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Tempered chocolate has a shiny reflective surface, audibly snaps when broken and has an even internal texture and color. Tempered chocolate shrinks just enough to allow it to be removed from molds perfectly. And it keeps at room temperature.
Every time you melt chocolate you get a fresh opportunity to temper it. The reason melted chocolate solidifies as it cools is because the fat molecules link together and form crystals that connect to form a sturdy network. Cocoa butter is a complex fat that is capable of forming several different crystal bonds. However, only the "beta" crystal is stable and allows the chocolate to contract and harden with the desired shiny reflective surface and brittle snap. In order to properly temper, you must form beta crystals. But beta crystals are contagious, so when you temper you actually only create a small percentage of beta crystals. The remaining crystals "follow along" and take the same beta form as the chocolate cools.
The tempering process involves a careful sequence of heating, cooling and stirring. Ideally, beta crystals form and remain between 82o and 91o. They are destroyed at any temperature greater than 91o. Chocolate must be heated above 91o in order to break all the existing crystals within the chocolate so that new crystals can eventually form.
Temperature alone does not make tempered chocolate.
Methods of Tempering
Chop chocolate blocks into small pieces or use chocolate buttons. If using block, grate chocolate equal to 25% of the weight of the chocolate to be tempered.
Fill bottom of double boiler so the hot water does not touch the bottom of the upper pan. Do not let the water boil. Stir the chocolate while melting to ensure even heating. Try to avoid creating air bubbles. Heat chocolate to 100o.
Replace the hot water with 70o water, no cooler. Stir in remaining chocolate a tablespoon at a time or a few buttons at a time until the chocolate cools to 79 F. to 80 F. Be sure the grated chocolate is melted and well mixed.
Now replace the 70 F. water with warm water (about 92 F. to 93 F.) and raise the temperature of the chocolate to 88 F. to 89 F. for dark chocolate, or 84 F. to 86 F. for milk chocolate or white cocoa butter coating (white chocolate). Maintain the appropriate temperature while dipping. If the chocolate exceeds 90 F. it will be necessary to repeat the tempering process. Test the temper (see double boiler method).
Chop chocolate blocks into small pieces ar use chocolate wafers. Fill bottom of double boiler so the hot water does not touch the bottom of the upper pan. Do not let the water boil. Stir the chocolate while melting to ensure even heating. Try to avoid creating air bubbles. Heat chocolate to 100o.
Pour a portion of the melted chocolate to be tempered on a clean dry room temperature marble slab. Maintain the remaining chocolate at about 92 F. to 94 F., stirring occasionally. With a candy scraper, work chocolate back and forth on marble slab until chocolate is 79 F. to 80 F. Return cooled portion to a bowl. Add warm chocolate a little at a time until chocolate reaches appropriate temperature range for dipping, 88 F. to 89 F. for dark chocolate or 84 F. to 86 F. for milk chocolate or white cocoa butter coating. Keep reserve 92 F. to 94 F. chocolate and add as necessary to keep chocolate at dipping temperature. Test the temper of the chocolate.
Chocolate may be melted in the microwave. The cooking time will vary with the kind of microwave and the amount of chocolate.
1. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe plastic container. Chocolate should be broken up; it will melt faster and more evenly in small pieces.
2. Set the microwave oven to defrost and turn on.
3. When the chocolate looks wet, stop the microwave frequently and stir. Chocolate does not lose its shape as it melts and must be stirred. Because of the way the microwave cooks and because of hot spots which occur in microwave ovens and glass containers, it is necessary to stir frequently to prevent scorching.
4. When the chocolate is almost at 122 F. (about 118 F.) remove it from the microwave oven. The temperature will continue to rise after the chocolate is out of the oven. Finish tempering the chocolate using one of the above methods.