Tempering Chocolate

Perfect chocolate candies and glazes are accomplished by tempering—heating and cooling the chocolate to precise temperatures. A pure chocolate (which may include cocoa butter, cocoa mass, milk, sugar, lecithin, vanilla or vanillin) should never be subjected to temperatures above 120°.

Over a simmering bain-marie (do not allow the water to boil), place a stainless-steel bowl containing a small amount of chocolate. Begin to stir immediately. Continue to add the rest of the chocolate to be tempered. When all of the chocolate is smoothly melted, remove the bowl from the bain-marie. Wipe any water off the bottom of the bowl before you approach your clean work surface—marble, a sheet tray free of any grease or water, or an enameled countertop. Pour half to three quarters of the chocolate onto the surface. Spread out with a spatula, occasionally bringing some chocolate up on the spatula to touch your lower lip, to test the temperature. When the chocolate first feels cool against your lip, it’s ready to be tempered. When first out of the bowl, it should be between 110° and 120°.

Cooling—or tempering—the chocolate does not take long. When the chocolate on the counter has cooled (to about 85°), scoop it up off the counter and combine with the remainder in the bowl. Stir well and scrape down the chocolate on the sides of the bowl, mixing all the chocolate well together. Using a candy thermometer, test the chocolate frequently for cooling. It is perfectly tempered at 86°, but 85—88° is acceptable. Tempered chocolate should be shiny, with a velvety texture. It will have changed from “chocolate brown” to a nearly jet black, and it will seem to have changed in both volume and weight, feeling tighter and heavier. When it passes all of these tests, it is perfectly tempered and ready to glaze cakes and candies. After 10 to 15 minutes the chocolate will become thick. Simply reheat, add freshly shaved chocolate, and repeat the process.

    In this section