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Have you ever noticed the difference between a good chocolate bar and one made by an industrial chocolate maker? A good chocolate bar shines bright, is firm to the touch and breaks with a peculiar snap and melts as soon as it’s in your mouth. The other one doesn’t have any of these qualities. Why? Because of the purity of the ingredients and the process of tempering.

At Oona, chocolate is created from cacao beans and not from cocoa solids, cocoa butter, cocoa powder and emulsifiers that have to be then carefully concocted in the chocolate bar. Tempering perfectly becomes even more important considering there are no emulsifiers to hide behind.

Crystal structures​

In a cacao bean, around 35 to 55% (depends on the cocoa bean) is composed of fat crystals which collectively form cocoa butter. The science behind how they crystallise is complicated. However in the simplest words, these fat crystals can crystallise in at least 6 different crystal structures or polymorphs depending on the conditions. Each of them different from the other. Now let us take a look at the crystal forms in cacao:

Cocoa fat crystal type, melting temperature and characteristics

Process of tempering​

Each of the 6 crystal structures melt at different temperatures. We start by melting the chocolate and warming it above 40 C (degrees Celsius) to melt all the crystals.

Later the chocolate is cooled down to a temperature above 26 C to form only the crystals 4 and 5.

Finally, we raise the temperature again to above 30 C to melt the form 4 crystals leaving behind the form 5 crystals.

Please note that the tempering temperatures for different chocolates varies based on the chocolate created and the different ingredients of the chocolate. An approximate temperature guide for different chocolates can be seen in the image below.

Tempering process
Process of tempering

Methods of tempering:

Seeding

This is probably the easiest method for small quantities if you already have some tempered chocolate. Melt the chocolate that you need to temper and bring its temperature above 45 C (depending on the chocolate). Chop the tempered chocolate and begin adding it to the melted chocolate in small quantities till the temperature drops to 32 C. Make sure you continuously agitate the mixture. Chocolate should now be tempered.

Bain-marie/Heat gun

When you do not have tempered chocolate, melt 2/3rd of the chocolate using a bain-marie or a heat gun while constantly stirring to avoid the chocolate from burning. Once the temperature is around 45 C, start adding the remaining 1/3rd of the chocolate and keep adding and stirring till the temperature goes down to 28 C. Now heat the mixture using a bain-marie or a heat gun back to 32 C. This would have tempered the chocolate.

Table tempering

Table tempering is similar to the method above with just one minor difference. The chocolate is cooled rapidly using marble or granite tabletop. Also it is great to temper larger quantities of chocolate. Melt all the chocolate using bain-marie or a heat gun and raise the temperature to around 45 C. Maintain the temperature of the table between 24 C and 26 C and then pour 2/3rd of the chocolate on the table. Using a palette knife and a scraper, constantly move and agitate the chocolate till it reaches 32 F. You will notice the chocolate starting to thicken. Pour the chocolate back into the container and stir it with the rest of the chocolate till it is combined well. The temperature of the mixture should be around 32 C. In case it is lower, use the heat gun to heat it back up to 32 C.

A quick check for tempering

To test if the chocolate is tempered well, we dip the tip of a knife inside the chocolate and take it out and let it set for 4-5 minutes. If it is firm with no streaks (signifying bloom) and has a beautiful shine to it, we know that it is tempered. If it takes longer than usual or looks dull or streaky and crumbles when broken, then it is not tempered.

A good chocolate is always tempered well. However, you don’t need to temper chocolate if you need to make a ganache or hot chocolate or just use it for dipping.

A good chocolate is firm but melts your heart when it melts in your mouth and now you know why it is so.

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