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How to Temper Chocolate

A guide to tempering dark chocolate with the no-frills microwave method.

Ingredients

  • bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (preferably about 12 ounces or more)*

Instructions

  1. Place about 2/3 (by weight) of the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, setting aside the remaining 1/3 to use as seed.**
  2. 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.
  3. 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.***
  4. 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.

Notes

*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.