Learn how to melt chocolate using the seeding method to create beautiful confections, coatings, and edible decorations. The process is easy, and this helpful guide will show you how to properly temper white, milk, and dark chocolate.
Table of Contents
- Chocolate selection
- What does it mean to temper chocolate?
- Temperature ranges for melting chocolate
- Ways to temper chocolate
- What is the seeding method?
- Water and chocolate are enemies!
- When you don’t have to temper chocolate
- When to discard
- Ways to use melted chocolate
- How to Melt Chocolate (Seeding Method) Recipe
Chocolate is an indulgent ingredient that excites the senses with its silky texture, cocoa aroma, and sweet flavor. However, there are two important factors when making chocolate moldings, candies, coatings, or fancy decorations with a nice snappy texture. The first is selecting the right type of chocolate, and then the second knowing how to properly temper it.
There are many varieties of chocolate, such as white, milk, and dark, but you want to ensure you use a high cocoa butter couverture type. You’ll also need to know the specific temperature ranges for melting and tempering to achieve a smooth consistency.
I prefer to use couverture chocolate when working with strawberries, cookies, cakes, or creating molded candies. It’s a slightly pricier option, but it yields professional results. Couverture is sold as callets, pellets, or pistoles and has a lower amount of cocoa solids but a higher percentage of cocoa butter.
Couverture chocolate chips or discs contain between 32 to 39% cocoa butter, making them very fluid and easy to use for thinner coatings. It requires a little more delicate handling, but when tempered, has a beautiful satin finish and a lite, crispy snap. Top brands include Valrhona, Callebaut, Guittard, Lindt, and Scharffen Berger. If sold in bars, make sure to chop them into small pieces for even melting.
What does it mean to temper chocolate?
Tempering chocolate is a controlled melting process of heating and cooling that allows the cocoa butter in the mixture to take on a stable crystalline form. When chocolate is melted to a specific temperature range, the fat molecules and solid crystals become unchained and unstable. Tempering chocolate helps to stabilize the fat and make it consistent throughout the mixture.
Temperature ranges for melting chocolate
Follow these temperature guidelines for each type of chocolate so that it properly hardens. If not done correctly, the finished product may become crumbly with gray streaks dull appearance and won’t snap.
|TYPE OF CHOCOLATE
|113 – 120°F (45 – 48°C)
|86 – 90°F (29 – 32°C)
|104 – 115°F (40 – 46°C)
|104 – 115°F (40 – 46°C)
*The above table is based on couverture chocolate. Use the ingredient manufacturer guidelines if the chocolate is a different type or temperature recommendation differs.
Ways to temper chocolate
- Seeding: Melt a portion of chopped chocolate or chips in a double boiler or the microwave to about 115ºF (46ºC), then seed with additional room temperature chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Cool to about 87ºF (31ºC). I recommend this method as it’s easy to control and holds a temper longer than microwaving alone.
- Tabling: Used by chocolatiers and pastry chefs. Chocolate melts to between 115 and 120ºF (46 to 49ºC), then a portion is poured on a cold marble slab. It’s scraped and turned until cooled to 78ºF (25ºC). The chocolate is added back to the warm melted chocolate and reheated until it reaches between 86 to 90ºF (30 to 32ºC).
- Microwave: Microwave the chocolate at 50% power level using 15-second intervals until melted, stirring in between. The time is dependent on how much is being melted. To hold its temper, the dark chocolate must be below 90ºF (32ºC) and below 87ºF (31ºC).
What is the seeding method?
The seeding process involves melting ⅔ of the chocolate in a double boiler set up and stirring constantly until melted to a specified temperature. The bowl is removed from the heat, and the remaining ⅓ of the chocolate is stirred to “seed” the melted chocolate.
This method gently tempers and brings down the temperature while incorporating stable fat crystals in the solid chocolate that melt without unchaining. The ideal temperature of the room when working with chocolate is between 68 to 72°F (20 to 22°), with low humidity.
Water and chocolate are enemies!
Steam or water should not come in contact with melted chocolate. Water causes the chocolate to seize, losing its fluid and smooth consistency. This is due to the sugar in the chocolate interacting with the water, which forms a syrup that sticks the cocoa particles together, making a grainy and lumpy mass.
Thoroughly dry any bowls or spatulas used for melting chocolate. Ensure the steam does not enter the bowl while working on the stovetop. Use a towel to dry the bottom before seeding.
When you don’t have to temper chocolate
There’s no need to temper chocolate for mousses, creams, ganache, baked batters, doughs, or drinks. Simply melt and go! Just be sure not to melt the chocolate over 120ºF (49ºC) otherwise, the taste can be compromised or burned. This upper temperature applies to couverture chocolate as well.
Any type of chocolate, like chocolate chips or chopped pieces, can be melted for these uses. You can certainly use non-couverture chocolates for dipping fruits or cookies, but the exception is that you’ll have to refrigerate the coated item to harden.
Store any kind of chocolate at 56 to 60°F (13 to 16ºC). For short-term storage in the refrigerator after the chocolate hardens, ensure it’s wrapped tightly or in an airtight container to prevent moisture contact.
If stored at 70ºF (21ºC) and above, a greyish-white surface will appear over time. That’s called fat bloom – when the cocoa butter rises to the top and crystallizes. Tempering can fix this problem and still be used for melting.
When to discard
If you see a white dusty film on top, that’s a sugar bloom, and the chocolate must be discarded. It’s caused by moisture from the environment interacting with the sugar in the chocolate, making the texture gritty. Refrigeration is often the culprit and should be avoided for long-term storage.
Ways to use melted chocolate
Avoid cooling in the refrigerator
After melting couverture chocolate and applying it to your desired product, allow it to harden in a cool area of the home, preferably at around 65ºF (18ºC). If you refrigerate the chocolate to harden it, all your work tempering will be lost, and the texture will soften, making it less crisp.
How to Melt Chocolate (Seeding Method)
- 8 ounces couverture chocolate, dark, milk, or white chocolate
- Place Chocolate in a Bowl – Place 2/3 (about 1 cup) of the couverture chocolate to be tempered in a dry bowl (heatproof glass, aluminum, or unlined copper).
- Heat Water in a Saucepan – Simmer water to less than 140°F (60ºC) with the water not touching the bottom of the bowl containing the chocolate.
- Melt the Chocolate – When chocolate is melted to 118°F (48ºC) for dark chocolate, or 115°F (46ºC) for milk or white chocolate, immediately remove it from the heat. Dry the bottom of the bowl with a towel.
- Add More Chocolate – Add the remaining ⅓ chocolate into the bowl. Use a dry rubber spatula to stir and cool down the consistency until completely smooth and slightly thickened. This process is called seeding. Be careful not to incorporate air bubbles.
- Check for Doneness – Check the temperature of the chocolate with an instant-read thermometer. When working with the chocolate, the temperature must stay below 90°F (32ºC) for dark chocolate or 87°F (31ºC) for milk or white chocolate.
- Adjust the Consistency: Repeat the reheating and tempering process to restore the chocolate’s fluidity if needed.
- Room Temperature: It’s best to cool the finished chocolate products in a room at 65ºF (18ºC) or below. Temperatures higher than 75ºF (24ºC) will take longer to harden.
- Working with Chocolate Bars: Chop couverture chocolate into small uniform pieces if in bar form for even melting.
- Melting Chocolate But Not Tempering It: For mousses, sauces, beverages, or baked goods, melt it in the double boiler on the stovetop. Alternatively, microwave using 50% power in 15-second intervals. Do not heat chocolate over 120ºF (49ºC).
- Avoid Water: Do not allow any water to come into contact with the melted chocolate, or it will seize up and become clumpy.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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