In Search of Beta Crystals Part III - The Quest Ends

In our last two adventures, we explained the basic chemistry behind tempering and how that chemistry translates into the tempering process of raising and lowering chocolate’s temperature. Now, we briefly explain two simple tempering techniques that can be done in the comfort of your own home!

Before beginning, there is one piece of kitchen equipment that is essential– a good thermometer. Makes sense, right? After all, tempering is nothing but a process of carefully controlling chocolate’s temperature! Now, on to two basic techniques:

Technique 1 – The Double Boiler

What you need: A thermometer (warned you); something to bowl water in (i.e., a pot); a bowl that you can place over the pot that will not melt or otherwise be destroyed such as explode due to heat; and chocolate! (it helps if you already have some tempered chocolate – i.e., a chocolate bar)

What to do: Boil the water and place some chocolate in the bowl over the water. REMEMBER – No water in the chocolate! Stir the chocolate as it melts and monitor the temperature – we are shooting for 115 Fahrenheit.

After the chocolate hits 115 (don’t overheat it or it will burn) you need to cool it back down by adding more unmelted chocolate. If the chocolate you add is already tempered, it will act to “seed” the chocolate and promote Beta Crystal formation – pretty cool huh?

Continue to add chocolate, stirring vigorously until the temperature drops to 81 Fahrenheit. Then, raise the chocolate’s temperature back up to the 88-90 degree range (try not to let is go too far above 90 – if it gets to 92 it might totally melt again and you will have to start over!).

Now you should be able to pour your chocolate into a mold or dip some fresh fruit in there. If you’ve done everything correctly the chocolate will harden into that nice smooth chocolate that we all know and love!

Technique 2 – Ye Olde Microwave

What you will need: A thermometer (still warned you); a microwave (duh); a bowl to microwave chocolate in that will not melt and/or explode in the microwave; and chocolate! (again, it helps if you have some already tempered chocolate).

What to do: The concept here is the same. Heat the chocolate, add more (already tempered) chocolate to cool it, then heat it again. To accomplish this you should microwave the chocolate in short bursts 20-30 seconds (stirring between bursts) to get the chocolate up to 115 degrees. Then stir in the fresh chocolate just like the double boiler method. After you get your chocolate back down to 81, start microwaving again! This time you should use even shorter bursts in the microwave – 10-15 seconds max so you don’t accidentally over heat too far past 92.

There are, of course, other ways to temper chocolate that involve more equipment. Elton Brand has advocated a method using a hair dryer and food processor, and others swear that a sous-vide circulator is the best way to go. But if you want to experiment without any fancy equipment the double boiler and microwave techniques should work just fine. Remember – practice makes perfect!