Definition: Temper actually has two meanings. The first is a process of heating and cooling chocolate to form stable crystals. These crystals then assure that the chocolate will be firm at room temperature. The second meaning is to gently heat egg yolks before adding to a hot sauce by adding a small bit of the sauce and beating well. This technique prevents curdling in sauces and stews.
Pronunciation: TEM purr • (verb)
Examples: The chocolate is tempered before coating the candies to remain firm at room temperature. OR Temper the egg yolks before adding to the hot sauce by stirring a bit of the hot sauce into them. Beat well, then add the warmed egg yolks to the sauce and continue cooking.
Common Misspellings: Tempur
Tempering is an advanced cooking technique that does require some skill. Tempering sauces so they are the same temperature and will combine easily just requires some patience and a lot of stirring. Add the hot sauce to the cold sauce, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until the cold sauce is warmed. Then combine the two fully and beat until incorporated.
To temperature chocolate, I have developed a foolproof method. Put most of the chocolate to be melted, either in the form of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, in a microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the mixture is melted and smooth.
Then add the remaining chocolate and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth again. This sets up the crystal formation in the mixture so the chocolate will be firm, but not hard, at room temperature.
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