"The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea
and coffee in America which it has in Spain."
Thomas Jefferson
How to Temper Chocolate

Chocolate containing cocoa butter requires tempering. (Merckens chocolates contain pure chocolate liquors combined with cocoa butter, whole milk and other flavors.) This is a process of heating and cooling the chocolate at just the right temperature in order to form the right crystals. Tempering can be very tricky since temperatures must be carefully controlled. But with very little practice, you can get the hang of it. You will need a instant read thermometer in order to make sure you are within the appropriate temperature ranges.
If you can't be bothered with paying attention to the thermometer but you would absolutely love to work with real chocolate, then a chocolate tempering machine is for you. (Don't worry, I know of a professional confectioner who admits that tempering chocolate is his weakness.) With these home chocolate tempering machines, all you have to do is put the chocolate in, push some buttons and you end up with perfectly tempered chocolate. ChocoVision's "Revolation1" Temperer is a tabletop temperer designed to hold 1 1/2 pounds of chocolate.
A few notes before you begin:

The melting point of chocolate is just at or slightly below human body temperature. That is why it melts so easily in the hands and mouth. This low melting point, however, makes it very easy to for chocolate to burn if it is heated over 200F (95C) so you must not heat chocolate directly on the stove top or a flame.

If you heat your chocolate in a double boiler, you must never let the water boil; the water temperature should not exceed 120F (49C). When heating chocolate over water, you must not let any water or steam whatsoever get into the chocolate. This will cause the chocolate to seize and will ruin it for molding or dipping purposes. (If the chocolate does seize, you don't need to throw it away. You can make syrup out of it by stirring in enough cream or milk to a smooth consistency.) Place a towel on your work surface so that you will have a place to put the pan when you remove it from the heat.

You could also melt your chocolate in a warm oven, but do not heat it above 120 (49C). Stir the chocolate occasionally while melting.

I do not recommend using the microwave to melt chocolate. You will end up with hot spots which may actually burn the chocolate and it must be stirred very often. I find it quite a bother to open and close the microwave door every thirty seconds. It is so much easier to use the stove top or the oven.

To temper chocolate:

Measure the amount of Merckens chocolate wafers that you wish to melt and place it in a pan. If you are using a block of chocolate, break it up into small pieces. (You can use a large knife to chop the chocolate.) Now measure about a third of that amount and set it aside. For example, you will need to set aside an extra 6 ounces of chocolate if you are melting 18 ounces. This chocolate will be stirred in later to get the desired "seed" crystals.

Slowly begin melting the chocolate. Stir frequently until the chocolate reaches between 105F (41C) 110F (45C). You will need an instant-read thermometer to accurately measure the temperature.

Be careful not to go over this temperature. Remove the pan from the heat and dry the bottom if necessary. Now, you will need to add the un-melted chocolate that you set aside. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is melted and the chocolate's temperature is between 88-90F (31-32C). The chocolate should be kept at this temperature until it is used. If you need to keep the chocolate in temper for a long period of time, you could try placing a heating pad under the towel that your bowl is resting on. You will need to keep turning the pad on and off, because the constant heat will be too much. Be sure to stir often and keep a close eye on the temperature.

If your chocolate gets too cool to work with, you must bring the temperature back up to 90F (32C).

To test how well you did, you can dip a dry spoon into the chocolate and let it sit for two to three minutes. If it is still sticky, it is not in temper. Correctly tempered chocolate results in a beautiful shiny chocolate. You will know when chocolate has been incorrectly tempered when the results are sticky, dull, streaky or spotted.

After you have molded your tempered chocolate or used it for dipping, do not allow it to cool too quickly or you will see streaks or spots. The temperatures given above apply to dark chocolate, but if you are tempering milk chocolate or white chocolate, the following temperature ranges must be used instead:

Milk 86-88F (30-31C)
White 80-82F (27-28C)

Ideally, the temperature of the room should be around 68F.

If you did not temper the chocolate properly, don't worry, you can start all over using the same chocolate. Chocolate can be melted and re-melted over and over. Just remember to add in a couple extra ounces of seed chocolate when you get to the tempering stage.

Copyright 2007 cocoaexpression.com