Jacques Torres: The Secret to Perfect Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Tempering chocolate is the trick to juicy berries with a shiny shell — and it’s way easier than you think.

Remember the last time you bit into a chocolate-covered strawberry? If the shell snapped audibly, pooling on your tongue as it melted, then chances are that chocolate was tempered. Tempering, essentially melting and cooling chocolate, is why that thin shell of chocolate yielding to a juicy berry cracks with such a crisp, satisfying sharpness.

No one needs to learn how to temper chocolate to enjoy it, but knowing this basic skill of a professional chocolatier — and the science behind it — can broaden your understanding of why the chocolate you eat every day looks and feels and tastes the way it does. It also opens up a world of homemade confections. Think chocolate-covered strawberries and whatever else your heart (or sweetheart) desires: bananas, marshmallows, candied oranges.

“The number one mystique that has to do with chocolate is tempering,” Alice Medrich writes in her award-winning cookbook, “Cocolat: Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts.” So let’s demystify it: Chocolate is made with sugar, cocoa solids, cocoa butter and, sometimes, flavorings like vanilla and emulsifiers like lecithin. Cocoa butter, the natural fat extracted from cocoa beans, is what makes chocolate liquid when hot and solid when cold. To temper chocolate, then, is to melt and cool it (and sometimes warm it again) to the right temperatures to get a snappy, shiny shell that sets and doesn’t melt at room temperature.


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