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The guide to melting and tempering chocolate
March 6, 2016, 10:07 am

Chocolate is a versatile ingredient that easily blends into recipes for, among others, cakes, brownies, molded chocolates and chocolate-dipped strawberries. But the success of cooking these scrumptious treats depends on knowing whether to use melt or temper chocolate during the preparation. Here is a guideon how the tow processes differ and why melting or tempering is better when cooking various delicacies.

Let us start with the difference between the two processes.While both, melting and tempering use heat to transform chocolate, the specifics of each are quite different. The main distinguishing factor between melted and tempered chocolate is the stability of the crystal structure, which ultimately affects the appearance and texture of the chocolate. Melted chocolate is made up of a network of unstable crystals, while tempered chocolate is composed of a network of stable crystals.

Melting chocolate: The process of melting uses heat to transform chocolate from a solid to liquid state. This can be done on the stovetop, in the microwave, with a double boiler, or with a water bath. It is also not necessary to use a thermometer when melting chocolate.

When chocolate is used in a sauce, as a glaze, or as an ingredient that is mixed into the batter for baked goods, there is no need to temper the chocolate; it is fine to stick with simple melted chocolate.

While cookies, candies and any other treats coated with a melted and cooled chocolate shell will taste just fine, the most noticeable difference from using melted instead of tempered chocolate lies in the appearance and texture of the chocolate. Melted chocolate takes on a flat, dull, mottled, or even streaky appearance, with a texture that is soft instead of crisp.

Tempering chocolate: Though the process of tempering does involve melting chocolate with heat, there is a bit more to it. Besides heat, there are several other important components to take into consideration while tempering. Temperature, time and stirring all come into play when you want a chocolate product with a glossy sheen, an even texture and a crisp snap when broken. Tempered chocolate is largely used in confections, like molded chocolates, chocolate decorations, and anything that gets dipped in chocolate.

When chocolate is melted, the molecules of fat separate. The process of tempering brings them back together and, when done properly, results in a network of stable crystals. This is what gives tempered chocolate its glossy, even tone throughout, and the noticeable snap when broken into pieces.

The process of tempering chocolate involves three steps: heating the chocolate to melt the fat crystals (all the crystals are destroyed), cooling the chocolate to bring the temperature down (new beta-crystals are formed), and then carefully reheating it again. The exact temperatures vary slightly depending on the type of chocolate being tempered.

Tempering can be done on the stovetop with a double boiler, or in the microwave. But even with a good set of instructions, this is a tricky process to get right — especially if you have not tried it before.

When to melt and when to temper: If you are making a batter, dough, sauce, or glaze that requires the addition of chocolate, stick with melted, as there is no need to temper chocolate when it is used as an ingredient.

Consider going the extra step and tempering chocolate when you are making confections, like molded chocolates, chocolate-covered truffles, homemade peanut butter cups, chocolate-dipped strawberries, or any cookies that get dipped in chocolate, especially if it is for a special occasion.


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