Manual Tempering on a Stove
Updated: Feb 10
You can follow the instructions without reading What is Tempering? and get the right results. I recommend reading it before this if you hope to understand the whole talk of crystals.
Manual tempering with a double boiler (bain-marie) is my preferred way of tempering small batches of chocolate. I always lean towards physics based solutions over chemistry, as in, I would rather do things with temperature and time rather than add in other ingredients/additives that would change my recipe and potentially remove from the flavour, texture, aroma, nutrition, or otherwise experience of eating our chocolate.
Photo by Ifyougiveablondeakitchen
The key to perfecting this method is to know your chocolate’s tempering temperatures. I will add instructions below on figuring this out for a new chocolate you do not know the temperatures of. Most of the time, try the basic: 45-28-31 ºC and it will work. Commercial cooking chocolate will have the temperatures written on the packaging if they’re different. Conspiracy chocolate goes by 45-28-31. Our dark milk chocolate goes by 45-28-28.5.
In this method we take the chocolate to 3 different temperatures:
Up - Break all the crystals in all shapes and only have floating particles
Down - Allow shape V to appear, go even lower enabling it to crystallise further, on the way creating a little bit shape IV.
Up - Break the shape IVs below shape V’s melting point, allowing shape V and nothing else in your chocolate’s cacao butter content.
Then we put the chocolate in a mould, in the fridge to set. Importantly your fridge has NO smell or it will impart on setting chocolate. Your home fridge will for sure make chocolate gently smell/taste of onion, garlic, and veg. If you do it there, cling wrap the back of the chocolate and don’t let it touch the air. It’s not the best texture on chocolate but more important to protect the flavour. Don’t allow folds in this cling wrap or it’ll get stuck in the chocolate.
To figure out the temperature from scratch, go up to 45º, this part is a constant. Then, go safely below 28º, for example 27º. Then go up to 28º, and try to temper. If it doesn’t set right, go again and increase the third temp by 0.5 C, and try again until it looks close to perfect. It won’t be perfect yet but close. Now once you know your third temp, do this again, this time increasing the middle temp, previously 27, by 0.3 until you optimise.
Above is a test you can do to check the tempering state of the chocolate. Coat the back of a spoon with some chocolate and leave in the fridge for a few minutes. If the chocolate comes our glossy without lines and set, it is tempered. If it comes out with some white lines and is melty to the touch, it is not properly tempered.
Mould or baking tray lined with parchment paper for the chocolate to go into once tempered
Glass or stainless steel bowl which fits snug in the saucepan, more than 2 inch away from the bottom
Larger bowl full of ice water
Whisk or rubber spatula, can do with spoon
Stick or laser thermometer (or another type!).
If you use a laser thermometer, make sure to pick up chocolate from the bottom of the bowl to the top frequently for the surface to reflect the temp inside.
1 - Take the chocolate up to 45ºC in a bain-marie
Set your double boiler on: saucepan with an inch or two of water with a bowl on top of it. Set the bowl on top and make sure it fits tightly into the pan but does not touch the water. Start your stove on med-low and get your chocolate into the bowl.
MAKE SURE no water gets into the bowl. A drop of water and your chocolate is ruined. Once the water simmers you can turn off the stove and use the remaining heat from the steam.
Use your spatula or whisk to mix the chocolate as it melts gently. use your thermometer to see when it reaches 45ºC. Tale the bowl off the steaming saucepan.
Put a lid on the saucepan and keep the water hot inside.
2 - Bring it down to 28ºC in ice water
Take your chocolate bowl and dip it a little bit in the ice water, mixing frequently, holding the stick thermometer in with the other hand, or a friend’s help.
MAKE SURE you are scraping the surface of the bowl. Don’t let any chocolate stay stuck to the bowl for too long and solidify against the surface. It will not be tempered as it won’t go up to the next temperature.
When your thermometer reads 28ºC, take the bowl out of the ice water.
3 - bring your chocolate up to 31ºC on the remaining heat in the saucepan
THIS is the most critical step to do accurately. You are allowed to go below 28 in step 2 as long as the chocolate doesn’t go solid, it’s just not necessary. You can go above 45º in step 1, it’s just dangerous to cook as the proteins hard like an egg (when chocolate “seizes”) and also risking to continue conching or “cooking” the chocolate changing it’s flavour to more quiet and bitter. So we are careful to not go too high in temperature. However, if you go above 31º in step 3 by a decimal you risk breaking shape V and needing to start over. So focus on this step.
In this writing where I say 31º, this depends on your chocolate of course, here I assume 31º is the third temperature. Adjust for this based on what your chocolate’s third temperature is, it’s usually close to 31º.
Place your bowl back over the steaming water saucepan, and take the chocolate up to 31º mixing constantly. This time, take into account the residual heat and your thermometer’s delay. Take it off the heat at 30.4 or 30.5º, and keep mixing allowing the temp to climb slowly, and reach 31º. If it plateaus below, take it back on the heat momentarily but be careful not to go above 31º.
Make sure you’ve mixed in the chocolate that was against the bowl’s surface.
Now pour this into your mould or parchment lined baking tray, and refrigerate around 15-20 min, until it releases from the mould. With a polycarbonate mould you will see it release from below. With parchment paper, gently lower the paper below and check if it's easy. It should easily fall out of the mould if held upside down, or at least with a wiggle.