Tempering chocolate may sound like a technique that only legendary chocolatiers like Jacques Torres can master—but it's not, Jacques says.
Sure, Jacques admits that the classic way to temper chocolate—called tabliering—requires a bit of work, room and patience, but he actually prefers a much easier tempering method anyway … using a microwave.
Get all of Jacques' tips + tricks for tempering chocolate below. (Yes, he explains the more complicated tempering methods, too, just in case!)
Why do you temper chocolate?
Chocolate is tempered so that after it has been melted, it retains its gloss and hardens again without becoming chalky and white—which happens when the molecules of fat separate and form on top of the chocolate.
What do you use tempered chocolate for?
How do you temper chocolate?
There are a variety of ways to temper, but Jacques says he likes to use a microwave because it's the most foolproof, especially for beginners.
Below, he explains how—along with how to use other, more traditional, tempering methods.
HOW TO TEMPER CHOCOLATE IN A MICROWAVE (ie. the easiest way to temper chocolate + Jacques Torres' favorite way)
One of the easiest ways to temper chocolate is to chop it into small pieces and then place it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time on high power until most of the chocolate is melted. Be very careful not to overheat it. (The temperature of dark chocolate should be between 88˚F and 90˚F, slightly warmer than your bottom lip. It will retain its shape even when mostly melted. White and milk chocolates melt at a temperature approximately 2˚F less because of the amount of lactose they contain.) Any remaining lumps will melt in the chocolate's residual heat. Use an immersion blender or whisk to break up the lumps. Usually, chocolate begins to set, or crystallize, along the side of the bowl. As it sets, mix those crystals into the melted chocolate to temper it. A glass bowl retains heat well and keeps the chocolate tempered longer.
HOW TO TEMPER CHOCOLATE THE CLASSIC WAY—WITH THE TABLIERING METHOD
The classic way to temper chocolate is called tabliering. Two-thirds of the melted chocolate (Jacques uses a bain marie to melt chocolate) is poured onto a marble or another cold, non-porous work surface. The chocolate is spread out and worked with a spatula until its temperature is approximately 81˚F. At this stage, it is thick and begins to set. This tempered chocolate is then added to the remaining non-tempered chocolate and mixed thoroughly until the mass has a completely uniform temperature. If the temperature is still too high, part of the chocolate is worked further on the cold surface until the correct temperature is reached. This is a lot of work, requires a lot of room, and makes a big mess. (Hey, at least he's honest!)
HOW TO TEMPER CHOCOLATE WITH THE SEEDING METHOD
Another way to temper chocolate is called seeding. In this method, add small pieces of unmelted chocolate to melted chocolate. The amount of unmelted chocolate to be added depends on the temperature of the melted chocolate, but is usually ¼ of the total amount. It is easiest to use an immersion blender for this, or a whisk.
How can I tell if my chocolate is tempered correctly?
A 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 a few minutes.