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The science of tempering chocolate

Posted on : 14 June 2018

Written by: Kayla Burke

When we hear the word ‘chocolatier’,  it brings to mind a man in a brown suede top hat  and a long purple blazer,  the gorgeous Willy Wonka. He depicts a wonderful world of sweets and decadent goodness all within his very own chocolate factory. The classic character from our childhood presents a mouth-watering world where we see the likes of Scrumdiddlyumptious bars, Ever-lasting Gobstoppers and, of course, Wonka Bars. The famous Wonka Bar  was created with pure imagination and some assistance from always smiling oompa loompas. This may  seem surprising but you truly can create your very own Wonka Bar in your own  kitchen, thanks to the science of tempering chocolate.

 I’m not sugar coating it, tempering chocolate actually is a lot easier than it seems. It is crucial when creating smooth, shiny chocolate with that oh so satisfying snap. Tempering your chocolate also eliminates the risk of eating chocolate that is greyish in colour with a slightly gritty texture (something worthy of a Slugworth product for sure!) Now, like the great Willy Wonka said, “Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three.” Three methods that is, to creating a beautiful piece of chocolate.

Think of your kitchen as Wonka’s factory and yourself as the ever-productive, visually mesmerising chocolate fountain. You’ll be mixing and churning your chocolate by hand because “it’s the only way if you want it just right.” Tabling is the first method of tempering chocolate. Like creating that chocolate fountain in your own kitchen, you  must melt your chocolate to 45 degrees and pour two-thirds onto your kitchen bench top. This is where you churn, scrape and move your chocolate around until it reaches the perfect temperature of 27 degrees. Take your cooled down chocolate and transfer it to a heated pot where the thermostat is lowered to the working temperature of your chocolate. Thoroughly mix in your final third of chocolate until very well combined and smooth. Your chocolate should have reached around 32 degrees. If your chocolate sets at room temperature after a few minutes on the back of a plastic scraper then you’ve done it – you’ve tempered chocolate!

The second method is seeding. Not to be confused  with gardening, seeding is heating your chocolate, again to 45 degrees. Instead of churning it on a bench top to cool down, you simply add in a quarter volume of chocolate callets. Callets are the type of  magic Wonka would have loved, they are chocoloate chips designed for melting – not baking! Stir the callets into your chocolate with the thermostat lowered to the chocolates working temperature until they have immersed and melted in. If you’re working in a room that is below 22 degrees, different chocolate will have different setting times. Dark chocolate should set in five minutes, seven for milk and between nine to 10 minutes for white chocolate.

Method three is just knowing your numbers. Don’t let the figures scare you, as the title suggests, there is a science behind this and definitely a method to the madness. No two chocolates are created the same. Milk, dark and white chocolate all have different types of cacao concentrations in addition to cocoa butter. Milk chocolate tempers perfectly between 30-31 degrees, dark chocolate at 31-32 degrees and white at 29-30 degrees.

Tempering chocolate is the process of heating and cooling chocolate to a certain temperature to control all of its crystals. Like building a house, your chocolate will not temper unless it has a solid structure, and that structure is beta crystals. These crystals must be present for you to achieve the desired consistency of your chocolate. Just like each kid that went into Wonka’s Factory,  five different crystals can develop within chocolate. The beta crystal is like Charlie, he is kind, loving and wants nothing but success for Wonka’s factory – he’s the only one you want! Forget Violet, Veruca, Augustus, and Mike TV. You don’t need them when you have Charlie!

See, tempering chocolate can be ‘choc’ full of fun when you know what you’re doing! Now with “so much time, so little to do. Strike that. Reverse it;” there's only 78 days untill the smooth Festival of Chocolate where we will be holding the Callebaut Sydney Royal Chocolate Show. It will be here that festival patrons will be able to observe the Sydney Royal judging process. Tickets to the festival are on sale now. Get yours here.

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