Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Well, it is a very important factor when making chocolate. Tempering allows the chocolate to set solid, become shiny, snap and create a smooth texture. There are three important elements to consider while tempering - Movement, Time and Temperature.
The natural fat of the cocoa bean is cocoa butter and in here there are crystals called beta crystals. There are 6 of them altogether, but it’s the 5th crystal which is the important one and the one we are interested in.
In order for all the beta crystals to lose their formation, we have to warm our chocolate up to 45c so they are all flying around and not joined together. The moment 45c is met immediately start to cool down the chocolate to 28c and this needs to be done by movement (you can’t just let the chocolate sit there on its own to cool down as the result will be non-shiny chocolate). It’s important never to leave the chocolate alone, time and movement are very important. At 28c exactly the 5th crystal will start to activate and “make friends” with the other crystals. As we warm the chocolate back up again, between 28c and 30/32c (depending on which type of chocolate you are using), the 6 crystals will start to join together to make a solid structure (forming stable crystals). At this point, all the crystals are now “best buddies” and have formed an interlocking jigsaw puzzle which creates a solid crystal structure. This results in a chocolate that sets hard and glossy, has a satisfying snap when broken and tastes smooth in the mouth.
The secret to tempering is very precise temperatures and the room environment is another important factor to consider. If these precise temperatures are not followed the chocolate may appear with a white bloom on the surface, it could end up with a dry and crumbly texture and there won’t be a snap. The white bloom is just the cocoa butter which hasn’t been able to form into a solid structure and now has separated itself from the cocoa mass and has risen to the surface.
But don’t despair as you can temper and untemper as many times as you would like - just don’t burn it! You will know when this happens as it smells horrid and it will go black and crumbly like a biscuit. Neither should you add any liquid to it as this turns it into a ganache, which is very nice but not handy for pouring your tempered chocolate into a mould.
There are many different methods to temper chocolate and I cover this extensive subject in more detail in my experiences.