Tempering is the art of heating and cooling cocoa butter to align its various fats and create chocolate that is shiny and smooth. If that sounds fussy and time-consuming, it is. But the results are worth it.
Some home cooks sidestep the process and simply add vegetable shortening or oil to melted chocolate to give it gloss. But this work-around is short-lived: The chocolate will inevitably turn gray and streaky, a phenomenon known as “blooming.” Yes, tempering requires patience and precision, but the payoff is that characteristic “snap” that store-bought chocolate makes when you break it into pieces—no crumbling here!
Start by heating two-thirds of your chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate reaches 115°F (it will look only half-melted at this point), then remove the bowl from the pan and stir in the remaining chocolate until the entire mixture cools to 80°F. Now, return the bowl to the pan and heat the chocolate again until it reaches 88°. Once it’s ready, you’ll want to pour the chocolate directly into molds, or dip and coat any treats, from extravagant truffles to simple buttered and toasted baguette slices with a little sea salt sprinkled on top.