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I just tried today to temper dark chocolate for the second time. I used about a pound of Toll House dark chocolate chips. If the quality of that chocolate is my problem, that would help me a lot.

My first attempt, I heated 3/4 of the chocolate to about 115 F, took it off heat, and tried to cool it by adding the remaining chocolate as a seed. The instructions I used said it should cool and almost melt all the seed. Wrong, it all melted in about 10 seconds. I'm guessing all the temper in that seed was lost and my chances were ruined right then. All my test parchment failed to set up. I also noticed the thermometer I was using was awful so I went and bought a fancy infrared gun thermometer. I put the failed bowl in the fridge to set up.

I just tried again with the new thermometer. Having no tempered seed, I figured I'd try the melt, cool, reheat method. I put the chunks of chocolate into the glass bowl over a pot of a water on very low heat, and melted it up to 115 again. Then I took it off the heat, and spent over 20 minutes stirring and waiting for it to cool it down to about 82.5 degrees. Then I put it back on the heat for 10 second increments, heating it first to about 85, and keeping it there for a few minutes, then heating it to just a fraction over 88. I held it at that temperature for a few minutes to make sure the form IV crystals were gone, and then dipped some parchment strips. Again, they never set, even in the fridge. Like before, they looked ok, with good gloss, but stayed soft and smeared to the touch.

Rather than getting discouraged I tried heating it back up to about 90 degrees, held it again, and then did more tests. Still nothing. It's back in the fridge now.

I have no idea what to do next except get a different batch of higher quality chocolate to try.

  • I would think that "chocolate chips" would generally be a poor choice for chocolate making due to the extra stuff added to make them keep their shape. Have you attempted this using baker's bars or discs? – Catija Mar 5 '16 at 0:27
  • @Catija there's not really anything else in there, but I can try bakers bars next. The chips are just real chocolate with cocoa butter, sugar, a little milk. it's 53% cocoa. – Tesserex Mar 5 '16 at 0:41
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    The infrared thermometer will only measure the surface temp, so I'm not really sure how useful it will be to you (see "myth #2" here). Personally, I recommend returning it and buying a good instant-read digital thermometer or a candy thermometer. – Catija Mar 5 '16 at 0:45
  • @Catija That sounds like an answer to me - it totally explains why nothing worked. – Cascabel Mar 5 '16 at 0:53
  • @Jefromi Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm not that knowledgeable of chocolate making so I wasn't sure. – Catija Mar 5 '16 at 1:01
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I'm going to blame your thermometers.

The one you used for your first batch you believe was a bad one, so it likely was measuring the temperature incorrectly, so you got poor results.

Then, you bought a really fancy infrared thermometer... which is great for measuring surface temperature but is pretty useless for anything else. Note that surface temp is usually much different than internal temp. Generally, if you're heating something up, the surface will be hotter than the inside and if you're cooling something down, the surface will be cooler than the inside.

This means that all your temperature readings were wrong!

Here's some info about the internal temperature reading myth:

2. An infrared thermometer will tell you the internal temperature

This is another myth worth busting. An infrared thermometer is a surface temperature tool – period. If you’re grilling, baking, smoking, or roasting you’re going to need a penetration probe to tell you the internal temperature of the food you’re cooking. An infrared will only give you the surface temperature of the food, and depending on your optical range, the temp of the surrounding grill, skillet, oven, etc.

I think you should try your chocolate tempering again but with a good-quality instant read thermometer (make sure the temperature range goes low enough) or a candy thermometer (again, some of them start at 100 F, so make sure it goes to the temps you need).

  • Yeah, tempering is very temperature-sensitive, e.g. from On Food and Cooking: "Once chocolate has been tempered, it must be handled so that it stays in temper. It should be kept warm, in the tempering range of 88-90°F/31-32°C." The kind of error you'd get from just measuring the surface temperature could easily be large enough to mess all that up. – Cascabel Mar 5 '16 at 1:04
  • I'm well aware of the limitation of that thermometer being surface only. My old thermometer would take over a minute to reach a correct reading. I actually almost burned my chocolate the first time because I thought I was at the right temp, but when I took it off the heat, it continued to rise another 10 degrees. When I tested with my IR themometer, I made sure to mix thoroughly, bring warm chocolate from the bottom to the top, and measure the chocolate dragged behind the spatula. I didn't trust the reading until it was constant all over the bowl. – Tesserex Mar 5 '16 at 4:53
  • @Tesserex that sounds like you're heating too fast as you approach the target temperature. I'm no expert on chocolate (except eating it) but I'm not aware of any urgency at this stage. – Chris H Mar 5 '16 at 18:02
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Did you check whether it was real chocolate? If in the ingredients there is written "cocoa butter" than it's real chocolate and is the one you should use for this procedure while if there is written "vegetable fat" compound chocolate which doesn't behave as the real one.

I found this video very useful to learn how to do temper hope it helps you too :-) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGlMoNs4qlM

  • Yes I made sure it's real, ingredient list says "Dark Chocolate (Chocolate, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Milkfat, Nonfat Milk, Natural Flavor)" – Tesserex Mar 5 '16 at 0:40
  • Does the video give any advice that's different from what the OP did, or otherwise suggest what might have gone wrong? – Cascabel Mar 5 '16 at 0:49
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While tempering chocolate it will seize if so much as a drop of water or other liquid gets in the mixture. Make sure your tempering bowl or pot is completely dry, don't let stirring utensils get wet, and you can even put a clean dish towel between boiling water and chocolate bowl to ensure not water is not introduced by the steam. The last problem is usually not an issue however.You can double check the proper temp by placing a small amount on your inner wrist. It should sting slightly, but never burn. Follow the rest of instructions and double check it is done when it falls just below body temperature using the wrist method. It should feel very slightly cool. You can also touch chocolate just below the upper lip for the same effects, but the wrist is just as sensitive and far less dangerous. Good luck and happy eating!

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