Tempering chocolate determines its final gloss and hardness — that professional hard shell coating on a perfect truffle or bonbon. When you melt chocolate, the molecules of fat separate. Putting them back together is to “temper” it. The most common way to do this is over a hot water bath, slowly melting and stirring until the chocolate reaches the magic 88 to 90°F sweet spot (31-32°C). At this point, some of the chocolate is usually poured onto a cold marble slab and spread around with a spatula so that it partially cools, before blending it together with the rest of the warm chocolate still in the bowl.
In short, this is something that I never, ever planned to do. I’d leave that to the pros. But then I met pastry chef and chocolatier Derrick Tu Tan Pho, who is the director of the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. He was in Toronto to spread the word about Cacao Barry, the new one-kilo boxes of professional style chocolate couvertures. But these easily measured, high-quality chocolate buttons are beside the point if you don’t know how to use them properly.
So, here’s the chef’s foolproof method for tempering chocolate (in the microwave!) using about one kilo of chocolate.
1. Pour chocolate couvertures, or other high quality chocolate chopped into equal pieces, in a microwave-proof bowl.
2. Microwave for 30 seconds on high (all temps on high).
3. Give a quick stir, and microwave for another 30 seconds.
4. Give another quick stir, then microwave for another 30 seconds. This time, mix well for one minute.
5. Then microwave for 10 seconds. Stir. Microwave for 10 seconds more. Stir. Then five seconds. Stir. Then a final five seconds. This adds up to 4 x 30 seconds. And in the end, after a good final stirring, your chocolate should be glossy and perfect. Using a thermometer, check that it hits the above mentioned 88-90°F.
Don’t feel up to tempering chocolate at all? Well then, try out this great Cacao Barry recipe for Chocolate Macarons.
(makes 60 macarons)
7 egg whites
1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus 3 cups
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups almond powder
6 tbsp Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder
Dark Chocolate Ganache
1 cup 35% cream
1-1/2 cup Cacao Barry Saint-Domingue Dark Chocolate Couverture
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Step 1: Preheat oven to 300°F.
Step 2: In a bowl, beat the egg whites, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, and lemon juice until firm.
Step 3: Sift the 3 cups powdered sugar, almond powder and cocoa powder over the whipped egg whites.
Step 4: Mix with a spatula until malleable and shiny.
Step 5: Using a pastry bag and tip, form small balls on a silicone baking mat placed on a baking sheet.
Step 6: Set aside 20 minutes, and then cook at 300°F for 12 minutes in a convection oven or 15 minutes in a conventional oven.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
Step 1: Put the chocolate in a bowl and set aside.
Step 2: In a pot, heat the cream until just simmering. Pour over the chocolate.
Step 3: Using a whisk, incorporate the butter, at room temperature, until the ganache is very smooth.
Step 4: Once the ganache and macarons are cooled, pipe the ganache between two macarons and chill for 24 hours before serving.
2. Cacao Barry