Tempering chocolate: Chestnut truffles

In the world of confectionery, there are two types of people: chocolate people and sugar people. Chocolate people are versed in the arcana of tempering and cocoa butter crystallization; sugar people are seers of water content and caramelization.

I am a sugar person.

I’ve never really grasped chocolate tempering, despite having attended a fantastic chocolate conference organized by the Chocolate Doctor herself. I always think I understand the theory: cocoa butter can arrange itself into several different forms, and by properly controlling the temperature, you can ensure that only the stable forms are present in your finished chocolate. Properly tempered chocolate hardens quickly, is glossy rather than dull, snaps cleanly and is less likely to melt on your fingers when you eat it.

But then I go to make confectionery like the chestnut truffles in this picture, and the chocolate blooms because it’s not in temper, and I am once again humbled. This came after dipping 100 or so peanut butter centres in chocolate that was apparently tempered just fine… by my husband.

The central problem, I assume, is that I haven’t worked with chocolate enough to develop a feel for when it’s in temper; apparently, skilled chocolatiers can detect properly tempered chocolate simply by looking at it or stirring it. Clearly, the only solution is to start making chocolates on a more regular basis, take it slow and check everything along the way. (In this case, after heating the last batch of chocolate, I failed to test it for temper. That’s a mistake I won’t be making again.)

Well, it’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it.

Are you a chocolate person or a sugar person?

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6 Responses to “Tempering chocolate: Chestnut truffles”

  1. Matthew,
    You’re beating yourself up for no good reason. Your chocolates in the picture above have a more than respectable satiny sheen for a dipped chocolate. The really shiny chocolates are the molded ones that harden next to the sides of a mold. No air there. The bottom of molded chocolate is not as shiny as its sides. If chocolates harden in the exposed air, either dipped or free of a mold, they tend not to be as shiny as the hardened in a mold ones.

    Now streaky chocolate in any situation shows that your chocolate wasn’t properly tempered.

  2. Matthew Kayahara December 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Skip. Apparently I shouldn’t have chosen the nicest-looking truffles of the batch for this photo! Many of them were quite a bit streakier than these, although you can see a little bloom even here. To be fair, though, these weren’t so far out of temper as to be a disaster… it was purely an aesthetic issue. The snap was actually quite good!


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