Adventures in Tempering

I’m finally getting the bulk of the last two batches, one milk and one dark tempered and ready to send to the crew of guinea pigs that have volunteered to sample some of my early work. I’m learning a great deal about tempering in this process. One lesson is that all thermometers are not made equal. I’ve been using a pistol-style laser thermometer for the last few tempers, which has worked out quite nicely. It only reads the surface temperature, but that seems to be perfectly adequate for tempering, and lets me shoot temperature readings without needing to clean a probe. My wife was kind enough to buy me a fancy probe thermometer, which I thought would be better. The chocolate didn’t feel right at the temps that the probe was supplying, and, indeed, it didn’t temper correctly. I’ll need to calibrate this one if I want to use it in the future.

Wilhelm Wanders of Chocolaterie Wanders in the DC area sent some useful tips about controlling the cooling process after the tempered chocolate is poured. The cooling process determines what the final gloss on the chocolate is going to look like. I’m at the stage where I’m worrying about the temper, so have occasionally thrown the poured chocolate into the freezer to get it to set up correctly. This yields some really funny surfaces and is not recommended. This last batch I let cool at room temperature (at least room temperature on an August night that started at about 76 degrees and fell to 55 or so overnight) and got a very nice result, at least in the batch of dark chocolate that I tempered. Here’s the result after setting up overnight:

Tempered dark chocolate

(Yes, I need to splurge on some bar molds…)

The surface that the chocolate cools on makes a big difference to the final look of the chocolate also. This cooled on aluminum foil that was flattened to the extent I could by hand, and the foil side of this chocolate is mirror smooth. Pro shops will use acetates (this is also how they get printed designs on chocolate), which also yields a super shiny surface. Sort of cheating, but I’m willing to experiment at this point.

Now, the milk chocolate was a different story. I used nearly exactly the same hand tempering process, heating the chocolate to ~115F, cooling to 91F, mushing 20% of the chocolate on chilled marble, then remixing and bringing the mixture to 86F or so. This is milk chocolate, so the melt temperatures I was using are about 2-3 degrees lower than the dark. Here’s the chocolate after the pour, at about 83F:

83F milk chocolate

It’s super shiny, and starting to set up. About an hour later, it’s close to room temperature, about 76F. Still got a good shine, and it’s getting reasonably solid.

setup tempered milk chocolate

Astute observers will note the sample taken from the upper left corner for scientific purposes. I went to bed feeling pretty good about this result, unaware of the nasty surprise awaiting me in the morning:

bloomed milk

Yikes! This is nearly the same result that I got when cooling the chocolate in the freezer. It happened instantly in the freezer, and just took longer this time. I can’t tell if this is straightforward bloom on the chocolate or if some ingredient is reacting badly. The cream power I used had an anti-caking agent in it, so perhaps that accounts for this odd behavior. This was setting up on parchment paper, and the parchment paper side shows some quite pleasant marble patterns:

parchment patterns

I could pretend that I did this on purpose, but this is pure accident. Any chocolate brains out there have any hints on why the milk chocolate might be reacting this way?


3 Responses to Adventures in Tempering

  1. Patrick says:

    really really nice work you have here!!!!

    i had a post once about the same topic! see it here!

    lets trade links if you want to.. just let me know!
    i’ll give you a stumble upon thumbs up for now!

  2. “it’s close to room temperature, about 76F”

    I would say Bingo. Pretty hot room to expect good temper without bloom. Try 68F.

  3. Robert says:

    I would have one suggestion, same as above, that you need the room to be cooler. At least below 70. 60-65 degrees would be ideal. Also, when chocolate has been tempered and then poured into a mold it is going to start multiplying the crystals formed and setting up. During this process of the crystals forming it actually creates heat. The heat expended from the chocolate will actually sit on top of the chocolate like a warm blanket and sometimes throw off the temper. I would suggest getting a fan and blowing the air right over the chocolate to keep cooler air circulating over the chocolate constantly…

    With looking at the milk chocolate and seeing your procedure…i would think that the temper was probably off before you even poured it into the mold…So check the temper and the surrounding and you will find success!

    Have a great day…

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