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Temper Yourself

by: Chef Todd Mohr

Homemade chocolate candy for Valentines Day is even more thoughtful and special than the waxy, store bought heart shaped box. Creating your own treats is easy, quick and fun. It’s something the children love to do, and adults become children when working with chocolate.

It’s not as simple as just melting chocolate. To make your own candies or chocolate coated sweets, the chocolate must return to its hard, crunchy state at room temperature.

Have you ever melted chocolate to disastrous results? Most people have. A poor melting procedure will return rough, grainy chocolate or soupy brown liquid that never returns to its normal state.

Chocolate must be melted in a very specific way called tempering. Tempering chocolate correctly assures that it will be hard like a candy bar, or stick to items like a chocolate covered pretzel. Homemade chocolate candy for Valentines day MUST be done this way.

From a science and chemical standpoint, chocolate is a very complex item. When heated, the crystalline structure of the chocolate changes. When cooled, the structure changes again. Tempering chocolate means melting it to a precise temperature, then slowly cooling it back to room temperature without damage to the chemical structure of the chocolate. Otherwise, it will never recover.

The white spots you see on your candy bar are called bloom. When your chocolate has been left in a warm moist place, then cooled, you’ll see those white spots. This is called bloom. Blooming chocolate is not ruined, and tastes the same, but the structure of the candy has taken on moisture, making it visually unappealing. It’s not dangerous, just ugly.

Chocolate can also get moldy, as the water content will allow fungus to grow. Expired bags of chocolate chips left in your refrigerator will grow the blue/green mold very quickly. Chocolate can go rancid when their fats hydrolyze, taking on moisture.

Chocolate can burn. The milk solids in milk chocolate will begin to break down and burn at 130F (54C) and start to look grainy as if someone has added sand. You can never repair this mistake.

Thank goodness that chocolate melts as easily as it does. The fact that your mouth is 98F (36C) is what makes candy for Valentines Day so perfect. Chocolate will melt at 90F (32C), and the warm moist environment of your palate allows maximum enjoyment of this complex treat.

However, to correctly temper chocolate so that it melts and returns to its original state at room temperature, the chocolate must be melted to a precise 110F (43C). This is the optimum temperature to relax the crystal structure of the chocolate without destroying it.

All your homemade chocolate should begin with chips or pieces of chocolate that are the same size to allow for consistent melting. It’s easiest to control the temperature over a double boiler using an instant read digital thermometer.

A double boiler uses softly simmering water in a sauce pan with a metal bowl fitted inside that is at least twice the size of the pan below. Hot moisture or steam that escapes from the sauce pan cannot fold its way onto the chocolate if the bowl is much larger. Moisture in chocolate will cause it to seize and turn to mud.

Melt any measurement of chocolate to 110F (43C), and keep an additional 1/3 of that measurement aside to seed the homemade chocolate later. If you use 1 cup of chips to melt, have another 1/3 cup to seed. If you use 30 grams of chocolate, have 10 grams to seed.

Once the chocolate reaches the target temperature, quickly add the seed chocolate and stir until everything is melted to a smooth, shiny consistency.

The original amount of melted chocolate will take on the crystalline characteristics of the room temperature seed chocolate added to it. It will give the melted chocolate something to aspire to, to become like its brother in the original state.

This correctly tempered chocolate can now be used to make shapes, pour into molds, dip marshmallows or pretzels into, or top cupcakes and petit-fours. You’ll have to work quickly, because the goal of this homemade chocolate is to become stiff at room temperature again.

If the chocolate that you’re using for candy for Valentines day starts to stiffen before you’re finished working, just return it to the double boiler for 10 to 20 seconds to raise the temperature softly.

Tempering chocolate is a simple task that can be quickly mastered and used to express your love, have fun with your children, or just give yourself a deserved snack.

Watch the complete Homemade Chocolate Candy for Valentines Day video.
Online Cooking Classes expert Chef Todd Mohr has helped thousands worldwide to discover the joy of cooking. You can get “The Chocolate at Every Meal Cookbook” for FREE. It’s rich with romantic recipes and ideas for using everyone’s favorite ingredient.

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