If you want to make seriously impressive desserts in chocolate cases, or your own Easter eggs or coated truffles, then you will need to know how to temper chocolate. This is what makes gives them their snap and shine. Have a look at my Twin Peaks, or Mousse in a chocolate case, the fun is in the contrast of textures, between the chocolate and the mousse. It also means they melt at a slightly higher temperature so you can pick them up and move them without leaving finger marks.
Tempering chocolate requires concentration and a good thermometer. It involves slowly heating and then slowly cooling the chocolate so that the fats crystallise uniformly. The easiest way to do this for small quantities at home is the Seeding Method.
The seeding method
To temper 300g chocolate, first roughly break up or chop 200g of it and grate the remaining 100g. For other quantities of chocolate simply use the same 2/3 to 1/3 proportions.
Place the roughly chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until melted, making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not in contact with the hot water.
Use the sugar thermometer to check the temperature of the chocolate. When it has reached 45˚C, remove from the heat and stir in the 100g grated chocolate.
Keep stirring until the temperature of the mixture drops to 29˚C for dark chocolate, or 28˚C for milk or 26˚C for white chocolate.
Use this chocolate straight away to coat your truffles or make your chocolate shell.
The traditional marble slab method
Slowly melt your chocolate in a bain marie stirring constantly until it is all melted and has reached 55°C for dark chocolate and 50°C for milk and white.
Remove from heat and pour three-quarters of the melted chocolate on to a cool marble slab, leaving the rest of the chocolate in the bain-marie. Work the chocolate across the surface using a palette knife until it reaches 26°C.
Return the chocolate to the bowl and stir well to incorporate all of the cooled chocolate with the remaining chocolate in the bowl. The temperature should read 29˚C – if the chocolate is hotter than 30˚C for perfection you would want to repeat the process. If it is cooler then heat it up to 29˚C. For milk chocolate the temperature is 28˚C and for white it is 26˚C.