Happy Mother’s Day! I’m taking a day off from the kitchen with my family, so thought I’d share these chocolates I made earlier this week. Let me say first that chocolate might be my favorite food on earth. There is pretty much no limit on how often I will eat it and all of us are pretty obsessed over here. Anytime we are traveling and see a chocolate store we must go, and we must buy and eat way too much chocolate for human beings. I have my favorites, we love See’s from when we lived out in California and we recently discovered Norman Love which is amazing. I also really love the Lindt bars from the grocery store and Ghirardelli chocolate chips from the grocery store.
I don’t make chocolates at home that often, because I’m not going to lie, it is a finicky and messy process. It is also so much fun and so satisfying, and for some reason I really love a challenge in the kitchen, so the higher chance there is I will mess it up, the more I like it.
I’m no tempering expert, but my kids asked me to replicate these pb&j chocolates we had, and so I made some the other day and figured I’d share my process. I use the seeding method to temper, because its the most accessible to someone at home and doesn’t require much special equipment, although you do need an instant read thermometer. Here is a list of my setup:
- instant read thermometer
- 2-3 lbs of chocolate (really any amount you want but it needs to be enough that its worth doing)
- double boiler setup of a sauce pan with an inch of water, with a metal bowl on top
- a heat safe silicone spatula
For filled chocolates:
- an offset spatula
- a bench scraper
- a mold (more about this below)
- filling of your choice
- sheet pan lined with foil or parchment
- cooling rack placed over the sheet pan
For the chocolate mold, I prefer these hard plastic polycarbonate ones like this. I also have a few silicone ones, but since they are flexible, they are much harder to work with and also don’t give quite the fabulous shine you get from tempered chocolate in the hard plastic ones.
I have a thermopen instant read thermometer like this. It is expensive, but I use it daily and it is one of the most helpful tools for a cook. If someone you love loves cooking, gift them one and you will make their day.
As for the chocolate, you want to use good quality chocolate here. I like Ghirardelli, Valrhona, or Lindt. You can buy 2 out of 3 at the grocery store, you just don’t want to be trying to temper Hershey’s bars or low quality chocolate.
The science behind tempering chocolate is pretty complex, and I’m only going to give a basic high level explanation, but if you are interesting in knowing more Serious Eats has a great article on tempering chocolate.
When chocolate melts, the crystals in it that were nicely aligned go all over the place. Tempering puts them back into alignment. There are six different types of crystals that can form when chocolate cools, but only one of them is considered ideal: the form V (aka beta prime) crystal. Its melting temperature is low enough to melt in your mouth, but high enough that it won’t melt in your hand (at least not immediately). It has a firm snap, uniform color, and pleasant sheen. It also contracts slightly as it cools, allowing hardened chocolate to easily release from a mold. The formation of the right kind of crystal is achieved by seeding and by temperature manipulation.
Process for tempering with the seeding method:
Place 3/4 of your chocolate into your metal bowl over the sauce pan with only a little water. Warm gently over low heat. You do not want any water to get into your chocolate or that will ruin the temper so be careful with the steam and the water on the bottom of the bowl when you remove it. Melt and stir the chocolate until it is fully melted, about 122 for dark, and 105 for milk/white. Once your chocolate reaches that point, remove the bowl from the heat and place on a towel to absorb any water.
Start throwing small handfuls of your reserved chocolate into the melted chocolate and stir repeatedly with your silicone baking spatula. Use the instant read thermometer to keep an eye on the temp of your chocolate. Your goal is to slowly bring the temp down to 84-85. Continue adding small handfuls of chocolate and mixing until this is achieved. This can take a while. Once you reach this temp, warm very quickly again just to get it back up in the 86-90 range. Its now ready to use! At this point you can use it fill molds, dip items you want to cover in, or just make tempered disks or bars. You need to keep the chocolate in this temp range now to maintain the temper. If it goes too low, it will go out of temper and you will have to retemper.
I achieved correct temper initially with my chocolate which you can see in the swirled chocolates. They are very shiny and crisp looking. After that I let my chocolate go too low and so it lost its temper. You can tell in this picture below because the caps of my molded chocolates have visible swirls in them. Unfortunately this is the nature of tempering and it happens. Luckily my tops were properly tempered so in the end it didn’t matter too much. The good news is that the chocolate tastes good, tempered or not!
If you want to make filled chocolates, ladle the chocolate into your mold and fill it completely. Then turn it over and let the excess pour out. Once it is mostly out, leave the mold facing downward on your cooling rack for 5 minutes to allow additional chocolate to drip out and your shells to form. After 5 minutes use the bench scraper to remove any remaining chocolate around the mold and let sit face up for 1 hour to set up some. Meanwhile prepare any filling. I used peanut butter I doctored up with a bit of butter and powdered sugar and water to thin it so I could use in a piping bag. I also used some raspberry jam that I just stirred and put it a piping bag.
After an hour, pipe in your fillings. Place some tempered chocolate into a piping bag and pipe caps on the chocolates to cover your filling. Let these set up for a few hours. Once cooled you can put into the fridge for 15 min or so to help them release, but be careful again of any moisture that can ruin your beautiful finish. Pop them out of the mold (if they are tempered correctly this is easy because the chocolate shrinks a bit and they mostly release before you even try to do anything).
If you have any extra tempered chocolate you can let it cool and then store and use later, or you can let it set up and eat it. I made some pb&j cups, and some chocolate with sprinkles to use up my extra.
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