May 24, 2016

How to Temper Chocolate

How to, Temper, tempering, Chocolate,  巧克力, 回火, recipe, at home, 朱古力
By Published: 2016-05-24
At the beginning, all I knew was that I loved chocolate.  Loved, loved, loved chocolate.  And when I got more interested in baking and all that jazz I naturally started wanting to do some chocolate stuff.  

First I decided to make some molded chocolates with my little girl.  Should be easy, right?  We melted some dark chocolate, poured it into molds and put it in the fridge to set.  The next day we popped them out, looking pretty and...they melted immediately to the touch.  Ugh...what were we doing wrong?

It turns out that to do most of the cool things one can do with chocolate, one must temper the chocolate.  Tempering melted chocolate allows one to coat with chocolate or mold chocolate that will end up to be shiny, smooth, break with a snap and able to stay at room temperature and be touched without melting right away.  I was determined to learn how to temper chocolate and here I share what I learned, how I screwed up, and the tips that really helped me.

How to, Temper, tempering, Chocolate,  巧克力, 回火, recipe, at home, 朱古力

First of all what kind of chocolate do you need to temper?   In the beginning I had no idea.  Very confusing because there are so many kinds of chocolate products nowadays and these different products mean different things.  So to sort it out:

Candy melts - these are available in all kinds of colors and flavors and are made with vegetable oil.  These are not chocolate and should not be used for tempering.  However you can melt candy melts and use to dip whatever you like.  The candy coating will set up at room temperature and ta-da you have candy coated yummies.  However the taste will be rather waxy and artificial.

Chocolate Chips - Chocolate chips have soy lecithin added to them so that the chips hold their shapes when baking.  Do not temper with chocolate chips.  Do bake scrummy chocolate chip cookies with it.

Real Chocolate:  Yay, use this for tempering!  Real chocolate comes in different sizes and shapes, as disks, button, wafers or bars.  Check the ingredients for the presence of cocoa butter with no added vegetable oil or soy lecithin.  If you've got cocoa butter in it it's real chocolate.  

If you want to go pro about it there's something called couverture chocolate which has a higher percentage of cocoa butter in it which makes for a better temper.  But it's more expensive.  For myself I just go to the supermarket and look for chocolate bars that are pure chocolate with no additions like nuts or fillings and decide if I want milk or dark (I prefer 60%-70% dark chocolate).  

White Chocolate:  Yes, use this for tempering.  White chocolate is not really chocolate at all because it doesn't have cocoa powder in it.  Cocoa powder is what makes chocolate all brown and chocolately.  But white chocolate does however have lots of cocoa butter in it and cocoa butter can be tempered just like milk and dark chocolate.

How to, Temper, tempering, Chocolate,  巧克力, 回火, recipe, at home, 朱古力

Okay, so you've got your real chocolate bar.  The first thing to do is to chop it up pretty good.  The smaller the pieces the more evenly it will melt and the easier it will be to control the temperature as you melt.

One really important thing to remember when working with chocolate in this way is that you cannot get any water into your melting chocolate.  Not even a drop!  If you do the chocolate will seize up and die and you will have to bury it forever.  

A bain marie, or double boiler, is used to melt the chocolate.  I usually just set up a homemade bain marie by placing a stainless steel bowl over the rim of a small pot filled with 1" of water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.  When the water is just simmering your bain marie is ready to use.  Do note that this means there will be steam under your melting chocolate, so be careful that the steam doesn't get on your chocolate!

How to, Temper, tempering, Chocolate,  巧克力, 回火, recipe, at home, 朱古力

 Next few steps are the process that tempers the chocolate.  Quite fussy these steps but what we do for the love of chocolate, amiright?  The chocolate must be melted and heated to a specific Temperature A, then cooled to another specific Temperature B and used while at Temperature B.  Heat, cool, heat, many times did I do this? This is the part that is easy to screw up but here are some tips that I learned along the way.


You must have a thermometer that spans a wide range of temperatures.  It helps if it is an instant read thermometer or one that clips to the side of the pot.  

Heating and Cooling the Chocolate

One important thing to know is how to stop the heating once you get to the specific temperatures that you need.  This part is what keep going wrong for me as I started out.  My chocolate would heat to Temperature A then keep on heating up.  Yiks!  How to stop the heat!  

You need to have a bowl of cool water waiting at hand, and, once your chocolate almost reaches temperature A, plunge your bowl of chocolate quickly into the cold water, being really careful not to get water or steam from your bain marie or anywhere else into the chocolate.  With a bit of luck and planning you can stop your melted chocolate at Temperature A.

Reheating the Chocolate

Last tip is how to reheat the melted chocolate.  So you've melted your chocolate and heated it Temperature A and then let it cool to Temperature B.  You're ready to dip, pour, mold, whatever.  But you have to work with chocolate at Temperature B.  But it's gonna get cooler and thicker as you work.  Simple, just reheat it, right?  Wait, not so simple!  

There is a tricky part here because when you reheat you CANNOT go over the Temperature B.  If you do it's KO game over for the tempering and you have to start all over again at the beginning.  (This is why I had to do it again and again...aargh!)  The good news here (I think) is that you can use the same chocolate over and over as long as you don't burn it or let water get in it.  

To successfully reheat just place your bowl of melted chocolate over the bain marie for a few secs but don't turn on the heat.  The remaining hot water in the pot should be enough to warm up the chocolate just so.  Be sure to keep your thermometer in the chocolate as you do this as the chocolate can heat up quickly.  Remember you can't go over the Temperature B, so watch the thermometer carefully!

How to Check if Tempered

When you've reached Temperature B, it's a good idea to check the temper with the Knife Test*.  That way you can be sure of how your chocolate work will turn out.  Dip a butter knife into the chocolate and let sit in fridge for 3 mins.  If at the end of that time the chocolate is set and snappy, smooth, shiny, and does not melt to the immediate touch, then you have temper.  Yeah!

How to, Temper, tempering, Chocolate,  巧克力, 回火, recipe, at home, 朱古力

The reason for all this specificity when tempering is the finicky nature of cocoa butter.  Your chocolate bar with cocoa butter in it is already in temper when you buy it.  That's why your bought chocolate bar is shiny, glossy and snaps when you break it.  However when the cocoa butter in chocolate is melted its structure gets all whacked out and one must temper it in order to allow it to set into shiny smooth melt resistant chocolate once again.  Thus all this fuss.

In the photo above you can see how chocolate looks when its not been tempered correctly.  See how dull and lackluster it look.  Note the bloom of white on the surface.  This was one of my screw ups during reheating where I went over the specified Temperature B and was KO, game over...again...  Then, way too tired to start the whole tempering process over, I left the chocolate as it was, ugly and lumpy, to restart again the next day. 

How to, Temper, tempering, Chocolate,  巧克力, 回火, recipe, at home, 朱古力

The first thing I tried with my finally tempered chocolate was to use a reusable silicone piping bag (so easy to clean!) to pipe it into molds to make pretty shaped chocolates.  Finally a chance to use some of those adorable silicone molds that I can't resist buying!  

Be sure to bang the molds lightly but firmly after filling to let any air pockets come up and out.  Tickled pink with my chocolate filled molds, I then got ambitious and tried to make some fancy chocolate decorations by squiggling some patterns on a silicone mat.  

And once these molded and squiggled chocolates set (at room temperature),  I was able to to push them out of the molds/pick them up with my hand.  Shiny, glossy, prettily shaped chocolate that snapped when broken.  And no melted chocolate on fingertips!  And they will stay like this at room temperature in air tight container for a long, long time.  

Yippee, Yappee, Yaa-hooey...we got chocolatooey!  The chocolate is tempered.  I can't wait to chocolate decorate the sh*t out of everything with my new found chocolate tempering skills! final tip - tempering chocolate is only hard while you're getting the hang of it, after that it's pretty easy peasy.

How to, Temper, tempering, Chocolate,  巧克力, 回火, recipe, at home, 朱古力
How to Temper Chocolate
Prep time: Cook time:


  • 1 candy thermometer 
  • 14 oz chocolate, 400g (or however much you want, the quantity is not important)


Chop up chocolate to approx 1/4" pieces.  Have a large bowl of cool water ready at hand to cool down chocolate.  Put 2/3 of chopped chocolate into bain marie over just simmering water and let melt, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate reaches Temperature A as follows:

   Temperature A:

   Dark chocolate :  115°-120°F or 46°- 49°C
   Milk or white    :  105°-110°F or 41°- 44°C

Once Temperature A is achieved, remove bowl from heat, wipe water off bottom, being careful not to get any water into chocolate, and immediately add in the rest of the chopped chocolate.  Stir vigorously to melt chopped chocolate.  

The temperature of the melted chocolate should lower with the addition of the chopped chocolate.  If, however, it seems likely to keep rising and go over the maximum allowed of Temperature A plunge bowl into your prepared bowl of cool water to cool down.

Once chopped chocolate is all melted and the temperature is going down just stir vigorously at regular intervals until the melted chocolate reaches Temperature B as follows:

   Temperature B:

   Dark chocolate :  90°F  or 32°C
   Milk or white    :  86°F or 30°C

Your chocolate should be in temper once you reach this Temperature B.  Use the Knife Test* to check temper.  If temper test checks out work quickly to make your chocolate decorations or whatever you want to make with the chocolate.

If the temperature falls too low (the chocolate will become thicker and thicker) you can gently reheat to Temperature B by placing over the warm water left in the bain marie (no need to turn on heat).  It heats up quite quickly so keep an eye on your thermometer.   And have a bowl of cool water at hand to quickly cool chocolate down if needed.  

Remember to be very careful not to go over Temperature B when reheating.  If you go over Temperature B you will need to start  the whole heating and cooling process all over from beginning.

Let your tempered chocolate molds or decorations set at room temperature (not the fridge) until hard and shiny.  Eat and use right away or store dark chocolates in an dark air tight container at room temperature indefinitely and milk chocolate and white chocolate for a few months.  Best not to store chocolate in fridge.  Enjoy, my chocolate friends!

Tip:  When you want to completely dip into tempered chocolate, use a fork to hold your cookie (or whatever yummy thing you're making) while you dip.



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