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.
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 that have a nice snappy-texture. The first is selecting the right type of chocolate and then secondly, knowing how to properly temper it.
There are many varieties of chocolate such as white, milk and dark, but you want to make sure 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 which allows them to become 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 into small pieces for even melting.
What does it mean to temper chocolate?
Tempering chocolate is a controlled melting process of heating and then 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 in appearance, and it won’t snap.
|TYPE OF CHOCOLATE||MELTING TEMPERATURE||TEMPERING TEMPERATURE|
|Dark Chocolate||113 – 120°F (45 – 48°C)||86 – 90°F (29 – 32°C)|
|Milk Chocolate||104 – 115°F (40 – 46°C)||87°F (30.5°C)|
|White Chocolate||104 – 115°F (40 – 46°C)||87°F (30.5°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 chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave to about 115ºF (46ºC), then seed with room temperature chocolate and stir. 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 chocolate is stirred in 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 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. Make sure that when you’re working on the stove-top that the steam does not enter into the bowl. 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, and 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 here is that you’ll have to refrigerate the coated item for it 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, make sure it’s wrapped tightly or in an airtight container to prevent moisture contact.
If stored at 70ºF (21ºC) and above, overtime a greyish-white surface will appear. 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 (227 g) couverture chocolate, dark, milk, or white chocolate
- Place 2/3 (about 1 cup) of the couverture chocolate to be tempered in a dry bowl (heatproof glass, aluminum or unlined copper).
- Melt the chocolate over barely simmering water, less than 140°F (60ºC) with the water not touching the bottom of the bowl containing the chocolate.
- When chocolate is melted to 118°F (48ºC) for dark chocolate, or 115°F (46ºC) for milk or white chocolate, immediately remove from the heat. Dry the bottom of the bowl with a towel.
- Add the remaining 1/3 chocolate into the bowl. Use a dry rubber spatula to stir and cool down the chocolate until completely smooth and slightly thickened, this is called “seeding”. Be careful not to incorporate air bubbles.
- 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.
- Repeat the reheating and tempering process to restore the chocolate's fluidity if needed.
- 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.
- Chop couverture chocolate into small uniform pieces if in bar form for even melting.
- If melting the chocolate but not tempering for mousses, sauces, beverages or baked goods, melt in the double boiler on the stove top. Alternatively, microwave using 50% power in 15 second intervals. Do not heat chocolate over 120ºF (49ºC).
- Do not allow any water to come into contact with the melted chocolate or it will seize up and become clumpy.