Is it possible to successfully temper the chocolate without a thermometer? I'm sure it's quite important but since it's so difficult to find one in my country and since I don't make chocolate so often I would know if there's a way to temper without it.
Your best bet is to start with a good quality tempered chocolate and melt it just to the point of melting, which is to say keep it 88° - 91°F (if you ever do end up getting a thermometer). Most suggest using a microwave for this in short bursts to keep the chocolate from getting too hot. If you use a double boiler, use a low heat and go slow. Pull the bowl off the heat often and stir. It may not seem like all the chocolate is going to melt, but keep stirring and add small amounts of heat. Or you can follow Alton Brown and sandwich a heating pad between two bowls and adjust the heat.
The theory behind this is there are 4 different types of crystals in chocolate. The good ones we want are Beta crystals, which do not melt until 91° - 94°F. As long as you don't melt the beta crystals, the chocolate should set back up to a proper temper.
Use a grater to make nice even bits, melt the chocolate 2/3 of the way and then remove from the heat. Stir off the heat until the rest melts, or add heat in very short bits, 5-10 seconds at a time. Don't let it harden either, it's harder to remelt if it's hardens up slighty as it then becomes one big solid mass to melt.
Once you break the temper, there is no going back, you have to start over and there is no real easy way to do that without years of experience as bobobobo said, or a thermometer. You can find inexpensive thermometers online, just have to make sure to get one that handles the lower range of temperatures. I use my chocolate thermometer to also measure the temperature of water when making bread. It seems more accurate at the lower temeratures.
After watching Jacques Torres explain it (check out the cool thermometer he uses!), I really don't think so! Can you tell 88 degrees with your eyes / hands?
If the chocolate is allowed to cool on its own, the fats inside it will have a "loose crystal structure." [As a result the chocolate will be] "dull in appearance, soft & malleable, and greasy to the touch."
If you keep the chocolate at 88°F (31°C) for a while as you cool it, you're apparently going to get a rigid, dense crystal structure, which gives you chocolate that "snaps".
So I think if you did it a million times you'd develop a "feel" for it, but other than that it seems the pros use a thermometer.
Yes. The way I was taught to temper chocolate was in a microwave, with no thermometer:
Heat on high for 20 seconds. Stir for 20 seconds. Repeat until the chocolate is smooth. If it's almost smooth after a twenty-second stirring session, keep stirring until it's actually smooth rather than putting it back in the microwave. Always end with stirring.
The stirring is VERY important, it's how you keep it from overheating or heating too unevenly.
I've used this technique to make chocolate bars, and it's quite effective.