Category: Blog

Best Instructions for Tempering Chocolate

Tempering chocolate ensures that the finished product will be glossy, shiny, and enjoyable to eat.

Tempering involves bringing your chocolate to a temperature at which the cocoa butter reaches its most stable form. Chocolate that has been tempered and cooled incorrectly will be disappointing, so it pays to learn the correct method for tempering chocolate.

Tip #1: Cheap chocolate and chocolate chips will not melt evenly, since they are likely to be made with vegetable fat rather than cocoa butter. The finished product will be unsatisfactory. Honestly, if you’re going to all the trouble of melting and tempering chocolate, do yourself a favor and use a good ingredient.

You can get excellent tempering chocolate at Chocolate.com.

Tip #2: Chocolate will crystallize if any moisture gets in it. When tempering chocolate, you must be vigilant about keeping your chocolate dry at all stages. Ensure that all utensils used for tempering chocolate are perfectly dry. Avoid placing a cover over cooling chocolate, as this can cause condensation to get in the mixture.

Tip #3:If crystallization does occur while you are tempering chocolate, you can try correcting it by adding 1 tsp of vegetable oil per 8 ounces of chocolate and mixing energetically over low heat. No guarantees this will help, but sometimes you get lucky.

Tip #4: If you do a lot of candy making, it might be worth it to consider purchasing a chocolate temperer. These appliances take the guesswork out of tempering. Home machines run between $300 and $400. Check out the Rev1 Chocolate Temperer.


Equipment Needed for Tempering Chocolate

  1. Bowls, microwave-safe if you will be using the microwave for melting.
  2. Double boiler if you are using this method for melting. For best results, use a stainless steel double boiler, two-quart size if you are planning on tempering chocolate in large amounts. This Farberware Classic 2-Qt. Covered Double Boiler is good for tempering chocolate for two reasons. First, its tri-ply bottom ensures even heating. Second, the vented lid allows steam to escape, preventing moisture from condensation to ruin your chocolate.
  3. A hard, cool, dry surface on which to pour the chocolate. Professional chefs recommend marble for its coolness when tempering chocolate. The RSVP International 18×18-in. Marble Pastry Board. is a good choice.
  4. Spatulas for spreading. The Ateco Stainless Steel Offset Spatula 14.75-in. is the kind that chefs use. It’s big enough for icing a cake, so can do double duty.
  5. Chocolate scraper. The Paderno World Cuisine 3-1/2-Inch by 7 1/8-Inch Diameter Stainless Steel Chocolate Peel< is an example.
  6. Heating pad, hot water bottle, or another warm surface
  7. Digital thermometer. The Silikomart Silicone/Nylon Chocolate Spatula with Digital Thermometer is ideal for melting and tempering chocolate and it comes with its own spatula! Do not use a candy thermometer; it will not record the low temperatures needed for tempering chocolate.
  8. Optional but handy to have: A chocolate chipper, like the Lee Pro Products Chocolate Chipper. This sturdy tool converts hard, thick baking-chocolate bars into chunks for cookies, candy, etc.
  9. Optional, but handy: Chocolatiere Electric Chocolate Melting Pot

First, the Melting

The first step of tempering chocolate is to melt it carefully. This yummy substance scorches easily, and once scorched, the damage is permanent.

Tip: Take the temperature of the chocolate at intervals during the melting. Place your digital thermometer so at least two inches of the tool is covered with melted chocolate. Avoid having the thermometer touch the sides or bottom of pan. The temperature should be between 110 and 120 degrees F.

  1. To use a microwave, chop chocolate, place in a bowl, and melt at medium power for 90 seconds or longer. Stir every 30 seconds for white or milk chocolate; less often for dark chocolate. Remove from oven when chocolate becomes shiny and continue mixing until the substance has melted.
  2. To use a double boiler, chop chocolate, place in the top part of a double boiler. Make sure water simmers but does not boil. Ensure the top pan does not come in direct contact with the water. Stir almost constantly. When the mixture is almost melted, remove from heat and continue stirring.

Tempering Chocolate

When the chocolate is melted, pour it into a second, dry bowl to help bring the temperature down. You want to maintain this melted chocolate at a temperature of about 100 degrees F. Use your thermometer to ensure accuracy.

Tip: Keep the chocolate at the desired temperature while you are working with it by using a well-wrapped hot water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a double boiler placed over warm water. Watch the temperature carefully and do not allow to overheat while you are tempering chocolate.

  1. Pour about a third of the melted chocolate on a dry, marble work surface. Using a metal spatula, spread the chocolate across the marble surface, then bring the chocolate together again using a pastry scraper.
  2. Repeat this process until chocolate milk chocolate has cooled to about 80 °F and about 84°F for dark chocolate. At this point, your chocolate should be a thick paste that is called “mush.”
  3. Add this mush to the bowl of chocolate that is being kept at 100 degrees F. Stir gently, taking care not to create bubbles.
  4. Check temperature. You want a temperature of about 90 °F for dark chocolate and a few degrees less for white and milk chocolate. (NEVER exceed 92°F) Heat gently, not overheating, if mixture is too cold. Always stir for at least a minute before you check the temperature.

The chocolate is now tempered and ready for you to work with it. As you work, ensure the chocolate stays at the desired temperature. Reheat gently as needed.

Chocolate Making 101

Chocolate is divided into two categories: real and compound.

Both real chocolate and compound chocolate are chocolate – the difference is the type of lipid (fat) or oil used in the production of the product.

Real Chocolate

Real chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is extracted from the cocoa or cacao bean. Cocoa butter is an expensive ingredient that has some unusual characteristics or quirks. Because of the nature of cocoa butter, real chocolate requires going through a special procedure during the melting process called tempering, which re-establishes the cocoa butter crystals, giving the cooled and finished chocolate the proper sheen, snap, and taste. Additionally, and of vital importance, tempering prevents bloom, where the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa solids and comes to the surface, turning the chocolate whitish or grayish in color. If you are making candy or dipping items that won’t be consumed within a day or so, tempering is absolutely mandatory for all real chocolate.

Real chocolate is subdivided into three categories based on the quality of the product (quality of the cocoa beans) and most importantly, the cocoa butter content: regular chocolate, couverture chocolate, and ultra couverture chocolate.

Regular Chocolate

Typically in chocolate chip form, regular chocolate is sweetened with sugar, is generally made from moderate quality cocoa beans, and has a very low cocoa butter content and a high viscosity (thickness when in a melted state). Generally used in baking (i.e. chocolate chip cookies), regular chocolate holds its shape and is not the best choice when molding, dipping or enrobing.

Another form of regular chocolate is unsweetened blocks or bars of baking chocolate (also called plain chocolate), which generally has a relatively low cocoa butter content and doesn’t require tempering when used in normal baking applications.

Couverture Chocolate

The term couverture translates to “covering” and refers to the finest professional quality chocolate. It is produced with a high percentage of cocoa butter and uses premium cacao beans. It melts smoothly, making it ideal for specialty candy making and molding. When tempered and cooled, it forms an elegant glossy finish.

Ultra Couverture Chocolate

Ultra Couverture Chocolate is equal in quality to couverture chocolate but with an even higher cocoa butter content. Due to the higher cocoa butter content and very low viscosity, it is the perfect chocolate for dipping and enrobing. Few manufacturers are able to successfully produce this type of chocolate because of the difficulty in balancing the higher cocoa butter content while retaining superb taste and texture. When tempered and cooled, it forms a thin and elegant glossy shell.

Compound Chocolate

Compound Chocolate contains vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter and tempering is not required. Home hobbyists and professionals alike have utilized compound chocolate due to its ease of use and lower price.

Historically, quality and taste have been sacrificed for ease and price. Now, with Bada Bing Bada Boom, Chocoley has a solution for those that do not want to temper, yet want great tasting chocolate. Bada Bing Bada Boom is produced using unique and drastic advances in manufacturing and superior formulation processes.

Preventing problems in dealing with chocolate & troubleshooting

Like Superman, chocolate (the Super Food) has its weaknesses. Superman has to worry about kryptonite and chocolate’s archenemies are water (or moisture of any kind), temperature extremes (especially heat), and absorption of odors. Read this section, and read problems and corrections when working with chocolate.

Seizing

Understanding & preventing seizing will eliminate potential catastrophic results.

When moisture/liquid gets in chocolate, it’s like oil & water – they don’t mix. A drop or two of liquid can cause chocolate to seize (form hard lumps) and become unworkable for dipping.

Always pat wet fruits dry before dipping and always keep tools and utensils dry. I am aware of very experienced chefs ruining a large batch of chocolate by melting in a double boiler and then pouring the melted chocolate directly into the base of a chocolate fountain, without first drying the water from the outside of the double boiler pan. When they pour the chocolate, water drips from the outside of the pan into the chocolate, creating a disaster. Similarly, dipping wet fruit items can result in the chocolate seizing.

Seizing is also caused by overheating the chocolate. Proper melting is done slowly at low temperatures as chocolate is extremely sensitive to rapid temperature changes, such as melting under high or direct heat. Chocolate will melt at around 88°F and will burn at around 125°F (for dark & milk chocolate) and around 120°F for white, so don’t be in a hurry to melt it. It’s very easy to scorch/burn chocolate – especially white.

The Just Melt It! Fountain & Fondue Chocolate has microwave instructions on each microwavable 2.5 lb. tub. The instructions assume that your microwave has a turntable, which is important so that no hot spots are created. Use low-temperature settings and stir frequently with a rubber spatula.

Be very careful when melting chocolate – one small burn can cause the entire batch to seize or simply taste and smell awful.

Blooming

Dampness & condensation results in “sugar bloom” – you’ll see grains of sugar on the surface of the chocolate. Excessive heat or cold results in “fat bloom” – you’ll see a whitish or gray color on the chocolate. Blooming (especially “fat bloom”) is probably the biggest issue most people have with chocolate. If you haven’t melted the chocolate yet and it has bloomed, the final taste will not be affected because when the chocolate is melted, the cocoa butter will be redistributed throughout the chocolate. Fat bloom is simply the cocoa butter separating from the cocoa solids and coming to the surface. Proper storage will prevent blooming.

Storing Chocolate

Before and after it’s been melted…store between 55-70°F, ideally with less than 50% humidity. DO NOT refrigerate before or after melting. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT FREEZE! Remember, dampness & condensation results in “sugar bloom” and excessive heat or cold results in “fat bloom.”

While we maintain a climate-controlled facility (both temperature & humidity), once the chocolate leaves our facility, it is subject to the outside world, which we, of course, have no control over. It’s fine if you receive your Just Melt It! Fountain & Fondue Chocolate melted since it’s intended to be used melted. When weather requires it, our other chocolate products will be shipped in insulated cold packaging to help control temperature.

How To Melt Chocolate

  1. Use only DRY utensils.
  2. Don’t stir chocolate with a wooden or metal spoon. Use only rubber spatulas that have not been exposed to strong flavors such as tomato sauce or garlic.
  3. Stir the chocolate slowly & gently, keeping movement to a minimum.
  4. The correct temperature coaxes the very best out of chocolate. When melting, the ideal temperature is 108-115°F. Make sure to completely wipe the bottom of the pot before pouring the chocolate, whether into a chocolate fountain, fondue pot, or when making candy.

Tempering Chocolate

When making candy or dipping items that are not going to be consumed within hours of initial preparation, you must “temper” the chocolate in order to prevent blooming. Tempering is when the cocoa butter crystals are stabilized, allowing the chocolate to harden properly with the desired gloss finish. Chocolate that has not been properly tempered will seriously bloom within 24-48 hours. Tempering takes time, devotion, and a cool kitchen (around 68°F), but the results are worth the work.

Baking with Honey

Substituting honey for refined sugar makes sense for many reasons, but there are a few things you need to know before you do.

It’s hard to go a few hours these days without hearing about some new study indicating that honey may help fight bacterial infections, prevent allergies, and even help reduce obesity rates. It’s no wonder many bakers are becoming more and more interested in substituting honey for refined sugar when creating their sweet treats. Before jumping on this bandwagon, however, there are a few things you need to know.

Use Less Honey than Sugar

Ounce for ounce, honey is sweeter than sugar, both because it contains more fructose than sugar does and because it contains less air. Substitute 2/3 to 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of sugar called for in any recipe.

Honey Adds Flavor

Granulated sugar sweetens but doesn’t significantly affect the flavor of your baked goods. All types of honey will add flavor to your recipe. With the darker more robust honey the effect can be quite intense (and delicious). Honey can also create a lovely caramel taste in coffee cakes and other sweet baked goods.

Honey Holds Moisture

Honey not only contains more moisture than granulated sugar, it attracts it as well. This means that you will want to reduce the total fluid in your recipe by ¼ cup for each cup of honey. You can also add a dash more flour if you prefer. If you have a favorite cake that tends to be a little dry on occasion, substituting some or all of the honey could be just the adjustment needed to make it perfect.

Honey Alters Texture

Honey adds a distinctive crispness to cookies and crusts. In fact, a character in John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River has incognito existence blown wide open when someone tastes his trademark crispy pizza crust made with his special ingredient, you guessed it, honey. If you prefer your cookies or granola bars on the chewy side you should stick with brown sugar. The addition of honey does make cakes a little heavier than they would be with refined sugar alone. A little extra baking soda to work with the acidic honey will help with this, but you may want to try just substituting half of the sugar at first. Denser confections like coffee cakes are often well improved by the inclusion of honey.

Honey Burns at a Lower Temperature than Sugar

When baking with honey always reduce the oven temperature by 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. You may also need to increase the overall baking time to compensate for the lower temperature. There is so little honey in most bread recipes that you won’t need to adjust the temperature, but for cakes, muffins, cookies, and other sweeter goods, it’s a good idea to reduce the heat and keep a close eye on them. The upside to the low caramelization threshold is the beautiful golden brown surfaces it produces.

As with any type of baking, don’t be afraid to experiment. Just let your taste buds lead the way.

Fascinating History of Gingerbread

Gingerbread in its many forms brings a touch of history to the holidays.

“An I had but one penny in the world, Thou shouldst have it for gingerbread.” William Shakespeare from Love’s Labour’s Lost, Costard in Act V Scene I.

The Origins of Gingerbread

Gingerbread has evolved over the years. The ancient Greeks created the very first gingerbread by taking a piece of bread and wrapping it around a piece of ginger. This was eaten after meals to improve digestion. The baked gingerbread dates to the Middle Ages. According to Laura Jarrett et al, author of Making and Baking Gingerbread Houses, the English began making ginger candy taken for medicinal purposes. Within a hundred years people started adding bread crumbs to the recipe. This was formed into fancy shapes depicting aristocratic life. The bakers studded this with cloves dipped in gold leaf. In some cases, these creations weighed over a hundred pounds.

Sharon Tyler Herbst, the author of The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion, says the ladies presented these special pastries to the knights before tournaments. This was shaped into various decorative figures. Sometimes, it was decorated with gold leaf. The gingerbread was supposed to bring good luck to the knights.

Gingerbread Recipes Evolved

The original recipe from the Middle Ages generally contained dried bread crumbs, ginger, and other spices. Tanya Gulevich, the author of Encyclopedia of Christmas, reports that red wine was sometimes added. This pastry differed greatly from the modern luscious tender version. Herbst describes it as a “rather hard honey-spice bread.”

Jarrett et al say the recipes began to change in the 16th and 17th centuries. First, the English and French started replacing the bread crumbs with flour, which resulted in a lighter pastry. Honey and molasses were also added. In England, treacle served as the sweetener. Honey is still preferred in France, according to Gulevich. Later, butter and eggs were among the ingredients.

In addition to the standard gingerbread pastry, there was also a white version made from marzipan. Flavored with ginger, this was molded into assorted shapes. This became common in the 17th century, according to Gulevich.

Australian Homespun #18 Vol. 4.4 features an authentic gingerbread recipe from the 15th century. The honey or other sweetener is heated. Next, bread crumbs and spices are added. This is rolled out with a rolling pin and cut into shapes. The dough can be boiled or baked. According to Australian Homespun, some of the gingerbread recipes contained no ginger.

Historical Highlights from Gingerbread History

In Europe and England, especially Germany, there were guilds of gingerbread bakers. In England, only the guild members could make gingerbread. The only exceptions were for Easter and Christmas. Later, this pastry became intimately associated with the Christmas season. The German word for gingerbread is lebkuchen.

The Australian Homespun article says gingerbread was sold year-round at markets and fairs, especially in medieval times. This was particularly true in northern European countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, France, and England, according to Gulevich. The fairs were sometimes called gingerbread fairs. The pastry was so popular in England that people began calling it ‘fairings’.

Many factors helped to make gingerbread a favorite. Its popularity was greatly aided by the fact that Queen Elizabeth routinely presented gingerbread to guests. Eventually, the English custom of giving gingerbread as Christmas gifts was adopted.

The gingerbread cookies were molded into different shapes depending on the time of year. Alan Davidson, author of the Oxford Companion to Foods, writes about the regional preferences in England for certain shapes of ginger biscuits and gingerbread. In Victorian England, the biscuits assumed various shapes, including pigs, oxen, and stars, according to Gulevich. In Scandinavia, the pig-shaped ones were common. The gingerbread figures were very popular for Bonfire Night, celebrated on November 5th. In the Netherlands and Belgium, these were enjoyed on St. Nicholas Day.

According to Jarrett et al, gingerbread later became something for the general population. This occurred largely in the 18th century when the pastry assumed additional shapes, such as peasant themes, animals, and toys. As the centuries passed, gingerbread picked up other themes. It began expressing affection and greetings, often in the shape of hearts. Eventually, gingerbread was by and large commercialized, especially in Europe.

Dutch and German immigrants brought gingerbread cookies and gingerbread to America says Gulevich. Jarrett et al indicate gingerbread were common during Colonial times in New England. It was enjoyed as a traditional part of Muster Day celebrations in the region. This event involved competition by militias. However, over the centuries fire-fighting teams replaced the militias. According to Davidson, the American gingerbread is dark, moist, and rather cake-like. It contains molasses and spices.

How to Thicken Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate ganache is delicious drizzled on cakes in its runny, freshly-made state. Thicken the mixture for spreading or piping using one of these methods.

The simplest recipe for ganache is equal parts of chocolate and cream or butter, melted together. When freshly melted the ganache is very runny; some recipes involve pouring it over a cake on a wire rack so that the ganache soaks into the cake and forms a thin glaze on top. For other purposes such as piping or spreading the ganache on a cake-like regular frosting, the ganache must be thicker.

Do not add icing sugar to ganache in order to thicken it: the texture will change, and the ganache will become what is effectively a very rich chocolate icing. Cooling the mixture, whipping the ganache, or changing the recipe’s proportions will all help create a thick, spreadable ganache.

Thicken Chocolate Ganache By Cooling

Left to its own devices chocolate ganache will thicken as it cools. For speedier cooling put the bowl in the fridge and stir frequently. The mixture will harden around the edges of the bowl first. The ganache is easiest to spread before it has completely hardened.

Thicken Chocolate Ganache by Changing the Proportions

Chocolate ganache is typically made with half chocolate and half cream or butter. One simple way to thicken up the mixture is to use a higher proportion of chocolate. A mixture that is three parts chocolate to one part butter or cream will be stiffer and harder. Even a small proportion of cream or butter should prevent the chocolate from hardening to the point of cracking.

Thicken Chocolate Ganache by Whipping

Whipping chocolate ganache with a hand-held beater turns it into a pale, fluffy buttercream-like mixture with a moussey texture. It is important not to overwhip ganache, especially if you used cream in the mixture; it may form a dryish, separated mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl repeatedly while beating to prevent a streaky mixture.

Whipped chocolate ganache can be piped or spread with a palette knife.

Tips for Using Ganache

  • Piping chocolate ganache is easy as it tends to have a smooth, velvety consistency. However, due to the high-fat content ganache may melt if the piping bag is squeezed for too long in a hot hand. Rinse your hands under cool water occasionally as you pipe.
  • Leftover chocolate ganache, kept in the fridge, will harden to a fudgelike consistency. Shape this ganache into balls, adding chopped nuts or liqueur if desired, and coat with dark chocolate to make simple truffles.
  • Keep a cake iced with ganache in a cool place such as the fridge.
  • White chocolate ganache is more sensitive to temperatures and humidity than milk or dark chocolate ganache. Always use cream, not butter, to avoid giving the mixture a yellow tinge; for whipped white chocolate ganache, be especially careful not to over beat.