Chocolate Work?
The process of making tempered chocolate involves controlling the melting, cooling, and reheating of the chocolate in specified temperature ranges (this is to do with the kind of chocolate you’re using – we’ll talk more about that below). The goal of tempering the chocolate is to make it develop and hold onto Form V crystals, also called “beta crystals”. This is one of the six types of cocoa butter crystal forms, or “polymorphs”. These are the structures cocoa butter’s molecules come arranged as.
Form V crystals are the only one out of the six types of crystals that produce the firm, shiny chocolate you want from tempering. They’re the most desirable form for this reason. As a type of fat crystal, Form V crystals they’re also stable and contribute to the textual properties (the feel of the chocolate in your mouth) that you want from your tempering.
Controlling the development of Form V crystals is also a must if you want to avoid the white, chalky, downright unpleasant appearance that chocolate can take on when recrystallisation happens!
Why Should I Temper Chocolate Instead of Just Melting?
That’s a good question!
Proper tempering is needed if you want or absolutely need a crisp, shiny coating for sweets and desserts like truffles, when you’re dipping confectionary, or when making decorations for a cake. Not only does the process make the chocolate look pretty and oh-so professionally made, but it also keeps it from melting on your hands. If you use melted chocolate instead to dip confectionary, for instance, you’re going to find that unless you intend to eat it immediately (which we wouldn’t blame you for!) it will be dull in colour, soft, and will melt easily.
Tempered chocolate products, on the other hand, stay hard when they’re kept at a cool room temperature. As long as you avoid storing at warm temperatures and high humidity, you’ll be set up for treats that will set nicely, so you’ll get decorations and dipped bits that look their best and snap in a satisfying way when they’re bitten into!
You won’t need to melt chocolate if you’re using it for softer things, though, like batter (for cakes or brownies), mousse, or a ganache.
How to Make Tempered Chocolate
If you’re going to learn how to make tempered chocolate, you’ll naturally first need to know how to melt chocolate. So, before you begin reading through the tips and advice we’ve set out below, take a look at our handy guide and find your ideal method of melting the chocolate you need to make your tempered chocolate.
Alongside all the good-quality chocolate you want to use for your recipe, you’ll also need:
- A serrated knife
- A flexible spatula
- A kitchen thermometer
- A food processor with a blade attachment
- A chopping board (if using chocolate bars)
How to Temper Chocolate Using the Double Boiler Method
Most experts will recommend using the double boiler method (melting the chocolate in a bowl over hot water) to melt chocolate for anything because it’s the most controlled way of doing it. As well as everything we’ve listed above, you’ll also need a glass bowl and a saucepan.
- Chop up three quarters of your chocolate on the chopping board using the serrated knife (if you’re using chocolate chips, fèves, buttons or pistoles, just pour out as many as you need)
- Finely chop up the remaining quarter or process it using the blade knife attachment of the food processor
- Place the three quarters of roughly chopped chocolate into the glass bowl, half-fill the saucepan with hot water, and put the bowl over it – make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the bottom of the saucepan!
- Slowly heat the water, but make sure it doesn’t boil – even a drop of water, or even steam, can cause chocolate to seize, and if that happens you won’t be able to use it! Stir the chocolate regularly using your spatula, too, to make sure it melts evenly
- Check the temperature of the chocolate using your kitchen thermometer; if it’s reached somewhere between 45°C and 50°C you can remove it from its bain-marie (just a fancy name for the heated bath-style method you’ve just used)
- Set aside a third of the melted chocolate in a separate bowl somewhere warm and add the final quarter of chopped chocolate that you haven’t used to the remaining two thirds of the melted chocolate (this is called the “seeding” method). Stir it constantly until it reaches a temperature of around 27°C to 28°C
- Add the remaining chocolate that you melted and set aside. This brings the temperature back up, slightly – milk chocolate should reach a temperature of 29°C to 30°C, so keep going until it’s reached!
- When the chocolate reaches the temperature you’re looking for, you can choose what to do with it – this might mean filling up your moulds, pouring the chocolate out onto a clean, hard, smooth surface, or even just leaving it in the bowl if you’re going to be doing some dipping!
Top Tips on Tempering to Always Bear in Mind
Whenever you’re tempering chocolate, there are a few tips and little bits of advice that you should always keep in mind and try to follow:
- Never, ever let the chocolate touch water because this will make it seize; if the recipe you’re following calls for a liquid ingredient like water, butter, coffee, or a liqueur, these should all be melted and mixed in at the same time as your chocolate
- It is possible to save chocolate when it’s seized by adding a little melted butter, oil, or water back in and stirring thoroughly, but you won’t be able to use it for tempering – at best, it can be used for chocolate sauce or a hot chocolate ecipe (which isn’t a bad thing, mind you!)
- If your chocolate is still too streaky or runny when it should be ready, stir in some more chocolate to bring the temperature down more
- It can take some time to get the temperature of your chocolate to fall when you’re stirring it and seeding in more – usually around 15 minutes. Glass bowls take longer to cool down, too. If you want to speed this part up you can always carefully set the bowl down in an ice bath (again, make sure the water doesn’t touch your chocolate!)
- Did you know that you can temper tempered chocolate over and over? All you have to do is keep it at its working temperature – the temperature that the chocolate should have reached before you removed the bowl from the saucepan. You can do this by reheating it, using anything from the double boiler method again to holding a hair dryer over it!
- If you experience chocolate bloom (when the cocoa fat separates from the rest of the chocolate and makes it a dull grey with a rough, dusty texture), you can still use the chocolate but will need to temper it again by seeding it with more tempered chocolate
How to Temper Chocolate in a Microwave
Of course, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time over the hob, you can also temper chocolate using a microwave. This leads to a variation in a couple of the steps involved:
- Put the three quarters of chopped chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl, and melt it on defrost or the lowest possible setting on your microwave. Do this in 30-second intervals and stir the chocolate regularly with your spatula
- Add the remaining chocolate in small amounts while stirring – make sure that what you’ve added in has melted before you add any more!
- The mixture should thicken up and start to look shiny and smooth as you stir and seed in the rest of the chocolate in small amounts. When it reaches the temperature you’ve been looking for it will be tempered and ready to work with
How to Temper Chocolate Without a Thermometer
Most experts would say that you shouldn’t try to temper chocolate without a thermometer, as you need to be precise if you want it to develop the Form V crystals you need. They also recommend using the best thermometer possible, because many cheaper and older ones won’t be accurate and could give you a wrong reading.
However, if you’re going to try to temper chocolate without a thermometer anyway, there are a few ways you can do it and a few tips to bear in mind:
- You might first think of melting the chocolate in a microwave, as you can begin heating the chocolate in short bursts. This is possible, but so is using the double boiler method
- When you’ve reached Step 5 in the recipe above, instead of using a thermometer you can take a tiny bit of the chocolate off your spatula by dabbing it on the spot below your lower lip (it should sting a little bit but not much – and we only really recommend doing this if you’re only tempering chocolate for yourself, no one else)
- Once you’ve melted all the chocolate (at Step 6), touch the spatula to your lower lip area again. This time, it should feel cooler than your body temperature
- If the chocolate feels warmer than your skin, add in a few more pieces of chocolate and keep stirring. If you don’t feel anything this means the chocolate is the same temperature as your body and you need to keep gently stirring until it cools down. You’ll know the chocolate is ready when it’s cooler than your skin
How to Temper Chocolate for Moulds
There isn’t a special trick to tempering chocolate for moulds; just follow the instructions we’ve set out above. All you’ll need to remember is to use as much chocolate as you’ll need to fill up all of your moulds if you want to be as quick as possible about making your pieces!
How to Temper White Chocolate
You can temper white chocolate just like you’d temper milk chocolate, but the temperatures will be slightly different. It will need to be at the same temperature when you remove the bowl from the simmering water (Step 5) but should reach a temperature of 26°C to 27°C when you seed in the remaining quarter of chocolate (Step 6). It should then reach a temperature of 28°C to 29°C when you add in the melted chocolate you set aside (Step 7).
How to Temper Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate can be tempered like milk chocolate and white chocolate, but you’re going to need to be careful. This is because it needs to be at a higher temperature when you remove the bowl from the water. Dark chocolate will need to be between 55°C and 58°C at this step and should reach a temperature of 28°C to 29°C at Step 6. At Step 7, it should reach a temperature of 31°C to 32°C.
How to Temper Vegan Chocolate
The beauty of vegan chocolate is that it’s just like any other kind of chocolate when you’re using it for desserts and baked goods. This means that you can temper it in the same way, without anything needing to be different!
Follow our advice to enjoy all your dairy-free desserts with the tempered chocolate you’ve been dreaming about on top!
How to Cool Tempered Chocolate
There are several ways to cool tempered chocolate. Most people will prefer the fridge or the freezer, but if the room you are in is cool enough the chocolate might set by being left out! Dry, cooler and cold days are the best for making tempered chocolate for this reason when you’re making it at home.
How Long Does it Take for Tempered Chocolate to Set?
If the chocolate is in temper and everything has gone according to plan, it should take between 3 and 5 minutes for it to set. Larger pieces may take longer than this, of course, but it is possible to speed the process up by putting them in the fridge or the freezer for a while.
If you’ve made tempered chocolate for moulds, you may find that the setting process makes tempered chocolate shrink a little bit. This is great news when you want to get the pieces out because it means they should stay looking as pretty and perfect as you want them to be!
How to Tell if Chocolate is Tempered
There’s a test that you can do to tell if your chocolate is tempered. Take a knife, spoon, a corner of parchment paper or even your spatula and dip it into the melted chocolate. Set this down at cool room temperature (somewhere between 18°C and 21°C). If the chocolate is in temper it should harden within 3 to 5 minutes, getting the firm feel and shiny look that you want for your sweets and baked goods.
This shiny look should always be the case; if the chocolate is too cold or out of temper, it will look dull and lumpy, or it will set in streaks.
If you touch the chocolate at this time, your finger should also come away clean if the chocolate is tempering properly.
Looking to Make More Chocolate Treats at Home?
We can understand if this tutorial has set off a spark of inspiration! If you’re interested in making some more sweet treats and pieces for moulds, desserts, and decorations that you’ve got planned, then why not have a look at some of our other tutorials? Now that you know how to melt and temper chocolate, the world is your oyster! So why not get involved in a modern-day trend and learn how to make hot chocolate bombs, or even how to make your very own chocolate tree like you’d find here on our website (minus the crispy middle – that’s a secret!)?
If you’re finished making things at home for now, though, you can always save these lessons for later and explore our website for mouthwatering ready-made pieces instead. We’ve got a fabulous selection of gorgeous sweet gifts, chunky chocolate bars and trees, and other exquisite indulgences just waiting for you to pick from!
Order Some Delicious Bits and Pieces to Your Door
If you’ve been thinking about getting in a big box full of delicious delights and tempting treats, that will come straight to your door without any fuss or hassle, then you can order them here! Whether you’re on your computer or phone, it’s as quick and easy as choosing the chocolate you want most, adding them to your basket, arranging a date for delivery and finishing up by paying. Simple! Your work will end and ours will begin, so you can sit back, relax, and wait for your post while we get busy in our kitchen.
Have a look at the confectioner’s collection of categories we’ve got and order the ones you want to enjoy in your very own home as soon as possible. You won’t have to worry about any cleaning up or going out to buy extra – we’ve got you covered!