Hi - I am relatively new to making chocolates and have learned through books and the internet. 80% of the time my chocolates turn out very well but I am at the point where I could really use some sage advice to help refine my process. If you could help me out I'd really appreciate it.
1. It often takes me 2hrs to hand temper about 2 lbs of chocolate using the seeding method. Is it normal to take so long? The room temp is 68 F and I'm getting blisters from stirring.
2. How do you know if your chocolate is over-tempered? What is the best way to correct over-tempered chocolate?
3. My chocolate appears (to me at least) to get very thick when it finally gets into temper (I always do a temper test before using it) and then because of its viscosity it gets very had to mold into shells. I've tried adding cocoa butter. Any other remedies you could recommend?
4. I have read that molded shells should be put in the fridge to set and I've read to absolutely not use the fridge. I've read that coolng chocolate to fast causes bloom but I've also read that cooling chocolate to slow also causes bloom. Which is correct? What is the best way to mold shells?
Everyone has their own opinions on things like this, but I'll have a go at answering for you:
1. 2 hours sounds way too long. I temper 3-4 kilos of chocolate using the seed method in about 15-20 minutes. I'm sure there's others out there who do it faster as well.
2. Chocolate is over-tempered when it is in temper, but is very thick and doesn't flow well. Use a heat gun (eg., paint stripper from the hardware store or a hair-dryer) on the chocolate for 5-10 seconds at a time while stirring to get the chocolate fluid again. You don't want to heat the chocolate too much or else you will knock it out of temper and have to re-temper it.
3. Sounds like it's over-tempered and you'll need some sort of heat gun on it
4. This one depends - usually on your room temperature and the size of your moulds. I think cooling too slowly or too quickly can cause "blooming" issues. The idea is to find the right middle ground. I always put large moulds (eg., large Easter egg) into the fridge, but smaller moulds (eg., individual bon bons) I allow to cool at room temperature.
It sounds like you're at a stage where taking some sort of class would be a huge benefit - actually seeing someone working with the chocolate and seeing how it should look (eg., how fluid) and a professional's technique for moulding. Given you've taught yourself so much already, you would probably pick up everything very quickly in an environment where you saw it all happening.
Thanks so much for the reply -
I'm glad I'm not crazy in thinking it was taking way too long to temper my chocolate, whew :) I'll try the heat gun trick next time the chocolate gets to thick. I would love to take a class unfortunately I live in central Wisconsin, not exactly a booming metropolis. I have been musing over the idea of looking for a course in Milwaukee or Chicago. It seems like to way to go at this point. Again, Thanks for the help. – Jo-Ellen
I agree with Gap's comments and have a few other comments to add. Two hours to temper is way too long and you are definitely over-tempered. Once your chocolate is within your working temperature it should be more fluid than you are describing.
The solution to your problem may not be the end product (i.e. too thick chocolate). Make sure you are melting out your chocolate to a high enough temp to melt out all the crystals prior to beginning the tempering process. If you don't do this you will absolutely be over crystalized at your working temperature. If you are stirring for the entire 2 hours, then you will also be over crystalized. What kind of bowl are you melting your chocolate in? Glass will hold heat much longer than metal or a plastic bowl (for microwave only).
One other suggestion for once your chocolate is tempered and you are trying to maintain it's fluidity/working temperature besides the heat gun (although I have a heat gun and like it) is to use a microwave. It will take you a time or two to figure out what works time-wise. On my microwave I will put the bowl in for 5-6 seconds on 50% power. Sometimes it needs a bit less and sometimes a bit more but the microwave is a very effective way control the temperature within a few degrees.
As for adding cocoa butter, I don't recommend this as a solution. You can and will figure out how to correctly temper chocolate so that is has fluidity. I think adding cocoa butter is like adding a bandaid and it doesn't solve the issue.
I don't do large molds and have never had the need to put my smaller molds (individual bonbons) in the fridge. It sounds like at your working temperature that you don't need to put them in the fridge unless you are doing large pieces.
I also think taking a class is a good idea. If you live in a large town/city you could even hire someone for a lesson. Call around either to chocolate shops or bakeries and find someone with some experience.
Good luck and you WILL master tempering!
I live near the Minn/Wis border, and I'm going to strongly encourage you, as others have, to take a class at either the French Pastry School or Callebaut Chocolate Academy, both in Chicago. I've taken classes both places, and they are both excellent, friendly, and immensely helpful. (Anyone want to start a student housing co-op for chocolate students in Chicago?)
I'd also agree with others on the melt by microwave option. It's much faster (pretty much blister free). I have a microwave that has a hotspot (maybe all of them do, I don't know). So I melt 30-40 seconds at a time at first, stirring between, and then 20-30 secs. as I go. Once you have chocolate melted, you can temper it via seeding, and then use a heat pack (from your local Walgreens) that you warm in the microwave to keep it workable for longer. Or, you can zap the bowl back in the microwave for 5-10 seconds at a time and stir, to keep it workable longer also.
Thanks for the tips. I'll try them this weekend. The Chicago house co-op is a great idea :). I still seem to be having trouble when using the seed method to temper.I get the temperature up to about 115 F then use 20% by weight for seeding which helps drop the temperature to about 95 F but it takes forever (or it just seems like it ) for the temperature to drop down to 80F (Then I bring it back up to 86 F to work with it). Any tips on helping the chocolate cool faster?