Tempering is a process used by chocolatiers to get the best possible texture and shelf life from chocolate. Essentially a process of controlled crystallization—chocolate is melted to a high enough degree to melt all the fat crystals, cooled down to encourage the formation of a particular kind of crystal, then warmed back to working temperature—tempering is what gives chocolate candy a beautiful sheen and crisp snap. If you've ever seen bloomed chocolate, with its whitish mottled exterior and crumbly texture, that's an indication it wasn't tempered properly.
The process can seem complicated at first, but it's actually quite simple, and properly tempering your chocolate will ensure that your dipped and molded candies—even simple chocolate bars—will last longer and look beautiful. We invited Sarah Kosikowski, the east coast corporate chef for Valrhona chocolate, into our test kitchen to show us how it's done.
Kosikowski uses two methods: seeding, where the melted chocolate is cooled down by adding solid chocolate, and tabling, where she spreads the melted chocolate out on a marble surface to cool it down. Once it's at the proper temperature and begins to thicken, you can warm it back up slightly so it's easier to work with. You'll know it's in temper when it starts to look matte and tacky and sets up quickly (in 3–5 minutes).