CHOCOLATE, although delicious, is not the easiest thing to work with, but knowing a little about it before you begin will save you a lot of heartache and chocolate.
Bought chocolate has been tempered. Resulting in chocolate that has a firm set, a shiny look and a good ‘snap’ when broken. Because of this hardness, it can be wrapped and kept at room temperature without melting or leaving chocolate residue on its packaging. Melting chocolate can cause it to lose its’ temper. This is where most people run into dramas at home. Chocolate that is out of temper might look streaky or gray on the surface, and have a crumbly or densely chewy texture. Leaving you with chocolate which is not hard at room temperature, and is incredibly messy to eat.
A Few General Rules for Working With Chocolate
There are two main rules when working with chocolate: do not let it come into contact with water while melting, and do not put it over direct heat. Water that spills into a bowl of melting chocolate will cause it to ‘seize’, or turn into a hard, chunky lump. Similarly, overheating chocolate will ruin the taste and texture of the final product. Chocolate should always be melted over indirect heat using a bowl sitting over a simmering saucepan of water or in small intervals in a microwave.
What is Tempering, and How Do I Do It?
Tempering refers to a process of heating and cooling the chocolate to specific temperatures so that the cocoa butter in the chocolate forms even crystals. Tempering is not a mysterious or difficult process, but it can take a little practice. If you are using chocolate that is already tempered, you might be able to use a shortcut and avoid going through the whole tempering process.
- By carefully melting the chocolate at low temperatures, it is possible to retain the temper. First, ensure that your chocolate is tempered: examine the surface, making sure that it is glossy, smooth, and without streaks. Next, break the chocolate, making sure that it has a crisp ‘snap’ when broken, and that the texture of the inside of the chocolate is uniform obviously a taste test. If all of these conditions are met, you can attempt to melt the chocolate while keeping the temper.
- To use this method, break up 500 grams of tempered chocolate in coarse chunks. Microwave it at 50% power for 3 minutes, stopping every 30-45 seconds to stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula. Remove the chocolate when 2/3 of it has melted, and stir the chocolate until the remaining chunks are fully melted. If the chunks do not melt, warm the chocolate again very briefly. You can check if the chocolate is still in temper by measuring the temperature with a chocolate thermometer less than 90 degrees for dark chocolate, 88 degrees for milk or white chocolate.
Alternatively, do a spot test to make sure: spread a spoonful thinly over an area of baking paper and allow it to cool. If it is tempered, the chocolate will harden within 5 minutes and look shiny and smooth. If it is dull or streaky, it has lost its temper, and you should temper the chocolate again.