How to temper chocolate

If there’s one technique a MasterChef contestant must have when it comes to working with chocolate, it’s how to temper it correctly.

Do it right and you’ll have shiny, glossy chocolate with a smooth texture and a satisfying snap when broken.

Mess it up, and your chocolate will be dull, it might have white patches, it will certainly be grainy and when you crack it open, there will be no snap, only a sad crumble.

Tempering chocolate involves heating and cooling it while controlling the temperature. There is, however, more than one way to do it.

In his recipe for Bistro Vue’s Warm Chocolate Orange Mousse, MasterChef regular Shannon Bennett advises melting two thirds of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over gently simmering water and stirring until the thermometer reads 50⁰C. He takes the bowl off the heat, adds the remaining chocolate and stirs until the temperature drops to 28⁰C. Finally, he puts the bowl back over the water and stirs until the chocolate reaches 32⁰C.

Pastry chef extraordinaire Adriano Zumbo also heats the chocolate over hot water but to cool he pours it onto a marble slab. His instructions can be found in the recipe for Zumbo Wedding Cake.

Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School’s Kirsten Tibballs forgoes the thermometer and uses a microwave to carefully heat the chocolate till it is half-melted. She then stirs until it is completely liquid, and relies on a hair drier to apply additional heat if needed. Her method is detailed in the recipe for woodland-inspired dessert Eve.

If you’re going to try tempering, here are a few more tips: •    Use couverture chocolate – it will result in a better final product. •    Follow the recipe carefully – the desired temperatures change depending on the type of chocolate used. •    Moisture is the enemy of chocolate – make sure no water gets into it.