Tempering: From bean to bar, cocoa to chocolate

by bean.blah.blah

This time we’re going to talk about “tempering”, one of the most exciting procedures of chocolate making. This will be a great issue as we’ve got an experienced British chocolate maker/chocolatier Chef Jon Hogan who've been in the industry for a long time to share insights from his direct experience.

"To temper chocolate it requires three things, time, temperature control and movement manipulation."

Tempering is a key determination in chocolate making. Quality chocolate products are results of this delicate process. In nature, chocolate is so sensitive to temperature reaction that it has direct result in molecular bonding in possible 6 patterns of structures. The most desirable crystal is the Beta 5 crystal (Type V) structure which produces a glossy, firm chocolate, and has the best and cleanest snap when broken. It’s also the most stable crystalline form, melting only near body temperature.

The untempered chocolate could appear in 2 different ways, Cocoa Fat Bloom; which is where the chocolate has been untempered through the crystal structure exceeding the optimum temperature of 31 Celsius degree therefore the cocoa fat crystals will appear white and streaky in appearance with a clear evidence in separation. The other commonly known defect is Sugar Bloom; Which occurs through exposure to moisture and humidity ie Fluctuation in temperature causing condensation and moisture marks to form which encourages Hydroscopic sugar crystals to migrate to the surface as a result take away the shine of the temper and leaves a matt dull like finish to the chocolate. 

From working with chocolate made in a craft scale from bean to bar and also working with chocolate from the ancestors larger volume manufacturers, I have experienced working with chocolate from all ends of the spectrum. There are several approaches to making this. All the tempering methods are to achieve the exact same result and all need an in depth precision in temperature manipulation control following a unique temperature curve depending on the specific chocolate your tempering.

Marble Tabling Method: This method involves heating and cooling back down and recreating the crystals on the cold granite or marble surface area shocking the fat crystals to form and attach and bond to one another, whilst agitating the crystals to form Beta 5 crystal (Type V).

Seeding Method: Here you add seed as crystal pellets (Type V) to pre-melted 45 Celsius degree chocolate to form and encourage the crystal growth within the molecular structure of chocolate.

Microwave Direct Tempering Method: This is how you directly temper the seed in pellet form without exceeding the optimum temperature of the mass so you never loose the correct crystal structure.

Ice bain marie method: Following exactly the same as all of the above heating to 45 Celsius degree as a guide, then placing the bowl or container of melted chocolate into the another deeper container filled with ice water. This will shock the outside of the container and encourage crystal growth to from into the mass of the melted chocolate this will be stirred into the mass until temperature cools dramatically and correct crystal structure is formed with lump free fluid. Viscous chocolate will be good to go for molding and casting into solids bars or shells or any desired ambient products.

Above all these tempering chocolate needs a lot of practice and patience as all chocolates have their own personality with different amounts of fluidity Viscosity (cocoa fats) therefore tastes and textures therefore varieties following the tempering curve. 

"My preferred method is to use a marble or granite surface as I find it therapeutic and I find this to be the most efficient method for speed."

Next time we will stay with Jon to discuss about the process of "chocolate molding". You may also check his personal blog here to learn more about his story.