Why is Chocolate Tempering so Challenging?
Those Darn Little Details
We wrestle with chocolate tempering at times, usually because of the "little details," like adding a cold ingredient to molten chocolate..., and maybe the kids show up in the middle of it.
It's not always easy to remember each and every step on how to temper chocolate at home. We simply just don't do it regularly enough..., and the KIDS are there :)
Chocolates solid structure is the most sought after result of tempering, of course. But sometimes we fixate on tempering as a mean to reform it into something desirable for that special gift idea.
We go to great lengths to prepare this exquisite food in such a way, the eye cannot resist its lure.
Sometimes, while we're thinking about the outcome of the perfect chocolate candy, we overlook durability in the process.
Remember, cocoa beans are dried seeds (harvested from the fruit of the cocoa pod). Once roasted, they hold no moister.
This amazing universal food is almost in complete contrast to its watery past. Cocoa powder is a very dry compound requiring a fat, like cocoa butter, to meld with it to make it solid (or melt like butter).
Imagine adding fiber mesh to concrete..., it enhances the strength & durability. Cocoa powder's like a fiber reinforcement to the cocoa butter.
The method we use to heat chocolate has a lot to do with the way in which we achieve a suitable chocolate temper (indirect heat with double boilers, microwave, or direct heat such as open flame burners).
You might think the melted chocolate in this picture looks just fine. The truth is, I walked away from it while it was molten chcolate (little shirt-tail tuggers).
This scoop of tempered chocolate actually set too long by itself, bringing the chocolate out of temper (below 81 °F, 27.77 °C)
Stronger than Steel, Softer than Lead
In order for chocolate tempering to take place, the cocoa butter particles in melted chocolate need to crystallize and rearrange into a stronger, more durable form when solid. Think of it as tempering molten steel..., it goes through a similar process to become stronger, otherwise it stays soft when cooled.
Cocoa butter (fat) essentially melds with the cocoa solids and sugar, intimately binding, into what appears to be one solid.
Nevertheless, the dry particles continue to stay dry even in a liquid state. After all, we are heating & melting fat with dry powder ingredients..., there is no moisture to make the powder soluble..., yet.
We can bring the structure of cocoa butter crystals into alignment (strong or weak) through heating, cooling, and movement.
You see by the results..., it's important to maintain proper steps and temperatures while tempering chocolate.
A lot of chocolate bloom & very spotty-dry due to cocoa butter separation (bought a few candy bars that look like this).
Some say "you ain't never gonna fix ugly."
That may be true for me, but the beauty of a mess up in chocolate tempering..., simply re-melt, & follow the simple steps to sucessful tempered chocolate.
Perform the steps just right and you'll have a nice, crisp, glossy piece of tempered chocolate.
Allow molten chocolate to set & cool on it's own and you get softer, pliable (or crumbly), drab piece of chocolate...
But then It would be time to start over...
It's really not too hard to keep the chocolate in temper around 88 °F (31.11 °C). Chocolate tempering will fail if temperatures either dip below 81 °F (27.22 °C), or reach above 90 °F; (32.22 °C).
Unless you are going to melt it for a different use, real chocolate is already tempered when you buy it and doesn't need tempering. Especially if it happens to melt in your mouth by accident.
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