Tempering chocolate: tabliering method

Couveture chocolate (dark) from Chef Rubber
Couverture chocolate (dark)

Over the weekend I tried the tabliering (aka tabling) method of tempering chocolate for the first time, with mixed results. I did get the chocolate tempered, hallelujah.  But I wasn’t able to keep it tempered for very long — at least not the first time I tried.

Be forewarned: if you try this method, be prepared to make a HUGE MESS. Your clothes will be covered in brown streaks, your fingernails will be semi-permanently stained and you’ll find chocolate prints all over surfaces you don’t remember touching.

For great step-by-step directions on tempering via the tabliering method, check out this excerpt from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg.

Equipment: 1 candy thermometer, 1 rubber spatula, 1 microwave safe plastic bowl (glass is not allowed in professional kitchens, so might as well get used to plastic) and 1 good scraper (I use this one). Definitely clean your counter top (or marble cooling slab, if using) very, very well. Have clean dishtowels handy. Lots of them. And set yourself up somewhere close to your microwave, if possible.

Cool melted couverture chocolate on a granite counter top to temper it

Spreading and scraping on clean granite countertop quickly cools chocolate

So yes… I melted my chocolate in the microwave. It’s actually a fantastic way to melt chocolate because there’s zero chance you’ll accidentally get moisture in your chocolate the way you could using a double boiler. The microwave also melts chocolate faster than a double boiler, and you have a lot of control over how fast you add the short blasts of heat.

For more detailed microwave tempering instructions, I highly recommend Ecole Chocolat’s website. The only thing I would add is that I used high heat and halved their suggested microwave time, and it worked fine.

One thing I’ve found  very confusing is all the conflicting information online about proper tempering temperatures. For dark chocolate, I’ve seen instructions to heat it to 115, 118 and 122 degrees on various sites. It might be that I’m finding different directions for melting different kinds of dark chocolate. Variations in viscosity and percentage of cocoa butter affect how high chocolate must be heated before the fatty acid crystals completely dissolve (more on that in a later post). Fortunately, there may be a little wiggle room… Dark chocolate burns at 130 degrees, so as long as you stay a safe distance under that temperature, you’ll probably be okay.

Melting dark chocolate before tempering it
Melting away….

Last weekend I tempered the same 64% dark couverture three times. I had the best results when I brought it up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit and then down to 82 degrees before bringing it back up to the constant 89-90 degrees that is ideal for molding.

I tested the chocolate first when it melted (test 1), again at 118 degrees (test 2), again after I’d tempered it (test 3), and one last time after holding it at 90 degrees for 20 minutes (test 4).  Can you tell that test 3 is tempered?  It’s not a great picture but I think you can see how shiny and dark the sample is compared with the others. I can see now that I lost the temper sometime before test 4, which is as dull as the first two tests.  I must have accidentally raised the temperature over 90 degrees at some point. Doh!

Can you tell which one is tempered?

I’ll be honest… I didn’t love this method of tempering. The mess was ridiculous, and while the chocolate cooled in mere minutes on my counter top, I spent 10 extra minutes afterwards cleaning hardened chocolate off my counter, scraper, even my the floor. And my husband was still finding bits of chocolate stuck to cabinets and wedged in counter crevices the next day.

Counter top mess after tempering
What a mess!

I tried the seeding method today and was MUCH happier with that method.  More on that in the next post.