The Ill-Tempered Chocolatier

If anyone actually catches that reference I’ll be really impressed…

Chocolate’s quite lucky that it’s so delicious, because it’s kind of a pain in the ass to work with. Chocolate’s a diva. If Chocolate had a backstage hospitality rider, for example, it would have something about the precise temperature and humidity of its dressing room. But then to really rachet it up to a Mariah Carey level, Chocolate might insist that said temperature be achieved first by heating the room up to about 115 degrees, then cooling it down to about 85, before bringing it back to a comfortably dry 91. Only after those demands are met, will it perform. This is even referred to as chocolate being “in temper.” You don’t want to mess with it when it’s out of temper, because frankly, it’s a big mess.

This all has something to do with different kinds of sugar crystals in the chocolate that behave differently in different temperatures, and trying to maximize one kind while chilling out the others. If you’ve ever melted some chocolate and dipped strawberries in it, then wondered why the chocolate didn’t solidify again at room temp, or put them in the fridge and wondered why the chocolate turned chalky, or why the chocolate just shattered when you bit into one instead of being all silky and pliable…this has more to do with this sugar crystals/tempering thing than it does with the quality of the chocolate you’re using.

In order to achieve this tempering at home, you’ll need a cool hard surface (preferrably marble), a digital thermometer that measures in 10ths of degrees, a host of flat-edged tools for preventing the melted chocolate from slithering all over the place, an outfit you don’t mind staining, and a non-aversion to having your hands messy at all times. (OCD types probably want to not try this at home.)

Chef Michelle tells the chocolate who's in charge

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3 Responses to The Ill-Tempered Chocolatier

  1. jen says:

    Clavier… J S Bach, right? 🙂

  2. Patsy Duncan says:

    You have such a future with your writing. Can’t wait to buy your first book that I am sure will keep everyone informed with what is going on in your world of culinary excellence!! Meanwhile, keep up the blog and the new-found friendships!! See you in August! Patsy

  3. knoxie says:

    I volunteer to taste test the chocolate in any form…!! 🙂

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