I’m going to be real here and tell you right off the bat that tempering chocolate is NOT my favorite thing to do. It’s sort of a fussy thing, and being the mess that I am, I also tend to get chocolate errrywhere when I do it. That being said, it’s something that I’m glad I know how to do because it has its purposes, and so today’s gonna be me teaching you the what’s what of tempering chocolate. :) <——- If you already know how, my advice would be to just stick with what you’ve got going for you because if it works, IT WORKS. There are all kinds of variations on how to temper chocolate and all kinds of little differences in each person’s technique. This is just what works for me, and since most articles I’ve read on tempering make my head spin, I thought maybe – maybe – I could help someone else with what I hope is a very straightforward explanation of my process.
Before we jump in with the instructions, let’s just clear the air on the whole tempering thing in the first place. (Unless you’re super into food science, I’m going to get boring here for just a few seconds and I’m sorrrrry.) Tempering chocolate is just a way of melting it so that it sets and dried shiny and snappy, like chocolate should be, rather than kinda dull, streaky, and soft. Usually when you buy chocolate, it’s been tempered, but unless you’re super super neurotically careful, you end up bringing it out of temper when you melt it. It’s all about the type of crystal formation in the chocolate, but I’m not really going to get into that because I’m not a scientist (and again — head spinning). The main thing to know is that if you need your chocolate to set up hard and shiny, like if you’re drizzling it on florentines or making filled chocolates, you need to temper it. Like I said, there are multiple ways to do this (and lord knows I’ve tried multiple ways and failed multiple times), but this is the way I do it: with a microwave, using the seed method, which you can read a little bit about in the recipe notes. There’s one thing – besides chocolate and a microwave – that you really really have to have for this process and it’s a good kitchen thermometer, because tempering chocolate is allll about temperature.
Which…(drum roll please)… brings us to the giveaway! I always use my Thermapen for tempering chocolate (that’s this little gadget right here ↑) and it’s literally my lifesaver for this and so many other kitchen tasks. I’m SO excited because one of you gets to win a Thermapen this week thanks to the super-nice people at ThermoWorks who have offered to give one away to an awesome lucky reader. You can enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway will be open until 12:00 AM PST on Friday, November 7th. And you guys? I’m sorry that you can’t all win this one, but to whoever does win, ohmygosh you will lovvvvee this little tool. It’s awesome.
A guide to tempering dark chocolate with the no-frills microwave method.
- bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (preferably about 12 ounces or more)*
- Place about 2/3 (by weight) of the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, setting aside the remaining 1/3 to use as seed.**
- Heat chocolate in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and continue to melt another 15-20 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until chocolate is melted and gets close to 114º-120º as registered by a candy/kitchen thermometer. Continue to melt in very small increments (around 5 seconds each) until chocolate reaches correct temperature range, stirring in between.
- Add seed chocolate a bit at a time, stirring vigorously until all seed has melted before adding more. Wipe down sides of bowl often as you stir to ensure all chocolate gets tempered and doesn't set on sides of bowl. Continue to stir well as you bring the chocolate down to 88º- 91º, adding seed only as it melts. If the chocolate is still warmer than 91º once all seed has been added, keep stirring and feel free to add a bit more seed chocolate to help it along if needed. Once the chocolate reaches the desired temperature range, it should be in temper and ready to use. A good way to test chocolate is to drizzle it on a piece of parchment; it should set in a few minutes and be shiny.***
- To keep chocolate at working temperature, you can set the bowl on top of a heating pad at low heat while you work. If chocolate drops below working temperature, reheat in the microwave in very small increments until it reaches 88º- 91º once again.
*A larger amount of chocolate is easier to temper because the change in temperature happens less drastically, and is therefore easier to control. If you decide to temper more than you need for a recipe, you can easily just pour the remaining chocolate in moulds, or on a sheet or parchment, to set and use later.
**The chocolate you use for your seed should be solid tempered chocolate. It's used to "seed" the melted chocolate with the good crystals that create tempered chocolate. All pure chocolate is usually sold tempered, so as long as it has been kept in an environment that allows it to retain its temper, it should work as your seed.
***If chocolate is at working temperature and does not appear to be tempered, you can continue to stir it until it cools to 84º, and then reheat in the microwave in very short increments to bring back up to working temperature. Lowering the temperature like this will increase the formation of good beta-crystals that keep chocolate in temper.
I have to give so much credit to Nicole from Baking Bites who was a huge source of knowledge to me when I was learning this process. David Lebovitz also wrote a helpful post on this that I've referred to many times.