Tempering melted chocolate for dipping treats requires time and patience, but it’s worth it. Here’s an easy method for making tempered chocolate.

Chocolate doesn’t always make me happy

Working with chocolate puts me in a temper (Hahaha!…wait, you don’t get the joke? Keep reading, then…). That’s not to say that I don’t love eating the food of the gods…good dark chocolate is one of the pleasures in life, and it’s healthy, too – full of anti-oxidants and flavonoids and all sorts of other buzzwords that I use to justify my nibbles. No, it’s tempering melted chocolate that’s the problem…water is your enemy (it will make your chocolate seize up), and temperature, well, let’s say that being precise is just the beginning.

 

dipping strawberries in tempered chocolate
Strawberries love a chocolate bath, but getting the dip ready can be a tedious process

Kitchen Science in action

(But exactly what is tempered chocolate, and why is it important?)

The answer lies with science…specifically, the crystalline fat structure that makes up a piece of chocolate. (Nerd alert…here comes the science-y stuff!). In regular, ole’ (i.e.untempered) melted chocolate, the fat crystals (specifically the beta crystals) have not been aligned, leading to some undesirable qualities when that chocolate used for dipping, say, a cake pop…a dull finish, a wimpy, bendy bite, and a general air of “I-just-melted-some-chocolate-to-dip-stuff-in-leave-me-alone” hanging about. Tempering the chocolate brings those fat crystals into line, and the heavens open and the angels sing for now those chocolate dipped cake pops will be show worthy…glossy, smooth, with a sharp mouth-pleasing snap when bitten.

 

dipping chocolate cake pops
Remember the cake pops? Those were dipped in tempered dark chocolate

Isn’t most chocolate you buy already tempered?

(So what’s the big deal? )

Yes, but melting untempers it and getting the chocolate back in temper is a pain-in-the-tuchas, to say the least. I’ll go in to the exact process below, but basically you heat the chocolate until it’s fully melted, then cool it down until it reaches a specific temperature range (and that range differs for different types of chocolate). After you get it to the correct temperature, you have to keep it at that temperature(i.e. not let it cool) while you’re working with it or the chocolate becomes too hard with which to work. This process is not for the faint of heart (or the impatient).

Searching the internet will yield many sites with instructions on how to temper chocolate…King Arthur Flour had a good, clear overview of the topic and methods. There are several ways to temper, but I’ll focus on the one that I use because, well, it’s how I do it. (Note: I generally use dark chocolate for dipping, but I’ll also give the temperature ranges for milk and white chocolate as well).

 

properly tempering chocolate
The chocolate goes from chunky blocks to smooth (and aligned) liquid yumminess
using a heating pad to keep chocolate in temper
One way to hold tempered chocolate to the correct temperature is to use a heating pad

 

Updated July, 2018: My family bought me a KitchenAid Precise Heat Mixing Bowl for my birthday. It’s an attachment for the KitchenAid Stand Mixer, and it’s wonderful at bringing and keeping chocolate in temper. I used it to make Tiramisu Truffles. So much easier than using a heating pad!

Now it’s time to dip to your heart’s content. I bought some special dipping tools to aid in the process. Deciding on what to dip might require some thought…after the cake pops, I dipped strawberries (an obvious choice), then pretzel rods, graham crackers, marshmallows, and even potato chips. When the bowl was almost empty, it’s time to smooth out the remaining chocolate on a Silpat or parchment paper and make bark…I like to press things into it like chopped nuts, granola, dried fruit, or crushed-up pretzels.

 

snack items to dip in tempered chocolate
Some ideas of what to dip

 

plate of dipped treats
Dipped treats are certainly a crowd pleaser!

Worth the time and effort

While the process to get the chocolate to temper might be tedious, the results are generally worth it…I brought this plate of dipped treats to my co-workers and there was general delight in the room. Be the hero of your social circle by bringing in some chocolate dipped goodies, and if you do let me know how it goes! I’ll be calm and even-tempered by then.

Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!

Tammy

Tempering melted chocolate

Tempering melted chocolate for dipping treats requires time and patience, but it's worth it. Here's an easy method for making tempered chocolate.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: General
Keyword: Candy, Candy Making, Chocolate, Dark Chocolate
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Special Equipment

  • serrated (bread) knife
  • microwave-safe bowl
  • digital thermometer
  • heating pad

Ingredients

  • chocolate dark, semisweet, or white...it's up to you (see Recipe Notes)

Procedure

  • Chop the chocolate block into small pieces using a serrated knife (I break the chocolate into chunks if I can).
  • Put ¾ of the chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl, then melt in 20-30 second bursts until the chocolate is almost melted. Using a digital thermometer, make sure the melted chocolate doesn’t go over 120°F (for milk and white chocolate, that limit is 105°F).
  • Once the chocolate is melted, add the reserved chocolate (1 piece at a time) and stir until the chocolate cools to 91°F. This is the step that takes the most time and is the most aggravating...I’ll check the temperature and react the same (“it’s not cool enough yet?!?”). Have patience…it’ll get there. When (finally) the chocolate reaches the correct temperature. it’s ready for use.
  • Keeping the chocolate in the correct temperature range (86° to 91°F for dark chocolate; 84° to 86°F for milk and white chocolate) requires a bit of ingenuity. Again, there are numerous ways to go, but I use a neat trick I found on the interweb…place your bowl on a regular heating pad turned to low/medium heat and covered with a dish towel. Check your temperature occasionally to be sure you’re still within range.

Notes

You might be tempted to use chocolate chips instead of chopping a block chocolate but try to avoid that impulse. Many types of chocolate chips have ingredients (stabilizers and preservatives) that interfere with tempering. Best to stick with high quality baking chocolate and leave the chips in the pantry this time.
Updated July, 2018: Instead of a heating pad to keep the temper in chocolate, try using the KitchenAid Precise Heat Mixing Bowl, an attachment for the Kitchen Stand Mixer. It works wonders!
Did you try this technique? Please share your pictures with the world on your social media outlets, tag me at @scotch_scones (on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter) or @scotchandsconesblog (on Facebook), and use the hashtag #scotchandsconesblog. I can’t wait to see your creations!
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  1. Pingback: Having a ball: Easy Dark Chocolate Truffles - Scotch & Scones

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