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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Let your microwave do more than reheat dinner.
Chocolate. Like a leading lady in an old Hollywood film, chocolate is seductive, slightly mysterious, and always perfect -- and, naturally, a little temperamental to work with.
Perhaps you have thought of making your own chocolates, bark, or truffles, but stopped when you got to the part of the recipe that read “temper the chocolate...” What is tempering, why does chocolate need to be tempered, and what’s this about a double boiler? Most importantly, is there an easier way? Why yes, there is. Read on.
In Good Temper
Here’s the science: Chocolate is made up various crystals. If they are not aligned correctly, chocolate will not have that nice, glossy snap when it sets, and will streak and “bloom,” developing a white, sandpaper-like exterior made of cocoa butter. Tempering chocolate by heating, stirring, and cooling aligns the chocolate crystals so that the chocolate sets up correctly when it hardens. Traditionally, one step involved melting chocolate over a double boiler, which adds time and runs the risk of moisture -- chocolate kryptonite -- getting on the chocolate.
This time, it’s easy. With little more than a bowl, a spatula, and a microwave, you can have perfectly tempered chocolate, every time.
Here's how to temper chocolate in the microwave.
You will need: a spatula, glass bowl, microwave, 12 ounces of good-quality dark chocolate (not chocolate chips, which have added ingredients), and a good, accurate thermometer with a range as low as 70°F. (Since you have to end up in a very specific temperature range, a good thermometer is key.)
Read more: How to Choose Your Chocolate.
Now, chop the chocolate into small pieces. Divide the chocolate into 2 batches: 8 ounces into a small glass bowl, and 4 ounces set aside for later.
Put the 8 ounces into the microwave and melt on high in 20 to 30 second bursts, stirring gently, until it is melted and glossy, in between 114 to 118° F. You may even need to microwave in 5-second bursts toward the end. The goal is to hit the temperature "sweet spot" and not burn or overheat the chocolate.
This range is different for milk and white chocolate. Milk chocolate should be melted to between 108 and 113° F; white chocolate’s range is 105 to 110° F. White can burn very easily -- be careful.
Next, begin "seeding" the melted chocolate by adding the reserved chocolate pieces, a bit at a time, stirring gently.
The seeding and stirring will realign the chocolate crystals into temper. Stir and seed until the temperature of the chocolate is 88 to 89° F, and the seeding pieces are fully melted. Milk and white chocolate should cool to 85 to 86° F. Done!
Your chocolate is now in temper. Work with the chocolate in its tempered range. If it starts cooling too much, you can microwave it at half power to bring it back up.
What do you like to dip in chocolate? Let us know in the comments!