Mention chocolate truffles or bars, and we think of delicious, shiny, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate that gives a satisfying snap with every bite. We are, in fact, enjoying chocolate that has been properly tempered. By contrast, if you just melt chocolate in a saucepan, and then pop it in the refrigerator to harden, you will find that the chocolate tends to melt easily, is dull instead of shiny, and will bend instead of breaking with a satisfying snap.
What actually happens when you temper chocolate is that you force the crystals within the cocoa butter to align perfectly and become uniformly sized, resulting in the texture and taste we have all come to love in couverture chocolate.
If you plan to use chocolate for baking or simple chocolate candies, you don’t need to temper chocolate, but if you wish to make chocolate truffles, chocolate bars or barks, or use chocolate transfer sheets to decorate your chocolate, then yes, it is important to temper it to get the right texture and taste.
Couverture vs Compound Chocolate
Only couverture chocolate needs to be tempered, because of its cocoa butter content, which gives couverture chocolate its physical structure.. Compound chocolate does not have any cacao butter, so it does not need to be tempered, but it does not taste anywhere near as good as couverture chocolate.
The Easiest No-Thermometer, Microwave Method to Temper Chocolate
Traditional way of tempering chocolate is the tabling method - alternately cooling melted chocolate on a slab of cold marble by working it back and forth with a palette knife, then warming it up, repeatedly until the chocolate is tempered. Another way is to melt chocolate and keep a close eye on the temperature with specialised chocolate thermometer.
The seeding method with a microwave to melt the chocolate is the easiest, fastest way to temper chocolate that does not require specialised equipment, just a microwave.
Chop chocolate into pieces. Take out ⅓ of the chocolate and place the rest into a microwaveable bowl.
Heat the chocolate at 10 to 15 second intervals. Take out the bowl and stir between intervals.
Repeat until ¾ of the chocolate has melted (if you have a thermometer, it should read 38 to 43 deg C) Add or seed, remaining chocolate into the bowl (a little at a time, stirring all the while), until all the chocolate has melted. By this time, the chocolate should be glossy and thick. A good way to test the temperature without a thermometer, is to put a little chocolate to the place just under your lower lip, where your skin is the most sensitive. It should feel just a little warmer than warm milk.
Chocolate is tempered when it is within the following temperature:
Dark chocolate 31-32°C / 88-90°F
Milk chocolate 30 -31°C /86-88°F
White chocolate 28°C /82-84°F
The chocolate needs to be tempered again once it has warmed up beyond the temperature range.
A good way to check if the chocolate you are using is temper is to spread a small amount onto a piece of parchment paper. Wait for about five minutes, then check if it has harden and is glossy. You should also be able to peel the chocolate off the paper easily.