The key to the beautiful chocolate-covered confections, with their shiny chocolate shells that snap when you take that first bite, is a matter of science: it's all about tempering the chocolate.
With a little bit of patience, and a few simple tools, you can achieve the same results at home. The process at its most basic, involves heating chocolate to a certain temperature to break the fat bonds, then cooling it to restructure them, and heating it back up, to make it workable, stirring all the while. Start with dark chocolate. It is simpler than tempering milk or white chocolate.
This recipe yields plenty of chocolate perfect for dipping and excellent for giving as a gift. Because tempered chocolate remains hard once it sets at room temperature, there is no worry of your confections melting in gift boxes or out on a dessert table (unlike when using melted chocolate chips). And, rather than use "candy coating chocolate" discs, which often contain paraffin wax as a stabilizer, this recipe calls for high-quality, and much better tasting, high-cocoa premium dark chocolate.
- 16 ounces 66% cacao couverture dark chocolate, such as Valrhona, chopped
- Optional: fruit, pretzels, cookies, or chips for dipping
Gather the chocolate and the equipment.
To make a double-boiler, bring a pot half-full of water to a simmer over medium-high heat, and have a metal bowl that fits neatly on top of the pot.
Prepare a large bowl with ice water, and set it aside.
Put the chopped chocolate into the metal bowl and rest it on the pot of simmering water. Melt, stirring with a spatula to evenly disperse the heat, until an instant-read thermometer in the center of the chocolate reaches 131 F to 136 F.
Move the bowl of melted chocolate off of the double boiler, and onto the bowl of ice water, with the bottom of the bowl touching the water. Do not allow any water, to get into the chocolate or it will seize becoming grainy, hard, and unusable. Stir constantly with the spatula to chill the chocolate to a temperature of 82 F to 84 F and to allow stabilizing crystals to form. It will become thicker and more fudgy-looking. Move the bowl of chocolate on and off the ice bath during this process to regulate the temperature, stirring constantly while also scraping down the sides of the bowl to evenly make all of the chocolate the same temperature.
Place the bowl back over the pot of simmering water, and stir constantly until it warms to a temperature of 88 F to 90 F.
Remove the chocolate bowl from the heat of the double boiler to stop it from getting warmer. Set it to rest on a kitchen towel, while you test to see if the chocolate has tempered.
Test the temper by dipping a butter knife into the chocolate, and allow it to set on the knife at room temperature for about approximately 3 minutes. If the chocolate sets hard on the knife, with a matte shine, and snaps when broken, then it is properly tempered.
Tempered chocolate can be used to dip a variety of foods, such as fruit, pretzels, cookies, chips, or even in creating chocolate candies or chocolate molds. Tempered chocolate will last, covered, for up to two days at room temperature.
- While milk, dark, and white chocolate are all possible to temper, the amount of cocoa butter differs in each chocolat type, and so, the appropriate temperature ranges to achieve tempering also varies depending upon the chocolate. This recipe, and it's listed range of temperatures, is designed specifically for dark chocolate in the 60 percent range of cocoa.
- Chopping the chocolate prior to melting it ensures an even and quicker melt.
- For the double boiler, a metal bowl is preferred over glass, as it is a better conductor of heat and cold and is easier to control.
- While working over the ice bath, be careful that no water gets in to the chocolate, or the chocolate will seize.
- When taking the temperature of the chocolate, be sure to measure from the center of the bowl after constant stirring, as this will provide the most accurate temperature, and not reflect the edges of the bowl which will be, relatively, either very hot (when over the double-boiler) or very cold (when over the ice bath).
- The success of this recipe depends on constant attention as the chocolate temperature can rise (and drop) rather quickly, so be sure that before you begin, all of your equipment is at the ready, and do not walk away from the stove while the chocolate is over the double-boiler. If the chocolate exceeds 145 F, it is at risk of burning, which will ruin both its texture and taste.
- If the test of your chocolate reveals that the chocolate has not been properly tempered, you can simply start the process over again from the beginning of the recipe, using the same melted chocolate, bringing it up to 131 F, then cooling down on the ice-water bath to 82 F, and back up once more to 88 F.