I was quizzing my husband a few weeks ago about chocolate. I asked him what kind of chocolate is used for dipping so that the chocolate dries firm to the touch. I was interested in making things that were less messy without losing flavor. Rob looked at me a little sideways, “Are you just asking about tempered chocolate?”

My husband is a chef and restaurant owner. He went to culinary school and so is trained in every area of cooking. He prefers cooking over baking but certainly can bake very well. When we have these types of conversations, I think Rob is surprised when I don’t know how to do something around the area of baking because I have been baking for such a long time. If you learned from your mother, you know the kinds of things she knows. You then broaden your horizons organically with things that you have heard or interest you. So my lack of formal schooling was definitely showing.

Once I heard the word “tempered”, it was familiar enough for me to know that this is what I need to learn how to do. I first read about it to confirm that the use for tempered chocolate matched my goals – Check! I thought to myself that it was no problem. I was excited that all I had to do was follow the procedure I found, right? Well, not exactly.

My first try could have been okay if I had not made the classic mistake. I chilled it in the refrigerator. I do that with untempered chocolate quite often to speed things up. If you do this with tempered chocolate, you will get this white chalky layer called “bloom”. It is not dangerous to eat but it looks bad.

My second try just did not work. I followed the procedure (I thought). I let it cool slowly out on the counter. It took a really long time to become firm to the touch. I had to cover it and walk away and do something else because it took so long. When I came back to it, it had bloom again. What was I doing wrong? I went back to the procedures and read various versions. One thing I that might be the issue was heating the chocolate on the double boiler too fast because I had not made sure that the water did not touch the top pan. The water simmering underneath should heat the top pan only by steam. I think this matters because the chocolate temperature should rise slowly and consistently.

My third try was the charm!! I paid careful attention to the double boiler water level. I put it on simmer not boil. I watched the temperature rise slowly. I also timed the toffee I made to be ready when the chocolate was ready. I also made sure I could place the pan back on the steam to reheat the chocolate right before use. It worked!! I figured it out. Whew!

I will say that I learned a lot from this experience. It is important to me to have treats that package and ship well. Tempering chocolate is more involved than I thought it would be but the outcome is worth it. I am very glad I know how to do it but it was a frustrating process. Why is it that learning sometimes requires a little loss of temper?