Tempering chocolate: seeding method

The seeding method of tempering chocolate
Adding seed to melted dark chocolate
Adding seed to melted chocolate

Last week when I posted about my first attempt using the tabliering method for tempering chocolate, I promised to review the seeding method in a later post. So here it is.

This will be a much shorter post than my last post on tempering because there is a lot of overlap between the tabliering and seeding methods of tempering.  In both methods, the melting process is the same, as is the temperature to which the chocolate must be raised to dissolve the fatty acid crystals (this happens for dark chocolate at roughly 116-118 degrees Fahrenheit).

Here are the most important differences between tempering by seeding versus tabliering:

  1. The seeding method only works if you have some tempered chocolate on hand to use as your seed chocolate. So if all you have is a block of untempered chocolate, you’ll have to use the tabliering method.
  2. The seeding method is much, much less messy than the tabliering method. No brown fingernails, no chocolate residue all over your counter. However, the tradeoff is that seeding takes 10-15 minutes longer than tabliering.
  3. With seeding, once the seed chocolate is thoroughly incorporated and the chocolate has cooled to 88-90 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re done, the chocolate is tempered. You don’t have to cool it to 82 degrees and then reheat it to 90 degrees like with tabliering.

    Melting dark chocolate couverture
    Melting dark chocolate couverture

Here’s how to get started. First, melt your chocolate in the microwave. Reserve some unmelted seed chocolate — roughly 10-20% of the total chocolate you’re working with. Just eyeball it, you don’t need to be precise.

For step-by-step instructions on tempering using the seeding method, check out this excerpt from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg (provides directions for both seeding and tabliering methods).

Basically you want to bring the melted chocolate up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, add your seed chocolate, a little at a time, stirring constantly, waiting until the seed has fully melted before adding more. Keep this up until the chocolate cools to 88-90 degrees. It may take 10-15 minutes to cool. When the temperature hits 90 degrees, it’s tempered.

Unmelted seed in my tempered chocolate
Unmelted seed in my tempered chocolate

Dip the back of a spoon in the chocolate to do a quick test — the chocolate should firm up in the fridge in a couple of minutes.  It should look shiny, you should be able to touch it without it instantly melting, and when you try to break it you should hear a sharp snap.

If you see any extra unmelted seed chocolate in your bowl at this point, you’re supposed to remove it to avoid overcrystalization (I’ll write more on overcrystalization in a future post).

When this happened to me, I couldn’t find a good way to remove the seed, it was kind of like trying to remove egg shells from raw egg whites with your fingers. I tried a slotted spoon, but the holes were too small. Finally I gave up and left it in.

Testing the temper of dark chocolate using the seeding method
See how tests 3 and 4 have a lovely shine?

As you can see, compared to the tabliering method, it took me an extra 11 minutes to get from melted chocolate (test 1) to tempered chocolate (test 3).  However, I had no trouble keeping it tempered for 20 minutes (test 4), partially because I was obsessive about rewarming it every few minutes.

Overall I MUCH prefer seeding to tabliering.  The 11 extra minutes it took to cool down the chocolate are SO worth it for the extra control and (comparatively) minimal clean-up.

 

Tempering chocolate: tabliering method

Spreading and scraping on clean granite countertop quickly cools chocolate
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!

IMG_6472
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.