Chocolate is solid at room temperature, but it can be a little messy when it melts. So, what to add to chocolate to make it harden?
You will need your chocolate to harden, whether making chocolate bars, truffles, hard shells, or dipping chocolate to coat strawberries. The problem is that chocolate is very heat sensitive. When you have tempered the chocolate to shape it into any kind, it might not come together after cooling as you had hoped. This can be very frustrating, and pour your efforts in vain.
However, you can add more chocolate to harden it, called seeding chocolate. This involves not melting all the chocolate at once but adding ⅓ of the seed chocolate later to the melted mixture. Beta crystals are another element you can add to harden the chocolate.
Making the chocolate hard is more about how well you carry the tempering process instead of adding ingredients later. When chocolate is tempered, its molecules break, making it more sensitive. Therefore, you must understand the science of chocolate and how to handle it for the best results.
We are a bunch of baking experts specializing in chocolate treats. After several failed tries, we finally got our chocolate to harden the perfect way. We have put together this guide to help you in your journey so you can make chocolate the way you want.
The Science of Chocolate
To understand the ideal way to harden chocolate, you must first develop a comprehensive understanding of the subject itself.
Chocolate is basically made of two main ingredients: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is the part of the chocolate that liquifies when you heat it. When chocolate is tempered, it has a crystalline structure that aligns perfectly to provide the chocolate a shine, texture, and hardness. The crystallite structure gets demolished as the molecules break apart when you melt chocolate.
However, the crystallite structure comes together when the chocolate cools and melts cocoa solids, and the cocoa butter will form a solid as it is convenient to the molecules. But we want to control its hardness, smoothness, texture, and shine. The way to manage your chocolate’s solid formation is called Agitation.
Agitation is the process of stopping the formation of the crystals at the wrong temperature. If the crystals start to form at 100 degrees, keep stirring the chocolate until it falls below 95 degrees. Doing so will ensure that the chocolate tempers the right way and hardens appropriately. It is best to let the chocolate’s temperature drop to 79 degrees to let the crystals grow. The stronger the crystals are, the better your chocolate will take form.
What Kind of Chocolate to Use
The kind of chocolate you also use heavily impacts the tempering and hardening process. Dark, milk, and white - all three types of chocolate can be tempered, but you will need to work on different temperatures. Whichever kind of chocolate you use, all should have one thing in common - real chocolate.
Real chocolate refers to the ones that have cocoa butter. There are basically two types of chocolates: Compound chocolate and real chocolate.
Compound chocolate will have other ingredients in it than cocoa butter for the smoothness like vegetable oil, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, etc. While it does not have the natural cocoa butter, it can still be used for frosting and toppings as it can melt and harden easily without tempering. However, it is not as good for bars and truffles and does not come out neatly from the candy mold.
On the other hand, real chocolate melts at body temperature. Try putting a piece on your tongue and experience the delicious candy melt in your mouth into a smooth and nutty river - we can almost taste it. Compound chocolate melts at 100 degrees, and you have to chew it to consume it.
What Tools Do You Need?
You need some pretty basic tools for tempering the chocolate, with the first and most important being the spatula. Using a spatula with a built-in thermometer will make your life a whole lot easier as you will need to monitor the temperature throughout the tempering process. You can use a separate cooking thermometer if you don’t have a spatula with a built-in thermometer.
The second item you need to temper chocolate is the double-boiler to melt the chocolate.
The Seeding Method
This is the most common way of tempering chocolate and the lengthiest. It does not involve many steps but needs a lot of manual labor. Seeding chocolate involves melting chocolate in a double boiler until it reaches around 115 degrees. Keep stirring it so all the pieces melt quickly and do not burn. When the chocolate is melted, add more unmelted chocolate to it. This is to help the melted chocolate cool down. However, don’t use all the unmelted chocolate yet.
After adding more chocolate, you have to keep stirring so the combination of melted and unmelted chocolate blends in well together before the crystals start forming. This can take a while. Once you get to 95 degrees, add a bit more chocolate we saved earlier to the tempered chocolate. The tempered crystals will attach to the untampered crystals to form the perfect chocolate mix, resulting in ideal hardness.
However, you must continue the agitation process (stirring) but not consistently. Your stirring should have growing breaks in between as we wait for the temperature to set at 79 degrees. This is important to ensure the temperature is consistent throughout the melted chocolate. Once the chocolate has cooled down to 79 degrees, it is time to test the temper.
Test Your Temper
If you are using the seeding method the first time, it is best to test the temper before moving on to the final product. To test the temper, pour a teaspoon of chocolate onto a butter paper and refrigerate it for five minutes. The chocolate should come out without breaking and neatly when you take it out. Well-tempered chocolate also breaks with a snap sound and clean edges.
On the other hand, poorly tempered chocolate will bend before breaking without a snap. Luckily, you can fix it easily by reheating the chocolate to 95 degrees, adding more chocolate, and agitating until the temperature drops to 79 degrees.
If your chocolate passes the temper test, you have to reheat to give it the shape you want or make it liquid enough to coat it easily. When reheating, you should never go above 90 degrees, or it will ruin all the crystals you put your time and effort into making.
Another way of making the chocolate hard is by using beta crystals that you can get from Amazon. This method is a bit more expensive but our favorite for chocolate tempering.
Beta crystals are freeze-dried and tempered cocoa butter. To use beta crystals to harden your chocolate:
- Use 2/3 of unmelted chocolate
- Heat it to 115 degrees
- Add the remaining amount of chocolate and agitate until the temperature sets at 95 degrees.
- Add beta crystals depending on the amount of chocolate (one tsp of beta crystals for seven ounces of chocolate).
- Keep stirring systematically until the temperature drops to 79 degrees.
Adding beta crystals which are basically dried cocoa butter, will allow you to melt the chocolate quickly to make the final product that will harden the way you want it to. Once the process is completed, you must test the temper the same way we did before.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore