Good Chocolate Temper
Achieving good chocolate temper is a fundamental skill of the chocolatier. When chocolate is melted and then cooled, cocoa butter within the chocolate can form two different crystallin structures; alpha or beta.
Many of us have seen what happens when chocolate is not kept in a cool place or is warmed and cooled over a period of time. It can become cloudy, dull or outright crumbly. While this doesn't make the chocolate inedible it's not visually appealing and the mouthfeel can be gritty (not pleasant). When these characteristics appear the cocoa butter in the chocolate has formed an abundance of the alpha crystalline structure.
Good temper is the foundation of a good chocolate piece. This is achieved when a chocolatier goes through specific temperature variations to maximize the beta crystallization structure of the cocoa butter within the chocolate. These temperature variations can be slightly different depending on the origin of the cocoa bean and the type of chocolate (milk, dark or white chocolate). The resulting chocolate has a great shine a good "snap" and a delightfully smooth mouthfeel.
As an example we take a Belgian Dark Chocolate made primarily from cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. We begin by raising the temperature to 120 degrees (Fahrenheit), breaking down all the cocoa butter crystals. We then lower to 82 degrees while stirring and allow those beta crystals to form. As the chocolate begins to thicken we pick the perfect time to raise the temperature to 88-89 degrees and the tempered chocolate is ready to make luscious solid bars or coating candy.
Gourmet Cranberry Fruit Thins are pictured above, flavored with pure cranberry concentrate and smothered with (well tempered) luscious Belgian Dark Chocolate; a Cape Cod Chocolatier original!
- Rob Cronin