So, why temper chocolate anyway, can't I just melt it, mold it, and be done with chocolate candy making?
So what are some of the chocolate facts on tempering?
The ability to temper chocolate to solid form, has only been in known existence for a mere eight generations or so (sources indicate since 1847).
The art of chocolate candy making is like the art of painting, sculpting, or even construction. You really want a good clean elegant appeal even after the bite.
Sometimes, our attempts at making chocolates work out great.
Other times it don't, and our candies end up looking
like the kids played cars with them. Not a very good chocolate image is it?
Those who find the fuss worth the effort know the finished tempered chocolate candy bar releases easily from the mold.
That chocolate dipped strawberry will have a gleam to it, and a nice gloss with no traces of bloom.
Depending on the type of chocolate used (white, milk, or dark), we heat it (respectively), from about 98 °F (36 °C) to about 112 °F (44 °C) to melt all structuring crystals (strong or weak).
We then cool it slightly, using one of several methods to temper
(like the seeding or tabling method) to induce stronger crystals to form.
Entice even more of the stronger crystals to form by bring the temperature back up to a suitable temper range of about 88 °F (31 °C) while mixing and moving it.
We then hold that final temperature until we've used it to make candy bars, chocolate dipped strawberries, or whatever.
simple, right? It is not over yet.The chocolate facts continue!
As the properly tempered chocolate cools from a molten liquid to solid, it will tighten (contraction) somewhat, ever so slightly shrinking around the dipped centers, within the mold cavity or whatever.
This is a natural occurrence with properly tempered chocolate.
The shrinking or contraction is kind of like squishing soft clay with your hand so it will ooze out between your fingers.
Skipping the simple steps on how to temper chocolate can result in a dull, drab chocolate finish.
It's very possible to feel the cocoa butter on the surface and I'm sure the chocolate won't release very well from the mold cavity.
The chocolate can also get kind of a tackiness to it, and won't have a cool sensation and cocoa release either as it begins to melt in the mouth.
As the chocolate candy cools, cocoa butter (fat) bloom might begin to appear.
Even in a liquid state chocolate is very dry.
You could be melting chocolate for strawberries to dip. Suddenly what should have been tempered chocolate thickens up into a thick gooey glob.
What was going to be perfectly tempered chocolate for candy making, is now seized chocolate.
Seized chocolate, (seizing) takes place and it shows up in different forms. Thick, gooey, small hard chunks, and whatever keeps the melted chocolate from being smooth and creamy.
Some of the obvious reasons is moisture, and too much heat.
But it's not a complete disaster, and there are remedies for chocolate when it is seized.
If, after all the structuring crystals melt and molten chocolate is allowed to cool down (less than 81 F, 27 C), weaker crystals will form instead.
This makes it easier for the cocoa butter to separate, resulting in a softer-solid with a drab finish.
The finished chocolate will melt too easily, and you can feel (sometimes see) the cocoa butter on it.
Within a few days (sometimes right away) you might notice white streaks or a blotchy gray forming (called bloom).
Even though it looks bad, the chocolate simply needs tempered again if there are no added liquid ingredients.
You'll sometimes see fractal marks (bloom) on the surface when improperly tempered (like dry water spots on a window).
Other times you temper chocolate properly, but you still see marks on your chocolate bar.
Don't confuse those marks with "chocolate bloom." It's very possible that they are "mold marks" just like these here on this chocolate image.
They usually show up when using a cheaper thermoformed plastic mold.
A good polycarbonate mold reduces those type of marks dramatically and it's worth paying extra for polycarbonate plastic injected molds.
So, when you temper chocolate properly, the molten chocolate will cool to solid again with a good semi-gloss or satin appearance and it will release from the mold easily.
One last chocolate fact!
Drop a good tempered bar of chocolate on the marble counter..., it kind of sounds like you dropped a ceramic tile. That's solid chocolate!
Otherwise, it might sound like a dry chunk of clay hitting the counter.
There's something about a good crunch when biting a solid chocolate bar. You'll get the sensation of a cool, cocoa flavor as it begins to melt in your mouth. It should be crisp instead of being supple like soft wax.
When you temper chocolate right, it should also last easily in storage for several months, even up to a year, depending on type of chocolate and ingredients used.
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So, why should I care that cocoa butter has "crystals" anyway?
Chocolate is a mysterious compound all by itself.
Just like steal, we temper chocolate to enhance its durability.
Take a look at cocoa butter and the natural science behind crystal formation.
"Don't get too hung up on tempering at higher temperatures (above 115 °F (46 °C) for dark chocolate).
Remember, chocolate melts at body temperature. The goal is to simply eliminate the 'weak' cocoa butter crystals."