Getting Serious About Chocolate

Article by: Allrecipes  |  Picture by: naples34102
Getting Serious About Chocolate
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Want to melt chocolate and then use it to coat strawberries or make Easter eggs so they can sit out of the fridge without immediately melting? Tempering is the name of the method to melt and cool your chocolate so it sets smooth and glossy.

If you are just making a chocolate cake or biscuits you don’t need to think about tempering chocolate but if you want to get serious about chocolate, it helps to understand about some different types of chocolate.
Couverture Chocolate
Couverture chocolate is a high quality cooking chocolate for coating or dipping. It contains 50 to 58 percent combined cocoa solids and cocoa butter. It is the most expensive cooking chocolate but the high amount of cocoa butter will give you better results.

Cooking Chocolate
Easily found in the supermarket, cooking chocolate contains a little vegetable oil as well as a relatively high cocoa butter content which make it a good alternative to couverture and still good to work with.

Dark Chocolate
Has a little more sugar but is not too sweet and not too bitter. It’s a popular choice as it works in both cooking and eating.

Milk Chocolate
Not so good for cooking as it contains too little cocoa solids however is the most common eating chocolate.

Compound Chocolate
This contains added vegetable fats and cocoa powder (as opposed to cocoa butter) and often include other additives. It's used on chocolate bars, is easy to work with and you don't need to temper it. It won't have the same shine and snap or melt in your mouth like real chocolate but it’s the quickest option.
When to temper chocolate?
The only time you need to temper chocolate is when you need an attractive, shiny coating for anything that will sit at room temperature. The presentation and taste are writh it!
You can get around tempering by dipping into any melted chocolate and keeping the products in the fridge, taking them out just before serving.
Behind the Scenes: Tempering
Tempering involves melting and then re-aligning cocoa butter's microscopic crystals so that they re-harden exactly the way you want them.
There are at least six different ways that cocoa butter crystals can align themselves, and only one way provides the strong temper you want. If the crystals are incorrectly aligned, your chocolate will be dull and streaky, or it will not harden at room temperature.

To temper couverture chocolate, it is melted slowly by bringing it up to a temperature of 50 degrees C, and then cooled and agitated.
You can use either a double boiler or the microwave. Either way only use metal spoons, wooden spoons are no good for this.
The Process
  • Start with at least 350g of chocolate. A large amount like this is easier to work with, especially for beginning chocolatiers.
  • Chop chocolate into even pieces that are no larger than about a centimetre square. Use a knife to scrape the chocolate to the dry bowl. If you use your hands, move quickly: the chocolate will melt in your hands.
  • If you're using a double boiler, make sure the water in the pot is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Bring the water up to a simmer, then turn off the heat before adding the chocolate, or keep it on low heat. Always wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl when removing it from the heat; water can cause melted chocolate to "seize."
  • In the microwave, place the chocolate in a glass bowl and zap it on high power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval.
  • Using a sugar (or cooking) thermometer
    A sugar thermometer helps when tempering chocolate. But if you don't have one, you can use your lips to gauge the temperature, since they are significantly more sensitive than your hands. Keep in mind that 50 degrees is a bit warmer than your lips (not hot!), 26 degrees will feel cool (although the chocolate will be mostly liquid), and that 32 degrees C is just slightly cooler than your lips.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, do a "temper test" by dipping a knife point into the chocolate--it should harden within three to five minutes; or drizzle a little bit of the chocolate onto a piece of waxed paper. Let it set up for 5 minutes. If it's glossy and hard, your chocolate is correctly tempered.
  • As soon as the chocolate reaches the proper temperature, remove the bowl from the heat, dry the bottom of the bowl, and begin the process of cooling and agitation.
  • One way of cooling the melted chocolate is to add chopped or shaved, un-melted couverture to the bowl - add about a third of the amount of chocolate you started with.
  • Stir vigorously until chocolate is melted. This process, called "seeding," allows the crystals in the unmelted chocolate to dictate the shape in the melted chocolate, giving you the desired smooth, glossy result.
  • After all this, if your chocolate is too cool to work with, you must bring the chocolate's temperature back up to approximately 32 degrees C to use it for coating or moulding.
  • Finally, do the temper test again and then you're ready to start dipping.
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