Ingredients

3 lbs. chocolate Note: Go for a chocolate that you really love the taste of and stay away from those choco-buttons in party shops! They are often not even chocolate!

Tools:
1200 watt microwave
Large tempered glass bowl
1 silicon spatula
Candy thermometer, if you have it, if not you can use a meat thermometer
Hammer or a knife

Directions

1. Chop chocolate into chunks, roughly, 1-2 inches each. Note: I prefer a good whack with a hammer, but to each his own on that one.
2. Toss 2/3 of the chunks in a thick tempered glass bowl (this helps with even temperature distribution), reserving 1/3 for seeding.
3. Put the bowl in the microwave and set it for one minute. When it’s done, take it out and check to see if there are any hot spots forming, or any melting occurring. If so, take you silicon spatula, and stir.
4. Place back into the microwave for another minute, and out again to stir, until chocolate has reached a mostly liquid form. Note: It’s best to go in increments like this, as chocolate has a tendency to burn. A little careful watching, though, and you’ll be fine.
5. When chocolate has reached a primarily liquid state, place it on the counter, and begin to “seed” the hot chocolate with the reserved chunks, stirring all the while. Note: The term "seeding" simply means to add cold chocolate to hot liquid chocolate while agitating. Stir until chocolate chunks are completely dissolved, then add some more. Repeat this process until your seeding chocolate has been used up.
6. As you stir, you should notice the temperature of the chocolate begin to cool by feeling the side of the bowl. Keep seeding and stirring until the chocolate feels cooler than your skin temperature. The desired temp is between 88-89 degrees. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to put your finger in the chocolate and it should be slightly cooler than your finger. If you don\'t feel comfortable with that method, grab your meat thermometer, and stir until chocolate reaches about 87-88 degrees. Remember, cool to the touch is best.

Recipe courtesy of Hallie Baker, Turtle Alley Chocolates, 2009
Most people shudder at the thought of hand tempering chocolate. With a little attention to detail and patience, it is ultimately no more difficult than anything else one attempts in the kitchen. Really!

When tempering chocolate, technique is important, but equally as important is the atmosphere in which the tempering goes on. Chocolate doesn't like heat or humidity. It's happiest in a dry, cool environment. Bearing this in mind, let your kitchen cool down if you have been cranking the oven all day, or get the AC going. Better yet, temper chocolate in the cool of the morning, or in the cooler months.

Lastly, remember that if a stab at chocolate tempering does not succeed, you can always go out and get more chocolate, heat up the failed temper, and re-seed until you get it right. The proportions for tempering are simple: 2/3 hot chocolate to 1/3 seeding chocolate.

Today we're going to learn about tempering chocolate in a microwave. The equipment we're going to need is a regular microwave. 1,200 watts should work. You need a good, thick tempered-glass bowl. It helps with the heat distribution, so that you can melt more carefully.

A couple of silicone spatulas. They can handle high heats without being deformed in any way. A standard meat thermometer you can find in any grocery store. A standard hammer. And a knife. This knife is a little larger than one that you would probably have in your house, but your home knife selection, I'm sure, has something that is comparable to this.

When tempering chocolate in a microwave, it's just a modicum of things you need. One of the things you need is chocolate. You want to pick good chocolate. You want to pick chocolate you like. You can go into any grocery store.

There's tons of good chocolate now. Pick what you like. Do not get those horrible little disks of chocolate in party shops, because they just taste terrible. And any good chocolate that you can buy that you like to eat, you can temper in your microwave. It's really simple.

I prefer a chocolate that's got about 70% cocoa. It's got a nice round finish to it. If you go really high up in the percentage of cocoa, it will be a little trickier to temper, because there's just not enough butter fat in it. So I say around 70 is good.

To get this chocolate into pieces that really are best to temper, you can use a hammer or you can use a knife. I prefer a hammer, but it's up to you. Just a good whack. And basically, you want your pieces to end up about an inch or two. Just about. It doesn't have to be exact.

You can also use a knife. This knife is gigantic, but most chef knives that are sharp will work. This will allow you to be just a little bit more exact with your pieces. Remember, the closer your pieces are to being uniform in shape, the easier it will be for you to melt them down.

We're going to reserve about a third of this chocolate so that we can seed it when we get it to a liquid form. The thing about tempering chocolate is it's loaded with sugar and it's loaded with cream. So when using a microwave, that can generate such high heat, you really just want to cycle it on for a minute or two at a time. You don't want to burn it. It's a nightmare when it's burned.

So keeping that in mind, try to keep your pieces fairly uniform. Reserve about a third. And into the microwave it goes. You'll want to put this on for about two minutes to start.

Your bowl should be thick. The glass tempered bowl is key for making sure you don't get too many hot spots. All we want to do is cycle the chocolate on and off and stir it in between, every two minutes or so.

This chocolate has been in the microwave for about two minutes. As you can see, it's starting to melt, but it's still got some chunks in it. It's really important at this point to stir this thoroughly. Move those chunks around. So the hot chocolate is slowly being cooled down by these chunks of chocolate, which you can see are still in there.

We're going to go again into the microwave for probably just a minute or a minute and a half, until we lose those chunks. But first, we need to make sure we're letting the chunks slowly get into this hot chocolate. The ideal format for this, when we're ready to start seeding it with chocolate, the cold chocolate, is more of a liquid. So we're almost there, but we're going to have to go back in that microwave for just a minute or two.

Two and a half minutes total with one stop in between to get it to this liquid state. You just have to stir it up and see where you are. This is just the temperature you want it to be. You want it to look just like this before you start to actually seed the chocolate, which is the tempering process.

So we're going to need to chop up a little bit more chocolate. This is called seeding. And basically, what it is is it's putting cold chocolate into hot chocolate. The cold chocolate cools down the hot chocolate while giving it a stability of solid molecules.

So you're going to throw in enough to-- maybe about half again. And you're just going to slowly stir this in. A silicone spatula is key for this, because they can handle a lot of heat. And if there's any sort of-- if things get too hot, you don't want the spatulas to delaminate or get unsanitary, and silicon is really an amazing tool for that.

So here we are, just stirring away. And as you can see, those chunks are already starting to dissipate into the hot chocolate. A lot of tempering is paying attention. It's about looking at it and it's about feeling it.

Probably the best way I was taught was-- chocolate, when it's tempered, should be slightly cooler than your own temperature. So while you're holding this bowl and stirring the chocolate, when it starts to feel slightly cool to your touch, it's getting close. That takes a lot of years to figure out, and a lot of hanging around chocolate. So another option is a trusty meat thermometer. This is going to be able to get you close enough to the temperature you want it to be without there being a lot of guesswork.

OK, so we've been seeding and tempering the chocolate now. From beginning to end, this process has taken about 10 minutes. The temperature-- once again, the temperature of the room really makes a difference. At this point, it's the right texture. It's still moving fluidly. And it's the right temperature. It feels a little cool to my hands.

But just to make sure, and to take some of the guesswork out of it, the meat thermometer is your friend. 88 to 90 degrees should be fine. So make sure you get that meat thermometer right in the bulk of the chocolate, and you can watch the temperature. And this is right around 90, so it's just getting ready to be perfect for doing whatever you want to do.

Tempering Chocolate
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