I remember when I first saw chocolate being tempered (on a Paul Hollywood cooking programme a few years ago – I think it was called Pies & Puds), there was a guest tempering chocolate on a huge slab of marble spreading the chocolate around and scraping it back up again, all the while explaining that if you did it right you’d end up with beautifully tempered chocolate that you could use for your homemade chocolate making. I remember at that time feeling pretty confident that I would never try it, for starters the chances of my chocolate pouring off the edges of the marble slab and all over my kitchen seemed pretty high. I also had no idea how you were supposed to know whether you were doing all the spreading and scraping right to actually end up with chocolate worth using.
Fortunately I discovered a far easier technique, one where you can have a lot more certainty in what you’re doing and there’s no chance you’ll end up with your kitchen dripping in escaped chocolate.
I’ve written about this technique a few times before in various homemade chocolate recipes but I’m conscious that written down it can sound trickier than it really is so to show just how simple it is, I made a short video…
Why should you temper chocolate?
There are three main reasons why you’d want to temper your chocolate…
It gives your chocolate a lovely shine
When you take your chocolate out of the packet you’ll notice that it’s lovely and shiny. If you then melt it and let it set, it will end up looking dull. Also, if you try and refrigerate your chocolate you’ll find they get a white sheen across them. If the chocolate is tempered this won’t happen.
The chocolate maintains it’s snap when you break it or bite into it
It will come out of a chocolate mould more easily
When I’m chocolate making I generally like to use moulds as I love how neat and tidy the finished chocolates look. Untempered chocolate never quite sets correctly meaning that it’s a bit sticky if you try pouring it into a chocolate mould. This will mean it’ll stick to the sides of the mould and refuse to drop out when you want it to. Believe me there’s nothing worse than taking time to make some beautiful chocolates only to find they’ve welded themselves to the inside of the chocolate mould.
Looking for inspiration for filling your homemade chocolates then take a quick look at my chocolate index
How To Temper Chocolate
What you’ll need
- Good quality chocolate – you can use dark, white or milk. In my opinion dark is the easiest to use.
- Thermometer – I use this chocolate thermometer from Lakeland, but any other cooking thermometer should be fine
- Large bowl
- Break your chocolate into pieces.
- Take about a third of the chocolate and set it to one side to use later.
- Put the remaining chocolate into a saucepan and melt it over a very very low heat stirring constantly (you can also use a bain marie or short bursts in the microwave if you prefer). You want to heat the chocolate until it reaches 48ºC for dark chocolate or 45ºC for milk and white chocolate.
- Once you’ve reached your desired temperature, remove it from the heat and scrape it into a large bowl. The idea now is to bring the temperature of the melted chocolate back down to 32ºC by stirring in the unmelted chocolate you set aside in step 2.
- Add a couple of pieces of unmelted chocolate and mix them in, as they start to melt into the chocolate add more pieces. Keep adding more chocolate until you’ve reached 32ºC.
- Remove any unmelted lumps of chocolate and set them to one side to use again another day.
- Now your chocolate is perfectly tempered and ready to use.
Caramel filled chocolates in a tempered milk chocolate shell
How to temper chocolate without a thermometer
The first time I ever tempered chocolate I was taught to do it without a thermometer so it is definitely possible. Personally I prefer the certainty that using a thermometer gives so always use one. It’s very easy to overheat the chocolate when you’re melting it and not bring the temperature down enough when you’re cooling it (this is definitely a problem for me as I’m really quite impatient!).
If you don’t have a thermometer and think it’s a waste of time popping out to get one then in step 3 when you’re melting the chocolate you want to heat the chocolate until it has just melted, then get it off the heat. For step 5 where you’re cooling the chocolate, you want to keep adding unmelted chocolate until it simply refuses to melt into the melted chocolate any more and you’re just left with lumps swimming around in your chocolate.
Baileys truffles dipped in tempered milk chocolate
Temper more chocolate than you really expect to use
When I’m making chocolates I probably temper about twice as much chocolate as I really expect to use. The reason is that both filling moulds and dipping truffles is far far easier if you’ve got more than enough (just imagine trying to get a lovely glossy coating on the outside of a truffle when you’re scraping it around at the bottom of the bowl trying to pick up the last of your chocolate).
When I temper chocolate I keep a dish at the side lined with greaseproof paper or cling film and then I simply scrape any excess chocolate into there. Let it set and you can then use it again another day, either for step 3 in the tempering process or to make something like chocolate sauce or ganache (or just to eat as a little snack 🙂 ).
Don’t panic if you overheat the chocolate
I’ve gone a few degrees over in the past and my chocolates have turned out just fine. If your chocolate has started to go grainy, then you’ll have to start again but there’s a bit of a window above 45ºC/48ºC when you’ll get away with it just fine!
Don’t get any water in your chocolate
Water is like death to chocolate, the tiniest drop will make it seize and go grainy and once that’s happened there’s no rescuing it. Before you start make sure all of your equipment is completely clean and dry and if you’re using a bain marie make sure you avoid splashing any drops into your chocolate.
Cappuccino truffles in tempered white chocolate
Once chocolate has been tempered it sets much more quickly than chocolate that has simply been melted. If you do your tempering and then go and get everything you need for your chocolate making you’ll find that it’s hardened before you actually get to use it and you’ll have to start all over again. Make sure you’ve got you moulds, filling, etc… all ready to go before you start tempering.
Don’t panic if it starts to harden before you’re done
I’ve never had a problem when I’m filling chocolate moulds, but as dipping truffles is more time consuming I have found that sometimes the chocolate can start to harden before I’ve finished all my dipping. If that happens then quickly pop it back into your pan/bain marie/microwave and heat it back up to 32ºC. You don’t want to do that too many times but you should be fine to do it once (or maybe twice).
So there you are, all my tips for tempering chocolate. If you’ve got any questions about the process then please let me know.