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What Are the Main Methods of Tempering Chocolate?
Chef Dominique shares two methods of tempering:
The first is called “tabling” and uses a marble slab or other cool surface to cool the chocolate as you move it around with bench scrapers.
This helps mix the cooler chocolate touching the marble with the warmer chocolate on the surface, ensuring all the chocolate comes to the proper temperature at the same time (like stirring a sauce in a pot), resulting in an evenly set final product.
Tip: You don’t have to have a marble slab to use the tabling technique—you can work on any non-porous countertop. To ensure it’s cool enough to affect the chocolate, you can do as Chef Dominique does and place a sheet tray filled with ice on top of the counter for a few minutes before you need it to cool it down (be sure to wipe any condensation on the counter after you remove the sheet tray to ensure it’s completely dry).
The second method, called “seeding,” uses finely chopped chocolate to cool down already melted chocolate to the proper consistency— like using ice cubes to cool down warm water.
How to Temper Chocolate: Tabling Technique
1) Start with a marble or granite surface, which is clean and dry and doesn’t absorb heat. The surface should be cool. If it’s not, or if the temperature in your work space is warm, lay a rimmed sheet pan on the marble then fill it with ice. Let the chilled sheet pan rest on the marble for 2 minutes to cool the marble.
2) Meanwhile, melt the chocolate to the proper temperature. Pour enough water into a medium saucepan to come 1 inch up the side, then bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place the chopped chocolate in a metal bowl, then set the bowl over the simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted and heated to the proper temperature, as indicated below:
- Dark chocolate: 118°F (48-50°C)
- Milk chocolate: 113°F (45°C)
- White chocolate: 109°F (43°C)
3) When the chocolate is ready, remove the chilled sheet pan, if using, and wipe the marble surface completely dry. Remove the bowl from over the saucepan and wipe the bottom dry to prevent any condensation from dripping onto the marble surface.
4) Pour 80 percent of the melted chocolate onto the marble and reserve the remaining chocolate in the bowl to the side. Using two bench scrapers, slowly move the chocolate from the center outward to the sides to make a rectangle. Continue scraping the chocolate from the sides inward and back out again; this is also referred to as “agitating the chocolate.”
5) Scrape the bench scrapers against each other to clean them as you work. Watch as the chocolate starts to thicken and develop a gleam. The temperature should be about 84°F (29°C), and the chocolate should feel slightly cool to the touch, as it’s just below body temperature.
6) Using the bench scrapers, return the agitated chocolate to the bowl with the remaining melted chocolate and stir gently to combine. The agitated chocolate will reheat slightly as the whole amount comes to the proper temperature. If it doesn’t, place the bowl of chocolate over the saucepan and stir continuously with a rubber spatula until the chocolate reaches the proper temperature, as indicated below:
- Dark chocolate: 88°F (31°C)
- Milk chocolate: 86°F (30°C)
- White chocolate: 86°F (30°C)
7) In your first few times tempering, always make sure to test by dipping an offset spatula or piece of parchment paper into the chocolate to see if it sets shiny. If not, try again with the same chocolate. Once tempered, chocolate must be used immediately. If it solidifies, re-temper.
How to Temper Chocolate: Seeding Technique
1) Melt two-thirds of the chocolate that you want to temper. Finely chop the remaining one-third. Make sure to chop your chocolate as finely as possible so it is easier and faster to melt in the warm chocolate.
2) Slowly mix one-third of the chopped chocolate into the melted chocolate and stir with a rubber spatula until it’s fully melted.
3) Continue adding half the remaining chopped chocolate, stirring until melted, then stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. As you add the chopped chocolate and “seed” the melted chocolate, it will cool. (Think of it like adding ice cubes to a sink full of water.)
The chocolate should be tempered to the proper temperature (see above) by the time all the chopped chocolate has been incorporated.
This technique may be faster, but it’s less precise. It is a great alternative for smaller kitchens.
The Two Things to Avoid When Tempering Chocolate
Two things will ruin chocolate and make it unusable.
If you heat chocolate on its own to over 129°F (54°C), you will burn or scorch it.
If you wet the chocolate with water or steam while tempering it, the chocolate will seize and turn grainy and pasty.
This often happens by condensation dripping onto your work surface from under the bowl of melted chocolate, or the work surface not being completely dry before pouring the melted chocolate over it. Always thoroughly dry any surface or equipment that may come into intact with water to ensure it does not ruin your chocolate.
While tempering chocolate may seem intimidating, it’s quite simple to execute as long as you are prepared and follow a few simple rules. Either way, don’t worry if your chocolate doesn’t temper correctly the first time because you can always remelt it and start again!