Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tempering Chocolate is HARD – Trying the Sous Vide method

Tempering my homemade Bean-to-Bar Chocolate has become my Achilles heel. I try and try and try, but I still end up with bloom.

Tempering my first batch of 55% Belize Dark Chocolate Bean-to-Bar Chocolate actually wasn’t all that bad. Sure there were a few streaks in the chocolate, but overall the finished pieces were shiny and had a nice snap.


When I converted my first 55% Belize Dark Chocolate to 34% Milk Chocolate is when the problems really started. I was using the tempering instruction from the Chocolate Alchemist’s Cocoa Butter Silk, where tempered cocoa butter is used as seed instead of tempered chocolate. As a tempering seed the Cocoa Butter Silk is very aggressive, and according to the Chocolate Alchemist, the Silk creates the desired Type V crystals very quickly.  When using Silk you only need to stabilize the chocolate at 94 degrees, add the Silk, and then stir for 3 minutes.  The Type V crystals grow very rapidly, and when the chocolate reaches 92 degrees you can pour the chocolate into the molds.   It sounds like a simple process, but I had trouble stirring my chocolate for 3 minutes and keeping my chocolate above 92 degrees.  The chocolate would drop below 92 after just a minute of stirring, and when I tried to rise the temperature with a hair dryer, it went up too much. 

I messed up the tempering so bad I started to look for ways to better control the temperature. Of course a tempering machine was the solution to my problem, but at this stage of my “hobby” I wasn’t ready to plop down $600 on a ChocoVision. So I trolled the web looking for alterative, and immediately found someone (Serious Eats) showing how to use a Sous Vide to temper chocolate. A cheap-o Sous Vide would only cost me $80 so I decided to give it a try.


The original instruction on the Serious Eats blog (not Alton Brown's Serious Eats BTW) recommended placing the chocolate in a sealed plastic bag and immersing the closed bag in the water for the melting, seeding, and cooling phase.

The process worked okay, and after I added the seeds I just squished the bag instead of trying to stir the cocoa butter seed into the melted chocolate. And because the chocolate was already in a bag, it was quick and convenient to snip off the corner and pipe the chocolate directly from the bag into the mold.


But sadly the end results weren’t very attractive. The bloom was even worse, and the entire back of the bar had a gray cast. The chocolate had almost no shine, and it stuck to the mold in a number of places.




I thought maybe I hadn’t stirred and agitated the seeds enough, so I tried again. This time I replaced the plastic bag and used a glass measuring cup. The cup actually worked much better than the bag. Hooking the cup to the side of the pot kept the chocolate submerged in the warm water, and best of all it kept my hands free to stir and shear the chocolate against the side of the cup.


But in the end I still didn’t get a good temper. The back of the chocolate bar still had that gray look, and this time there were lots of tiny flecks of Silk seed that hadn’t completely melted. When I was stirring this batch I thought I noticed tiny, un-melted lumps of cocoa butter Silk, but I figured it was just my imagination.... I should have trusted my eyes.

How about this for some horrible tempering...


Sigh … Things are not going well in the land of tempering.   This particular batch of chocolate had been manipulated so many times I wasn’t sure what the actually percentages of liquor, butter and sugar were. I didn’t want to waste any more of my lovely Cocoa Butter Silk on this Frankenstein batch, so I decided to try tempering my batch with pieces of already tempered chocolate.  And because I wasn't using the very aggressive Cocoa Butter Silk, I went through the entire tempering temperature cycle for Milk Chocolate: Melt at 113 degrees, start cooling to 81 degrees while adding bits of tempered chocolate seed, reheat to 86 degrees and hold which will  destroy type IV crystals, mold the chocolate.



Here is the chocolate after the FULL tempering cycle.  Still a bust as far as tempering goes, but it actually looks kind of pretty.  Almost like a marble effect or a drizzle of while chocolate against the milk chocolate.  And it IS shiny and has a nice snap.



So at this point I really don't know why the tempering is not working.   This chocolate is from the batch that went through some major screw-ups (see blog entries Batch #1.5 and Batch #1.75.  First I inadvertently used Non-Fat Milk Powder, then to correct the mistake I added some Full Cream Powder.  Is it the Full Cream Powder that is preventing a good tempering?  Is that cream swirling around in the chocolate and not bloom?   Or am I just a spaz at tempering??

I'm not sure, but I'm not going to experiment with it any more.  I am retiring this batch to the stomachs of my family and friends, and moving on to Batch #2.


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