Tempering is important because it determines the final gloss, hardness and contraction of chocolate.
When you melt chocolate, the molecules of fat separate. In order to put them back together, you must temper it. There are a variety of ways to do it but the result is always the same. Chocolate is tempered when its temperature is between 84° and 88°F (29° and 31°C).
One of the easiest way to temper it is to place chocolate in the microwave for thirty seconds at a time on high power until the chocolate it melted. Be very careful not to overheat it: The chocolate may not look as if it has completely melted, because it retains its shape.
The chocolate should be only slightly warmer than your bottom lip. You may still see lumps in it once you've stirred it, but don't worry; the residual heat of the chocolate will melt it.
You can also use an immersion blender to break up the lumps and start the recrystallization process.
Usually the chocolate begins to set (recrystallize) along the side of the bowl. As it begins to crystallize, mix those crystals into the melted chocolate and they will begin the recrystallization process.
Chef Torres likes to use a glass bowl because it retains the heat and keeps the chocolate tempered for a long time.
(note: this is one way to temper chocolate. Chef Torres has other options in his book).
How to Check if Your Chocolate is TemperedA simple method of checking tempering is to apply a small quantity of chocolate to a piece of paper or to the point of a knife. If the chocolate has been correctly tempered, it will harden evenly and show a good gloss within 5 minutes.
This feature, text and photo are reprinted with permission from Dessert Circus: Extraordinary Desserts You Can Make At Home (Pbs Series) by Jacques Torres (1998, William Morrow Cookbooks)
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