Archive for April, 2008

Weekly BonBonBar Photo: My Chocolate Melter

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008


This is the chocolate melter that I use for my tempered chocolate. If you’re not familiar with the process of how to temper chocolate, here’s a video demo. The melter fits 6kg of chocolate — that’s 13.2 lbs (and mine is a smaller model). I say that I use if for my tempered chocolate because it’s not exactly a tempering machine, which agitates the chocolate and cycles through the requisite temperatures during a certain period of time. Instead, my melter is more like a heating pad shaped as an open-faced box — it keeps a steady temperature, based on I turn the knob to, and I have to stir myself. There’s something like a stainless steel hotel pan that fits into the melter, which is which the chocolate goes in; I drape plastic wrap btw the melter and the pan to make cleaning up easier.

A tempering machine isn’t foolproof and it’s quite noisy and heavy, so I opted for the melter. It’s more control through slightly more work. I begin by melting chocolate in it through constant heat, at about 115F. I don’t have to chop the chocolate that I put in, b/c chopped or not, it takes hours to melt the chocolate; it’ s best to do it overnight or well ahead of when I need it. So, little effort, but lots of time. There’s also the option of melting the chocolate in a double boiler to speed things up, though even that takes time and attention.

When it’s ready and I need tempered dark chocolate, I remove the pan of chocolate from the melter (or pour double-boiler-melted chocolate at 115), add the seed, and let it cool to 90F; I also turn down the heat of the melter to about 32C (b/c it’s European and has no Fahrenheit markings) so that it’ll be ready to maintain the temp.

Adding seed is a little nerve-racking when dealing with large quantities. I don’t want to over- or under-seed, b/c if the temper is bad after all this time, I might have to begin again. So… let’s say I begin with my melter at about half full, with about 7 pounds of chocolate at 115F. I have to add about 25-30% of that as the seed chocolate that will help temper it. So, maybe another 2.1 pounds of chocolate that goes in. Now that’s 9.1 pounds in the melter… which is a lot of chocolate. Btw, I don’t weigh when temperin. I visually estimate by pouring the seed chocolate over 1/3 of the melter and letting it go to the bottom, too. I let it sit, and stir as it cools down, more so as it gets closer to 90F. I usually move the pan around the table to help it cool, so that it goes on fresh cool surfaces. The amount of time it takes to cool down depending on the ambient temp, as well.

So, after all that time and stirring and chocolate, if the temper is unfixable (sometimes, if it’s underseeded, it just needs more time and agitation), you have to reheat the chocolate to 115 and start again. That would mean bringing some water to a boil on the stovetop… and reheating 9.1# of chocolate in a bowl (or perhaps, bowls). Then… pouring it back into the pan, adding seed (which would be another 2.7 pounds of chocolate, bring it up to 11.8#… stir carefully, b/c that’ll splash over the sides! or you could pour out some of the chocolate onto parchment), and starting it all over again. I don’t have a ton of chocolate around, so even though untempered extra chocolate won’t go to waste, it means I have less factory-tempered chocolate that I can use as seed.

Or if the process works to begin with, then you feel pretty thrilled.

I could go on and on about the topic of tempered chocolate, but I’ll save it for future posts. And I’ve already talked about the issue of keeping a good temper at the end of this post.

Anyway, have I mentioned a theory I have? There would be soooo many more chocolatiers if tempering wasn’t involved.