Melting chocolate: Woman's Weekly Sue McMahon suggests having a suitable thermometer for measuring the temperature. She uses an infrared thermometer which doesn't come into contact with the chocolate and stays clean - available from chocolate-equipment shops and electronics stores like Maplin
If the process of tempering sounds too complicated, you can use a 'coating' instead. This type of product has a chocolate flavour but it's not real chocolate. It just needs melting and it's ready to use. The reason that it doesn't need tempering is that vegetable fats are usually used rather than cocoa butter, so it doesn't taste quite the same as real chocolate.
Melt the chocolate to the temperature given in the chart below, depending on the type of chocolate you're using.
Pour about two-thirds of the chocolate out on to a work surface to cool it down. Spread it out using a palette knife, and use a paint scraper to scoop the chocolate back up to the centre of the board before spreading it out again. Repeat this spreading until the chocolate starts to thicken slightly. The chocolate on the table should then be at the 2nd temperature given in the chart below. This is easy to measure if you're using an infrared thermometer (see tip, above), which you can just aim at the chocolate; otherwise you'll have to put the chocolate into a bowl to use a traditional thermometer.
Scrape the chocolate on the table into the bowl with the reserved chocolate and mix. The chocolate should then be at the 3rd temperature in the chart below. If it's too warm, then 'table' some of it again to cool it. If it's too cool, then warm it gently. It's a good idea to dip a knife into the tempered chocolate and lift it out to see how quickly the chocolate sets: this will give an indication to whether it's been tempered properly.
Dark, milk and white chocolate all require different temperatures, and even different brands of chocolate may vary slightly but, as a guideline, follow these temperatures.
Initial warming 50°C
Initial warming 45°C
Initial warming 40°C
Feature: Sue McMahon. Photos: Chris Alack and David Jordan. Props styling: Sue Radcliffe and Judy Williams
Where to next?
Back to the start of this feature
Use tempered chocolate to make chocolate truffles
Use tempered chocolate to make Easter eggs