Melting chocolate sounds easy enough but there are key points to keep in mind when melting chocolate for candy making.
Maybe you've been thinking about stepping up your cooking game since seeing gourmet chocolates and truffles on social media or in shops. The truth is, once you make your own fresh and delicious chocolates, there is no reason to buy them again. There is no comparison in flavor between homemade and shelf stable store bought chocolates!
Buying chocolates in bulk is the first step in making them - get professional and quality chocolate. It is easy to craft artisan truffles, but it is key to follow key chocolate making points to ensure the best tasting chocolate. Getting the flavor, texture, and sheen of craft chocolate just right requires simple skill.
With some expert guidance, melting chocolates properly at home is possible for the novice, whether you're making bonbons, hazelnut slabs (aka bars), or your own style of cacao paste wafers.
Our expert chocolatiers have compiled this comprehensive manual for melting chocolate at home.
What Does Tempering Chocolate Mean?
Tempering is the process of heating and cooling chocolate to ensure the finished look, flavor and texture are fine while also making it last longer. To temper chocolate, the basic concept is to heat, which melts the chocolate, and then turn the heat down, which lets the chocolate cool to produce stable cocoa butter crystals and then again to heat up slightly for easy use ensuring the proper viscosity.
As chocolateit cools, stable cocoa butter crystals form through stirring (agitation). Tempering is the overall process that makes chocolate candy and chocolate bars smooth and shiny when they are at room temperature with stable cocoa butter crystals.
Does your chocolate need to be tempered?
Tempering is not needed for melting ingredients such as compound coatings that have oil in place of pure cocoa butter. These compound coatings are also known as candy coating chips or chocolate candy coating (during the holidays it is also called almond bark). Real chocolate chips with cocoa butter require tempering.
Melting Chocolate Vs. Tempering Chocolate
Melting chocolate is a stand alone process or can be a step in tempering chocolate. The main difference between melted chocolate and chocolate that has been taken further to be tempered is how stable the cocoa butter crystal structure is. The stability of these cocoa butter crystals affects both how the chocolate looks and how it feels in one’s mouth as mentioned earlier.
Melted chocolate (not tempered) when it sets up is made up of a network of cocoa butter crystals that aren't stable and will get the gray streaks known as bloom, tempered chocolate is made up of a network of cocoa butter crystals that are stable and the chocolate when set up with shine.
Even though cookies, candies, and other treats with a chocolate shell (coating) that has been simply melted and cooled will taste fine, it simply doesn’t look as nice as chocolate that is tempered. Chocolate used in a sauce, glaze, or as an ingredient in the batter for baked goods does not need to be tempered. Just use melted chocolate.
Even though melting chocolate is a part of tempering, there's more to it than that.
There are three steps to tempering chocolate
- Heating it with a low indirect heat to melt the cocoa butter fat crystals (the heat breaks the crystals and their bind)
- Cooling it to a lower temperature (which makes new beta-crystals - realigning the cocoa butter)
- Carefully heating it again but not above 89 F
Depending on what kind of chocolate is being tempered, the exact temperatures change a little bit. When you melt chocolate, the cocoa fat molecules break apart. When tempering is done right, it brings the crystals back together and makes a network of stable crystals. This is what gives tempered chocolate its shiny, even color all the way through, and its snap when it is broken.
Most sweets, like chocolates in molds, chocolate decorations, and anything that gets dipped in chocolate, are made with tempered chocolate.
Step-By-Step Chocolate Melting Guide
Here’s a small chocolate melting guide to help you melt properly.
Getting ready to make chocolate
Depending on the type of chocolate you're melting, you may require some preparation. Because chocolate chips, candy coating chips, and "candy melts" are already in small, even pieces, melting them is easier and faster. Using white or dark chocolate from a block requires more work. Roughly chopped chocolate melts faster and more evenly than big chunks (smaller pieces simply melt faster).
A double boiler
Double boilers are two special pans put together as a stack. The top bowl rests securely on the bottom pan, which holds hot water. The top bowl melts chocolate without direct heat. A double boiler is a saucepan and a medium bowl. Select a small or medium pot and a shallow bowl to cover it. The bowl top prevents it from falling into the pot. Fill the saucepan with tap water, so it doesn't touch the top bowl's bottom. The boiling water will warm the top bowl, but you need to watch it carefully to prevent it from getting too hot and burning the chocolate in the top bowl.
Now that you're ready to melt, these tips will help you do it right.
- Before melting white chocolate, ensure your temperature during melting does not exceed 110 F as temperatures above this will break down the delicate structure of white chocolate making it thick fluidity (the fluidity known as viscosity increases meaning it gets sticky and thick at higher temperatures).
- Use a spoon that is clean and dry to mix (metal or silicone work best as they are less prone to store moisture than a wooden spoon). Or, use a rubber spatula that looks like a spoon.
- During the melting process, don't lift the top of the double boiler because the steam that escapes can turn into moisture that makes the chocolate lumpy.
- Covering the top of a double boiler while it is heating can also make steam and ruin the chocolate.
- Make sure all of the chocolate melts or at least 80% if you are tempering. Once there are only a few small lumps left, turn off the heat. The remaining heat will help melt the last few pieces, and you can be sure that the chocolate won't burn.
Chocolate chips usually have things like sugar, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, and natural flavors added to them. The ingredients in high-quality baking chocolate are pretty much the same, with the exception of milkfat, emulsifier and extra flavors. Using high-quality dark chocolate with 60% to 72% cacao when you want to temper chocolate for candy making or baking will produce great results. Mini chocolate wafers, for instance, are perfect for baking and chocolate making.
Different Handy Techniques To Melt Chocolates At Home
Here are some additional ways you can melt chocolates at home.
On top of the stove
Usually, you melt chocolate over a bain-marie, also known as a double boiler. A double boiler is a heat-safe glass bowl, like a sturdy Pyrex, is put on top of a deep pot with about an inch of water in it. When chocolate chunks are added, the heat from the simmering water below them slowly melts them. Make sure the water never boils and that the bowl never touches the water. If it gets too hot, the chocolate is more likely to get burned. For the same reason, it's also important to stir the chocolate often. In five minutes, the chocolate will have melted into a shallow pool that is rich and shiny.
In the microwave
The microwave is the easiest way to melt chocolate. Pour a bag of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate into a glass bowl, then put it in the microwave and heat it up at 50% power setting. Stop the microwave every 30 seconds and stir the chocolate with a spatula or wooden spoon. This will make sure that the chocolate chips and newly melted chocolate mix well. You'll also be less likely to overheat the chocolate, which would make a sticky, sloppy mess or burnt chocolate.
Common Mistakes To Avoid While Melting
The following mistakes can ruin your chocolates.
The Wrong Chocolate
Homemade chocolates can be made with velvety cocoa-flavored white chocolate or bittersweet dark chocolate and also milk chocolate (chocolates with milk are more difficult to melt properly. Always melt at a low temperature so as to not burn the milk component). High-quality ingredients like criollo cacao powder are key to recipe success because they taste best.
Cocoa butter white chocolate can sometimes contain emulsifiers, sugar, cocoa butter solids, and milk powder. Choose chocolates with real cocoa butter (without additives) and fewer ingredients to get that melt-in-your-mouth feel.
Keep in mind, a few seconds can turn your pan of smooth chocolate into a gritty, inedible mess if the temperature gets much higher than 112 F during melting.
Over-melting chocolate (aka overheating) is the most common mistake. Burning cocoa (cocoa butter) particles makes them sticky.
Use a bain-marie or microwave with a 30 second interval and frequently stir to melt chocolate without burning.
*Pro tip: Stop heating chocolate when it's around 80% melted (microwave method or double boiler method). This will guarantee it stays silky smooth and doesn't burn - stir the unmelted pieces in the mass and this if done properly will temper your chocolate without any additional steps required. Try adding some premium organic criollo cacao powder or criollo cacao chocolate to make perfect silky and complex tasting chocolates (Criollo is a fine flavor cacao bean that makes the flavor of any chocolate delectable).
Melting Chocolate - don’t ever pour into Wet Molds
Using molds in your homemade chocolate recipes?
If so, make sure they're completely dry—chocolate and water don't mix so well!
Wet molds will cause chocolate to seize and become grainy and basically a thick mess. Fixing this mistake with additional cocoa butter or emulsifier simply doesn’t work so well.
Wipe your molds clean and dry before pouring chocolate to avoid this mistake. Assorted mini chocolates can be dipped instead of molded and this can save you from this drill of cleaning and drying molds. As a chocolatier I prefer making hand dipped chocolates over molded ones - assorted mini dipped chocolates taste better than molded ones because the coating shell is thinner and if tempered properly is simply nicer to eat.
Tempering is key to making glossy, snappy, melt-in-your-mouth homemade chocolates. Tempering ensures that cocoa butter crystallizes evenly and predictably.
Getting the tempering temperature right produces even-colored, snappable chocolate.
How do you determine the ideal temperature?
White chocolate melts best at 105 F, dark at 115 F, and milk at 110 F. A chocolate thermometer is all you need to avoid burning chocolate and the digital thermometer is best because it is the most accurate to read. Then start cooling to a low point in cocoa butter crystallization of each chocolate type (tempering) will be around 82 F. Then once you hit 82 F, slowly re-heat, stirring to ensure no unmelted chunks, to a working temperature of about 86 F for white, 87 F for milk and 88 F for dark your chocolate. Your chocolates are officially tempered.
After creating, wait for your chocolates to cool.
Simply put, cooling chocolates in the fridge or freezer at home will slow the tempering process with humidity, resulting in a disappointing result (chocolate cooling tunnels work but this is in a manufacturing setting). We recommend waiting until the chocolates cool at room temperature.
After cooling, eat them or make chocolate boxes for loved ones. Some cacao paste wafers will prove to be a worthy addition to your chocolate hamper.
In this blog, our expert chocolatiers have explained the nuances of melting chocolate at home. We discussed the importance and uses of tempering including the differences between the melting and tempering processes of gourmet chocolate. The techniques to melt chocolate at home and some steps to do so are not too complicated. We also shared with you the most common mistakes that rookie chocolatiers might make when melting chocolate at home. We hope that after reading this guide, you will have gained some clarity regarding the melting process in chocolate making.
So whether you melt dark chocolate bars or mini chocolate wafers, always keep this home chocolate melting guide handy to hit a home run. Melting chocolates at home is fun and a great way to craft beautiful homemade desserts.
Helpful Information: Please note that the dark chocolate 72% we offer on our website chocolate shop is one of the nicest melting and easiest tempering dark chocolates available. The secret behind this special nature of the chocolate is related to the cocoa butter being the same origin as the cacao fiber and cocoa solids we use as a base (the additional cocoa butter added to make the chocolate is pressed from the exact same cocoa bean variety we use to grind and make the chocolate liquor base). This common cocoa bean type and natural mix makes the chocolate more harmonious and melting smooth with very easy tempering characteristics.