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How to temper chocolate at home without any specialised equipment

There are probably as many methods of tempering chocolate as there are chocolate makers in the world. I am not claiming this particular method to be the most efficient one, but for me, it is the most cost saving and least messy of all. It will suit those working at home with small batches and not wanting to invest into any extra kitchen devices.

Step 1.

Get your utensils ready. The only things you will need for this method is a food thermometer, a bowl (glass or metal), a saucepan slightly smaller in diameter than your bowl (so that the bowl can sit on it without touching boiling water at the bottom and this set up is called bain marie) and some chocolate moulds (even these are not really necessary if you only want to experiment a little for your own consumption, a piece of foil would do).

If you haven’t got a food thermometer already and are contemplating which one to buy, a piece of advice: get one where the probe will comfortably sit or stand in your chocolate bowl on its own, without you having to hold it. An ideal one will be one with a metal cord.

 Step 2.

 Break your chocolate into the bowl. I wouldn’t use any less than 300g because the smaller the mixture, the quicker it cools down and the more difficult it will be to control the temperature. The bowl just like all your other utensils should be absolutely dry. Any little drop of water will turn your chocolate mixture into a ganache (and not a pleasant creamy one, but one that is hard and crumbles). Now, the smaller your pieces are, the quicker and easier the process of melting will go. If your chunks are too big, there is a risk that the chocolate will overheat before all of them have melted. The key to success is a consistent temperature throughout your mixture.

 Step 3.

 Get your seeding chocolate ready. This needs to be any chocolate that has been already properly tempered. It should have a slightly shiny glossy surface without light brown “blooming” streaks or stains but don’t confuse scratches with “blooming” streaks. Scratches are perfectly fine. A good quality chocolate bought in a supermarket will be fine, you will only need it once because after your own successful tempering session you can put aside some for your next batch. If you are melting our honey chocolate that you have bought from our store, you can use a piece from these bars as they have been tempered before and will do the job perfectly.

 For your seeding pieces you will need 10% of the weight of your mixture. So, if you have broken 300g of chocolate into your bowl you will need a 30g piece as seeding chocolate. Do not break it into small pieces as you will have to scoop it out later!

Step 4.

Melt the chocolate mixture (the small pieces in your bowl) over the boiling water in your saucepan until all the pieces have melted. The reason we don’t just put the mixture over direct heat is to prevent it getting too hot and seize up. It is especially important if you use our honey chocolate. You do not want to pasteurise the honey in it and lose all its goodness. Keep stirring it periodically with a dry spoon or spatula, scraping the mixture off the sides of the bowl. The more you stir, the more consistent and lower the temperature will be, while still allowing the pieces to melt.

Step 5.

When all the pieces have melted into one smooth mass, carefully take the mixture off the boiling water and wipe the bottom of the bowl with a dry cloth, avoiding water or steam getting into the mixture. Do not discard your bain marie just yet, you might need it again later.

Step 6.

Add your flavours. If you want to add anything extra to your chocolate, like nuts, spices, dried fruit (remember all the additions should be dry and room temperature), add them into your mixture now.  If not, proceed to the next step.

Step 7.

Stick your thermometer in.  Keep stirring the mixture regularly until the temperature consistently fluctuates between 34  and 35 . If you do not stir, you might not get the accurate readings from your thermometer as the sides of the bowl will be hotter than the contents in the middle. Stirring (but not whisking, you don’t want bubbles in your mixture), will help with the even distribution of the temperature. Please don’t be tempted to put the mixture in the fridge or use ice to speed up the cooling process as it will ruin your efforts. If you have added some extras in step 6, it is possible that this may have significantly reduced the temperature of your mixture to well below 34  and 35 . In this case you need to return your mixture to the bain marie with your food thermometer in it and warm it up to 34  / 35  again. This should not take more than a few minutes.

Step 8.

When you are satisfied that the temperature of your mixture when off the heat is between 34  and 35  , add your seeding chocolate chunks. Take the thermometer out as it’s not needed anymore.  Keep stirring the mixture with the seeding chunks in it for 8 minutes. Imagine this process as your chocolate mixture being a dance floor for some crazy party of molecules all moving chaotically. Your seeding chunks are groups of conga lines, disciplined and organised. These conga lines need to pick up every party dancer on its way, so that in 8 minutes your whole dance floor is one big conga line, with all molecules facing the same way and all dancing happily together. The whole idea of tempering is to make sure that your chocolate solidifies in an organised crystallized structure and not in a chaotic mess. In about 6-7 minutes you will notice that the mixture gets slightly gloopier and thicker, but still quite runny. It means you are on the right track.

Step 9.

After 8 minutes of stirring, take the seeding pieces out. By now their edges should be slightly rounded, but still retain their shape. You can’t use them again as seeding chocolate, but you can melt them in the next batch or simply eat them. If your seeding pieces have melted to the point that you can’t scoop them up because they disintegrate in your hands, it means you have added them when the temperature was too high. This means it is unlikely your chocolate is well tempered so you would need to go back to step 7 providing you have extra seeding pieces.

The opposite problem is if the mixture you have now is so thick, that it doesn’t create a continuous flow when you lift your spoon up. This means you have added your seeding pieces too late (when the temperature was below 34  and 35  ) or perhaps your kitchen is too cold and the mixture cooled down too quickly. In this case, redo step 7, but this time during the 8 minutes of mixing, return the chocolate mass onto the bain marie a few times for a few seconds.  Do not warm it up again after the seeding chocs are out as you will be undoing your tempering efforts.

Step 10.

Pour the mixture into the moulds. When the seeding pieces are out and you are reasonably satisfied your chocolate is tempered, pour it into the moulds straight away. You do not have much time now, as your mixture is now rapidly crystallizing. After pouring the chocolate into the mould, shake and tap the mould for a few seconds to get all the bubbles to the top and to cover the bottom of the mould evenly. Put the moulds in the fridge (but not freezer) immediately. Do not put filled chocolate moulds on top of each other. The one on top will “de-temper” the one below by warming it up. Keep them in the fridge for 2 hours. If you keep your moulds in the freezer, when they come out, they will develop a condensation on the surface. This will destroy the nice shiny look you have tried to achieve.

That’s it! You can take your yummy creations out of the mould now, by gently tapping on the back. A few words about the moulds. If you haven’t got them yet and are contemplating which ones to buy, I strongly recommend the polycarbonate and not the silicone ones. Silicone moulds (especially the cheap ones made in China and so readily available on the market now) have a bizarre quality, they accumulate minerals in the water including lime scale (even if you live in areas of low levels of lime scale in the water) and later release it in a form of a white residue. After using silicone moulds, you might find your chocolate starts to develop a whitish matt residue on the surface. Perfectly ok to eat, but not a great look if it’s for selling.

Please feel free to email me how you get on, especially if something goes wrong, I will gladly advise you how to rectify it! Good luck!