The Delicate Process of Tempering Chocolate, Part II

In Part I of this article, we covered the first steps of the process of tempering chocolate…but you're only halfway there if you don't read Part II!

Tempering chocolate isn't going to be the easiest thing you've ever done. In fact, you could say it's kind of extreme, both in terms of how long it takes and the delicacy of the process. But then, extreme is why we're here, isn't it?

In Part I, we got as far as melting the chocolate. In this exciting episode, we'll show you how to cool and crystallize it properly.

Let's all crystallize

Now that your chocolate is properly melted, it's time to start the most delicate part of tempering chocolate: cooling it so that it crystallizes in the proper form. There are two ways to do this: one easy, and one hard. Both processes start by removing the bowl from the heat once the temperature reaches 110 degrees.

Here's the easy way: vigorously mix some chopped but solid couverture into the melt until it's all melted together. You should use about one-third of the weight of the melted amount -- i.e., four ounces of chopped chocolate for 12 ounces of melt. This will "seed" the melted chocolate with crystals of the proper size.

The hard way

Pastry chefs, of course, prefer the crystallization method that makes tempering chocolate a real pain for us mere mortals: it's called tabling. They toss two-thirds of the chocolate onto a marble slab and spread it thin with a metal spatula to cool it down a bit.

Then they scrape it up and spread it out over and over again until it reaches the desired consistency, whereupon it's stirred into the warm chocolate until it all melts back together. Naturally, this must be done with frightening speed and great exactitude -- which makes it the more extreme of the two methods, yes?

Six of one...

Whatever method you choose for your final process of tempering chocolate, you'll end up with a glossy, bright goo if you've done everything right. If it looks otherwise, you have two options: you can start over, or you can use what you've got anyway. The latter option results in edible chocolate, but it won't look as nice.

Even if everything works out, there's one final test to prove the tempering. Dip the tip of a knife into the chocolate and let it cool for three minutes. If it's sticky, your chocolate's not tempered; if it's firm, you're home free.

While the chocolate tempering process isn't as intuitive as, say, eating chocolate, don't let its complexity stop you from experimenting -- it is, after all, something every chocolate extremo needs to know. How else can you ever have a decent fondue or chocolate fountain, without being a master at tempering chocolate?