In our chocolate making workshops in Albuquerque, our participants often get a chance to use the classic tabliering method of chocolate tempering. The tabliering method dates back to the earliest uses of chocolate in Europe around the 1840's and 1850's (even before the super creamy modern version of chocolate bars was created in the 1870's). Pouring some molten chocolate on a stone slab or countertop to temper it is highly impressive - especially when you haven't told your family why you are doing it, but also a tad bit messy.
The "seeding" method is ideal for the neat freaks among us (which Grace is, and Troy is not). This consists of melting part of your chocolate, and reserving a part unmelted for tempering - this unmelted chocolate acts as the "seed" that introduces the right kind of crystals into the chocolate. Here is what you will need:
- Some good REAL chocolate. We use Callebaut, Valrhona, and a number of specialty single plantation chocolates in our shop. You don't necessarily need that level, but look for a chocolate that does NOT have PGPR in the ingredients. PGPR (Polyglycerol polyricinoleate) is a synthetic chemical that many US mass chocolate producers have used in place of real chocolate. Baking chocolate is also not going to work well - it does not have enough cocoa butter. For home bakers, Ghiradelli or Guittard can usually be found in local stores, and the specialty food stores like Whole Foods do sometimes carry Callebaut by the pound. Of course, if you are local to Albuquerque, you can buy chocolate by the pound from us. I will do another post soon comparing chocolate and where you can find it.
- Either a double-boiler or a microwave safe bowl.
- A kitchen towel.
- A candy or infrared thermometer.
- A hair-dryer (I know it sounds weird, but you will thank me for this).
Cocoa butter hardens at room temperature, and it can form six different types of crystals. It is similar in concept to the difference between fine granulated sugar or rock candy - sugar can form different crystals, and cocoa butter can as well. One of these types (Form V to be exact), is when all of the cocoa butter molecules line up in a grid. This forces all of the ingredients in chocolate to be equally distributed throughout the chocolate, giving the best taste and aroma. Moreover, it gives the chocolate its famous gloss and makes it "sharp" and hard (not mushy). Tempering chocolate is the process of making sure your chocolate has these Form V crystals, and tempered chocolate is chocolate with these crystals predominately present. For those of you scientifically inclined, click here for an interesting graphic of the different crystal forms.
We temper chocolate because it gives the best taste, the best aroma, the best mouth feel, and the most beautiful sheen. From a practical standpoint, tempered chocolate also contracts as it cools. This means if we are using molds, it is a lot easier to get our chocolate creations to release.
Now that you understand (hopefully) why we temper, let's get to it. Here are the steps:
1) Separate out our seed. If you are working with dark chocolate, set aside about 1/4th of the chocolate by weight to the side. If you are working with white or milk chocolate, I like to set aside about 1/3rd. The part we separate out is "the seed." Make sure this set aside chocolate is not in one big block, but broken down into smaller pieces. You can use a food processor, but be careful - the food processor will introduce heat which can melt the crystals we want - so pulse it only. You want pieces ideally that are no larger than two or three traditional chocolate bar squares.
3) Add your seed chocolate to the melted chocolate and stir it in. It will reduce the temperature of your melted chocolate, and introduce the right kind of crystals into the mixture. You know you are ready to go when all of your chocolate is integrated (liquid), and you have hit about 88-90 degrees F for dark chocolate, 84-86 degrees F for milk, or 82-84 for white. Your chocolate is in temper!
For those of you wondering about the hair dryer and kitchen towel - this is the bonus. To keep your chocolate in temper and still liquid so you can use it, make sure you put the kitchen towel between your bowl and the counter-top. This will slow the heat loss. If your chocolate starts getting thick, you can heat it up a tad with the hairdryer while stirring. As long as you do not heat it above about 93-94 degrees, you should keep your chocolate in temper.
We will be adding a tabliering method post soon for those of you who want to confound your family by throwing melted chocolate right on your stone counter.