Ina Garten's Easy Method For Perfectly Tempered Chocolate

If one person is going to have an easy workaround for tempered chocolate, you know it's Ina Garten. Tempering chocolate involves melting it to change its texture so it can be stabilized in a smoother, softer form. This can be a dreaded baking task because, as Ghirardelli notes, the margin for error when tempering chocolate is incredibly narrow. 

To temper properly, chocolate must be melted slowly (normally using a bain-marie or double-boiler), ending up around 115 degrees Fahrenheit (any higher will break down the chocolate too much and prevent it from hardening, per Ghirardelli). Then, it must be cooled back down to around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

All that precision means everyone is looking for better ways to temper chocolate. For one thing, you should be ditching chocolate chips for whole bars of chocolate when it comes time to melt. And Valrhona states that having a digital thermometer will be a huge help because it takes the guesswork out of such specific temperature measuring. Meanwhile, Ina Garden keeps things even simpler with a chocolate tempering method that the most reluctant bakers should be able to pull off with ease.

Ina Garten uses a microwave to temper chocolate

Ina Garten has no problem with kitchen shortcuts if the results are good and her method for tempering chocolate smartly combines a few different techniques to get it done quick and easy. As she demonstrates while making chocolate dipped shortbread cookies, it starts with shaving a bar of chocolate with a knife to make sure everything melts quickly and evenly, per YouTube. She then separates the chocolate and puts half in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt it. Finally, after half has been heated, she borrows a trick often used when making tempered chocolate with a double-boiler and adds the cooler half of the chocolate to the microwaved half. This quickly brings down the temperature to prevent it from overcooking and breaking into an unusable mess.

Garten's method marries the convenience of the microwave with the science of "seeding" chocolate by adding those uncooked shavings. According to Serious Eats, seeding works because tempered chocolate has a crystalline structure that gives it its glossy, snappy properties. Melted chocolate loses this, but chocolate that isn't melted will transfer its crystal structure when mixed with in, giving the entire bowl the chemical properties you want — in melted form. 

Now, all you have left to do is pour it over your cake or ice cream and watch as it hardens back into a beautiful, shiny coat. If it works for Ina Garten, it will definitely work for you.