Wondering how to achieve perfectly set chocolate with a smooth and glossy finish? Follow our expert guide to tempering dark, milk and white chocolate, using basic kitchen equipment.

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What does 'tempering chocolate' mean?

Tempering involves the process of slowly heating and then cooling chocolate so that the fat molecules crystallise evenly, resulting in a smooth, shiny finish when the chocolate sets. When tempered properly, it should produce a 'snap' when broken, while untempered chocolate will be dull and not break cleanly. Tempering also means chocolate can be worked with at a higher melting point, allowing it to be used for making moulded shapes and confectionary such as truffles and Easter eggs.

Tempering by seeding

This tempering method uses the addition of finely chopped pieces, discs or pistoles of chocolate into already-melted chocolate. Adding stable, crystallised chocolate lowers the temperature naturally, enabling regular crystallisation of the chocolate mass. The method is a replacement for using a marble working surface or a cold-water bath.

Watch our video on how to temper chocolate:

What you'll need

400g good quality chocolate, 1 serrated knife, 1 kitchen thermometer, 1 flexible spatula and 1 food processor fitted with a blade attachment.

Tips for tempering chocolate

  • Chop three-quarters of the chocolate (300g) on a chopping board using a serrated knife. Even better, use couverture chocolate (high-quality chocolate which contains more cocoa butter) in the form of fèves, buttons or pistoles.
  • Finely chop the remaining quarter (100g) or process it with the blade knife attachment of a food processor.
  • Place the roughly chopped chocolate in a bowl. Half-fill a saucepan with hot water, and put the bowl over it, making sure that the bowl does not touch the bottom of the saucepan. Slowly heat the water, ensuring it does not boil. Alternatively, use a microwave if you wish, but on defrost or at 500W maximum. Stir regularly using a flexible spatula so that the chocolate melts smoothly.
  • Check the temperature with a thermometer. When it reaches 55C-58C for bittersweet/dark, or 45C-50C for milk or white, remove the chocolate from the bain-marie.
  • Set aside a third of the melted chocolate in a bowl in a warm place. Add the remaining finely chopped quarter (100g) of the chocolate into the remaining two-thirds of the melted chocolate, stirring constantly. Dark chocolate should reach a temperature of 28C-29C; milk chocolate should reach 27C-28C; and white or coloured chocolate should reach 26C-27C.
  • Then add the melted chocolate that you have set aside to increase the temperature. Dark chocolate should reach 31C-32C; milk chocolate should reach 29C-30C; a white or coloured chocolate should reach 28C-29C. Stir until the right temperature is reached.
  • When the chocolate is at the correct temperature, pour it into your mould. Leave it in a cool place to set.

Tempering dark, milk or white chocolate

You can temper dark, milk and white chocolate but the temperatures you need to achieve are different.

How to temper dark chocolate

  • Melting temperature is 50 – 55C and the tempered temperature is 31 – 32C.

How to temper milk chocolate

  • Melting temperature is 45 – 50C and tempered temperature is 30 – 31C.

How to temper white chocolate

  • Melting temperature is 45 – 50C and tempered temperature is 29 – 30C.

Top tip: If the chocolate has reached the right temperature and there are still pieces of unmelted chocolate, remove them before increasing the temperature. If you leave them, the chocolate will thicken very quickly and become sticky because of over-crystallisation.

This extract is taken from the Valrhona Chocolate book - Cooking with Chocolate published by Flammarion.

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Feeling inspired? You might like these guides:

How to melt chocolate
Video: how to melt chocolate
Chocolate truffle recipes
Ultimate chocolate recipe collection

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