How to Temper White Chocolate

Buying, Baking, and Recipes

Melted white chocolate in a bowl

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While it still comes from the cacao plant, white chocolate is simply made from cocoa butter and often, added sugar. Compare this to both dark and milk chocolate, which in addition to cocoa butter and added sugar, maintains the cacao nib during processing.

Tempering is a process that implies heating up chocolate and allowing it to cool again slightly before using it in recipes. When done correctly, it leaves the chocolate with a beautiful luster and satisfying snap, characteristic of gourmet and artisanal treats.

So, we know a little about white chocolate and a little about tempering, but how do these two work together? Here, we’ll cover two methods for tempering white chocolate as well as a few general tips and tricks so you can nail your next recipe.

How to Select White Chocolate

As mentioned, white chocolate should be made from just two ingredients: cocoa butter and added sugar. Many white chocolates, especially the chips, aren’t technically white chocolate at all but instead, made from oils. It’s important you choose true white chocolate because it’s the only kind that will actually temper. You’ll also want to ensure the chocolate you purchase is already in good temper before using it in a recipe. This means it should be shiny and have a firm snap, not be crumbly or streaked. Callebaut chocolate is a common brand to use for tempering, but it’s by no means the only option.

How to Temper Chocolate Using the Microwave Method

A microwave is a handy tool for tempering chocolate because it requires less equipment and often, less time. It’s good to start with at least 1 pound of chocolate when tempering, as it will both be easier to melt and more readily maintain its temperature. Chop and divide the chocolate into about 3/4 and 1/4 portions, placing the larger portion into a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the white chocolate in about 15-30 second increments, removing it to stir and check for consistency. Depending on how powerful your microwave is, you may need to shorten or extend the bursts of time you melt your batch.

Once the white chocolate reaches a temperature of 110 F, you can remove it from the heat and add the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate chunks. This is often referred to as “seeding” the chocolate, which helps the melted chocolate stiffen and form into a proper temper. Make sure to continually stir the mixture and occasionally take its temperature; once the mixture drops to 87 F, it’s ready to use. It’s important that the white chocolate stays as close to 87 F as possible while you’re using it, so you may want to nestle the bowl of melted chocolate into a pan of warm water.

Testing the Temper

You can also do a quality test by dipping a knife into the white chocolate and allowing it to cool at room temp. It should dry in about 5 minutes, sport a sheen, and snap cleanly once removed from the knife.

How to Temper White Chocolate Using a Double Broiler

This approach closely mimics the microwave method, but there are a few differences. First and most obviously, the equipment. If you don’t own a double broiler, you can still make one with relative ease. Simply find a heatproof bowl that can nestle into a pot without touching the bottom. Fill the pot with about 2 inches of water and place on low heat. When the water begins to gently simmer, nestle the bowl into the pot and fill it with 3/4 of the total amount of white chocolate you plan to use (remember, preferably at least 1 pound total). Stir the mixture as it heats and once it reaches 110 F, remove it from the burner and add the remaining 1/4 chocolate, stirring constantly. Again, once the melted white chocolate decreases to 87 F, you can begin to use it. To maintain its temperature while working with the melted chocolate, remember you can place the bowl on top of a pan filled with warm water.

Troubleshooting

While tempering chocolate is a pretty formulaic process, there are several snafus you can encounter. First, it’s important that absolutely no water contacts the chocolate, as this will cause the it to seize, or become a crumbly mess. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do if this happens to your batch, apart from using it in another manner. If only a small amount of water has touched the chocolate, you may be able to whip up a white chocolate mocha or create a white chocolate ganache, instead.

If the tempered chocolate has cooled below 81 F, you can readily solve the problem by starting the tempering process over again—sure, it takes more time but it’s good to know the damage is reversible. Compare this to if your chocolate climbs to 145 F or above, causing the chocolate to overheat or even scorch. At this point, your batch can’t be recovered.

Recipes

Similar to milk and dark chocolate, tempered white chocolate can be used for dipping, coating, or making candies.

Storage

The high cocoa butter content in white chocolate implies a shorter shelf life than dark chocolate, but it can still last up to 6 months if stored properly. So, if you have any leftovers from your baking escapade, simply lay out some parchment paper and pour small, thin discs of tempered chocolate onto it. Once dried, you can then wrap them up, place them into an airtight container, and store in a cool, dark place (avoid the fridge or freezer).