12 Tips I Wish I Knew Before Tempering Chocolate at Home
Published: September 10th, 2021 | Last Updated: September 11th, 2021
Tempering chocolate is a daunting task to many. It seems so technical and requires so much precision. It can be devastating to spend hours making chocolate for a loved one, for a party or for friends and family only to find that the chocolate was not properly tempered and bloomed and splotchy all over (trust us, you don’t want to get there).
But during the countless trials and errors of tempering chocolate at home, we’ve learnt so many things that we wish we knew when we first started. It’s an awesome and impressive skill to have and also fun to do. Once you’ve got the hang of it, it enables you to be more creative and opens up the door to endless possibilities of working with chocolate.
As home dessertisans, we felt there were so many gaps that were missed by other guides and tutorials to cater for those who do not have a professional background in chocolate or professional equipment. We’ve spent many hours failing, scratching our heads, doing the research, learning and improving to finally get to where we are now. This is the guide we wish we had before we started.
1. When testing tempered chocolate, the chocolate just needs to set
An indicator that you tempered chocolate correctly is that it has a nice snap. Many instructions say to do a tester of the tempered chocolate on a knife or piece or baking paper, saying the chocolate should set in 2-3 minutes. This chocolate just needs to set and solidify and will not snap until the chocolate has fully set and crystalized hours later. If your chocolate does not snap during a tester, it is not an indication that it is not tempered. If your chocolate sets quickly, i.e., is not liquid, then you’re good to go!
2. Testing the chocolate takes a different amount of time depending on the type
If you’re tempering milk or white chocolate and your test hasn’t set within 2-3 minutes, it might still be tempered. It should set within 2-3 minutes for dark chocolate and 3-5 minutes for milk or white chocolate.
3. You need to temper more chocolate if you don’t want your batch to set too quickly
For those without a tempering machine or chocolate melting tank which maintains the chocolate at the ideal working temperature, you may need to use more chocolate to ensure that your batch doesn’t cool and set too quickly.
When you only need a small amount of tempered chocolate, it can be tempting to use the exact amount you need. However, because there is less mass, the batch will cool down really fast. This can be an issue when you’re trying to test your chocolate or use the batch multiple times. For example while you do a tester, your batch will already start to crystallize and by the time your tester is set, the batch of tempered chocolate is too thick to use or already completely set.
When tempering chocolate we try to use at least 600g. The leftover chocolate can be set into a slab and used later or made into chocolate bark.
4. Making Bonbons can take multiple days of work (you can’t do all the steps at once!)
When making bonbon chocolates, you first need to make the shell, allow it to set completely (at least 2 hours), then add the filling and allow that to set completely (which can take up to 8 hours) and then add the final seal with another batch of tempered chocolate. The shell needs to set before adding the filling or it could risk blooming the chocolate. The filling should be set before adding the seal so that when the chocolate is poured over, it doesn’t sink into the filling and cause the filling to rise and prevent a proper seal.
This process can take many hours over multiple days. There are however some techniques to speed this process up (like pre-crystalizing the ganache filling so that it sets faster or using an acetate sheet with a thin layer of tempered chocolate to seal them). As tempering at home takes a lot of work, it can be tempting to do this whole process with one batch of tempered chocolate. However by the time the shell and filling have set, the first batch of tempered chocolate will be unusable (unless you have chocolate a tempering machine or melting tank).
5. Don’t cover tempered chocolate while it is setting
When waiting for the chocolate to completely set, it can be tempting to place it in a container to avoid exposure to any contaminants in the air. Doing this will restrict the air flow and slow down the setting process causing the tempered chocolate to bloom. The chocolate needs to be in a cool area with air flow to be able to set properly.
6. Don’t scrape bits of set chocolate back into the bowl of tempered chocolate
When scraping chocolate off molds or off surfaces, putting that back into the bowl of tempered chocolate will cause it to crystalize faster and create lumps. Try to avoid scraping anything back into the bowl if you intend to use the remaining tempered chocolate.
7. Putting chocolate in the fridge can cause it to bloom
Sometimes our environments are too hot and so we look to cool down or set the chocolate quickly in the fridge. The fridge is a humid environment and the humidity or condensation caused by a sudden temperature change can cause the chocolate to bloom. It is best to let the chocolate set at the ideal cool room temperature.
8. You must have a cool room to even consider tempering
Most professional chocolate working environments are closer to 20°C (68°F). Many tutorials take the room temperature for granted, especially professionals who always work in cold rooms or those in colder climates. A cool environment is essential to working with tempered chocolate. The process of tempering chocolate requires it to cool to 27°C (80.6°F) which is impossible in a room that is hotter than 27°C. Furthermore, the key to avoiding bloom and ensuring the correct crystal structure is that the chocolate sets.
9. Set leftover chocolate in thin slabs
After tempering chocolate you will usually have some leftover chocolate. I find the best way to reuse it is to pour it onto baking paper and allow it to set in a thin slab. Thin slabs will be much easier to cut later and it will be easier to break away the amount that you need for your next intentions for the chocolate.
10. Have more spatulas than you think you’ll need
Making tempered chocolate takes a lot of time and it can be quite finicky. You especially want to avoid stirring in water so that the chocolate does not seize. When baking and making chocolates, you’ll always be needing more spatulas than you think you’ll need. It’s worth the few extra dollars to have a few spatulas so that you don’t have to wash one in the middle of the chocolate tempering process which increases the risk of using a spatula that was not dried properly.
11. Smaller pieces of chocolate melt easier
It's important to keep in mind the size of your chocolate pieces when you're working with it. Having chocolate pieces that are too large won't melt as easily as smaller pieces. If you're melting chocolate, it will be faster to melt smaller chocolate pieces. If you're seeding the chocolate, having pieces that are too large may cause some of them to not melt and you'll end up with lumps in your chocolate. On the flip side, if you're seeding chocolate with really small pieces (e.g. grated chocolate), they may melt too quickly and you'll lose the precious seed crystals needed for tempering.
12. Using a microwave to melt chocolate is one of the easiest and safest ways to melt it
There are some tutorials and recipes out there that stress the importance of melting chocolate gently to avoid burning it. A double boiler or bain-marie can be used to melt chocolate, and it is often seen on TV but this method is risky. Using a bain-marie to melt or heat chocolate could cause it to overheat, because the bain-marie can reach temperatures a lot higher than the 45-50°C, which is the hottest temperature the chocolate can tolerate. Furthermore, when tempering, you want to avoid moisture which will cause the chocolate to seize. The steam from a double boiler as well as the condensation on the bowl could make its way into the chocolate and cause it to seize. Using small bursts (less than 30 seconds) in the microwave helps to avoid this moisture, is quicker and requires less pots to clean!
You are now ready to try and temper chocolate efficiently and successfully! Use our key temperature guides here to ensure you're hitting the exact temperatures required to temper your dark, milk, white, gold or ruby chocolate, and using the optimal tempering methods for you.
If you are looking to tackle bonbon making, we can tell you that it is an extremely satisfying experience to create beautiful morsels of perfection for you and your loved ones! Here are our 30 tips to guide you on making bonbons at home.
Recipes using tempered chocolate
Now that you've learned the key tips to temper chocolate, try out these recipes: