I won't sugarcoat it (until later that is); tempering white chocolate is by no means an easy process. Why should you bother? Well, tempering chocolate melts the chocolate to a specific temperature so the fat and sugar molecules collide. When the chocolate cools and hardens, it appears smooth and shiny and has a toothsome snap. If you don't temper the chocolate and simply melt it, you'll end up with softer, stickier chocolate that may have an uneven appearance. Here's the technique for tempering white chocolate, which is similar to tempering dark chocolate but requires different temperatures.
You'll need about two hours of time, a candy thermometer, and the proper couverture chocolate, which is a very high quality chocolate that has a higher cocoa fat percentage than standard baking or eating chocolate. You'll also want to follow these two rules: do not get any water on the chocolate or else it will seize, and you must stick to the exact temperatures or you run the risk of creating unpalatable chocolate globs.
How to Temper White Chocolate
- Weigh two pounds of chocolate on a scale. Divide the chocolate into two piles. Place 75 percent of the chocolate in a sturdy stainless steel bowl. It will be used for the melting chocolate. Reserve 25 percent of the chocolate, called the seeding chocolate, in a small bowl. It will be added to the melted chocolate later.
- Melt chocolate using the double-boiler method. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Turn the flame off, and place the bowl of chocolate over the pot. Allow the chocolate to melt by the steam rising to the bottom of the bowl. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature; however, be sure to stick it in the chocolate without touching the bowl, which can give a false reading. Once the temperature reaches between 110°F, quickly remove it from the heat source.
- Seed the chocolate by adding a few pieces of the unmelted chocolate (the 25 percent that you reserved earlier) to lower the overall temperature of the melted chocolate. Stir slowly, so you do not incorporate air bubbles. Once the few pieces of chocolate have melted, continue to add a few pieces more. You may or may not need to incorporate all the chocolate, because factors like how much total chocolate you are using and how cold your kitchen is will affect how quickly the chocolate cools. If you find that the chocolate you are adding is not melting, stop adding the pieces, and let the chocolate sit, stirring it occasionally to cool until it reaches 83°F. If there are any unmelted pieces of chocolate, remove them from the bowl before going on to the next step.
- When the chocolate has reached 83°F, use a hair blow-dryer to heat the sides of the bowl in 5- to 10-second increments until the temperature reads between 87°F. This is the proper range for tempered chocolate.
- Check the temper by dipping a spoon in the chocolate and letting it sit out for around five minutes. It should dry and look shiny and hard. If it passes the tempering test, then start dipping your caramels, cookies, or fruit. Keep monitoring the temperature, and if the chocolate cools, use the hair dryer to zap the chocolate for a few seconds to bring it back to the right temperature. If it looks oily on top, has streaks, or develops a bloom (the fats rise to the surface, giving the chocolate a chalky, white appearance, as pictured on the right), then the chocolate is not tempered, and you will need to let it set before you can try to temper it again.
If things don't go right the first time, don't get discouraged. Remember to breathe, and read the instructions several times before you attempt it. Once you do have the process down, you'll never want to just melt your chocolate again!