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Friday Tip|Tempering

This week’s Friday Tip is a little late…my apologies to anyone waiting on pins and needles, but my guess is that most were distracted by the wedding more than chomping at the bit to get a cooking tip from me.

This week’s tip is about tempering.  It’s a very easy little trick/technique that can be used in a number of different ways and can really save your cookies when you need it.

Why temper?

Because there are times when you’ll want to add something that cooks either really quickly or at a relatively low temperature to something that is hot.  And you’ll want to incorporate that ingredient completely, rather than having it cook itself into heartbreaking little clumpy bits.  An example:

Egg.  Specifically, egg yolk.  You might be adding beaten egg yolk to a sauce that is cooking away, and if you just stir it directly into the sauce, you’ll get that nasty clumpy stuff I was just talking about.  But, if you take some of the hot stuff you’re going to add the yolk to – a couple of tablespoons to a 1/4 cup is generally a good amount – and gently but quickly stir that hot stuff into the egg yolk, you’ll be able to keep the yolk from cooking into scrambled eggs and then you can add the now tempered egg yolk into whatever you cooking and it will behave much differently than if you had just dumped it into the piping hot whatever.

What to temper?

What else can you temper?  Glad you asked!  You will find that you’ll need to temper egg and pretty much all dairy products*, but you can use this technique any time you’re afraid you might have a clumpy mess on your hands if you throw a cold (or room temperature) ingredient into a dish full of hot.

WARNING!  Special case – chocolate!

Well, of course chocolate is special!  But in this case, “tempering” specifically applies differently, so please, do not “temper” your chocolate the way you temper your eggs.  Tempering chocolate is a technique (which I honestly have not really used) of heating it to a certain temperature and then cooling it again, but adding some already tempered chocolate to the mix to stabilize it and make it look pretty (it’s quite scientific and very cool).  This somehow changes the chocolate on a molecular level so that it doesn’t “bloom” (which I don’t think changes the taste much, but does change the texture and the look of the chocolate).  For more on tempering chocolate, visit Cooking For Engineers, a site I particularly like for its sciency spin on cooking.  Or just google “tempering chocolate!”

Hope that’s helpful – have a great royal weekend!


*We discovered the hard way the yogurt definitely needs to be tempered!  It’s used a lot in Indian sauces and benefits greatly from gentle handling and throwing some of your hot onion/spice/oil/meat/whatever mix into the yogurt before mixing it into the main pan.

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