Have you ever tried making your own chocolate gifts at home like mendients or chocolate bark, only to have a swirly white appear in the chocolate after a couple of days?  That’s because if you are using coverture chocolate (instead of compound) you need to temper the chocolate (or so I thought).  As I was lamenting needing to temper chocolate at home in my kitchen that can get up to 30 degrees in summer, one of our amazing chocolatier’s piped up and said to me, but you don’t need to if you don’t break its temper in the first place.

What is a chocolates ‘temper’?  Tempering chocolate is the process of increasing and decreasing the temperature of the chocolate to ensure it stays a fantastic rich colour, has great ‘snap’ when you bite into it and doesn’t go swirly and inconsistent in colour after a couple of days.  The process of doing this is quite straight forward in a temperature-controlled environment, but in my kitchen it definitely is not.

The callets (chocolate drops) that you buy from us in store are already ‘tempered’.  When making something out of these you don’t need to re-temper it, if you don’t break the temper.  What this means is, for 55% cocoa solids chocolate if in the process of melting the chocolate you don’t let the temperature get above 32 degrees, you haven’t broken the temper.

Mendients with nuts and dried fruit Small
Mendients with nuts and dried fruit

What you need to do this:

A large pot, a bowl that fits in the top made from glass or ceramic, a silicon or rubber spoon that can scrape the sides of a bowl easily and a digital thermometer.

I used a double boiler set-up to melt my chocolate.  I put water in a saucepan and my chocolate in a bowl on top.  Make sure your bowl isn’t touching the water, you want the steam to do the heating of your chocolate not the water.  I put hot water in the saucepan, but my element was on low, and I really mean low.  This does take a while so be patient.  Keep stirring and stirring the chocolate and very slowly it will start to melt.  You need to keep scraping the bottom and sides and stirring it in, as that is where the chocolate will be hottest, and you need to mix that in with the rest of the chocolate.  Keep checking your temperature.  If my temperature started to increase quickly, I either took the bowl off the pot to let the steam out, or the pot off the element just to slow it down a little bit.  And just a little reminder, water and chocolate don’t mix, don’t let any get in your chocolate.

When your chocolate is melted you can make all sorts of things, you can spread it on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and sprinkle with nuts, freeze dried fruits and then break up in pieces.   You could pipe into circles and put nuts and dried fruit on the top like I did.  Just pop it into the fridge to set once you have placed your items on top.

Melting chocolate this way means it is still quite thick, the advantage of this is that if you are piping, it is easier to control.  You could also use chocolate to dip strawberries in.  It is a little too thick for making chocolates or dipping truffles if you would like a smooth finish.  To do this you would need to temper the chocolate.

I had a couple of my mendients loose temper, from the chocolate near the end but on the whole, they looked nice and shiny.

Whatever you make remember, nothing is perfect!  Enjoy the process and be proud of your creation.

Cheese and Chocolate
Chocolate discs with cheese and pear, perfect for an adventurous dessert