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Tempering Chocolate

Martha Stewart Living, February 1996

Simply stated, tempering involves slowly raising and lowering the temperature of melted chocolate while constantly stirring. This process causes the structure of the large cocoa-butter crystals in the chocolate to repeatedly break and then reform. When the chocolate is finally allowed to set again, the crystals of cocoa butter join in perfect chains, creating an extremely smooth, shiny chocolate that has a clean snap when broken. Because this chocolate can be spread very thinly, it is useful for molding chocolate and coating candies.

Tempering Tips

1. Do not use a wooden spoon to stir chocolate; it retains odor and moisture which will ruin the chocolate.

2. Do not let any drops of water get in the bowl with the chocolate.

3. Make sure you use a chocolate thermometer specifically designed to register the small degree changes that are necessary to ensuring properly tempered chocolate.

4. The thermometer should not touch the bottom of the bowl; it will cause an inaccurate reading.

5. A heating pad placed under the bowl of tempered chocolate will help keep it from cooling too quickly.

How to Temper Chocolate

Use the best-quality chocolate available to you. Temperatures vary with different chocolates. Call the manufacturer or check the package for proper tempering temperatures for the chocolate you choose.

1. Use 1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate. Chop 1 1/4 pounds chocolate into bean-size pieces with a serrated knife; place in a dry metal bowl.

2. Bring a saucepan with 1 to 2 inches of water to a simmer; turn off. Set bowl of chocolate over saucepan; melt. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until it reaches 118 degrees on a chocolate thermometer. Remove bowl from saucepan; add remaining chocolate to melted chocolate. Stir with a rubber spatula until melted chocolate cools to 84 degrees; remove unmelted pieces. Place bowl over pan; stir until thermometer reaches 88 degrees to 90 degrees. Use immediately.


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