Whether you are making a mold for lollipops or making a candy apple, having your chocolate hardened properly is essential. Otherwise, you end up with a sticky mess. But how long does it take for the chocolate to harden?
Properly tempered chocolate can harden to touch in 4-5 minutes at room temperature. Regular chocolate without tempering can become hard if you put it in the freezer for 10-20 minutes. The exact time will depend on factors such as the thickness and temper of the chocolate as well as the temperature.
In this article, we go over the basics of tempering and melting chocolate, including the time it takes for different chocolates to set. We will also discuss some of the reasons that can prevent your chocolate from setting properly and how you can work around them.
Will Melted Chocolate Harden at Room Temperature?
First, let’s talk about what qualifies as hardened chocolate. There are 2 qualities you need to look for to judge if a bar of chocolate has set or hardened properly. One, the chocolate is set enough that it does not melt on your finger when you touch it. Second, the chocolate makes an audible snapping sound when you break it apart.
Melted chocolate can achieve this level of hardness even at room temperature if you temper it properly. Otherwise, the chocolate will melt all over your fingers the moment you touch it. And the candy will tear apart like cheese instead of breaking with a crackle.
If you leave untampered chocolate in at room temperature even for 30 or 40 minutes, it will not set properly. It may look to have hardened on the surface. But the moment you touch it, the chocolate will melt on your fingers. So, if you want to set chocolate at room temperature, you have to temper it first.
What Is Tempered Chocolate?
Tempering is a process where you sequentially heat up and cool down a batch of chocolate, with a particularly keen eye on both temperature and timing. This causes the cocoa butter inside the chocolate to form a particular type of crystal (called “beta crystal”) and then the crystals assemble in an organized shape.
Why Do We Temper Chocolate?
Tempering is essentially a specific method of melting chocolate with several great benefits. Due to the organized nature of the cocoa butter crystal structure, tempered chocolate has some vaunted properties.
The chief among them is that tempered chocolate becomes set even at room temperature. And it does so very quickly, taking 4-5 minutes depending on the accuracy of the tempering method. Once it has set, tempered chocolate has a glossy sheen. It is firm yet delicate; meaning the chocolate will not melt when you touch it but will have a silky-smooth feel.
Not only does temper chocolate harden fast, but they also stay rigid for a long time. Properly tempered chocolate can stay shiny and firm for days.
Now, tempering chocolate is a pretty hard skill and sensitive to small errors. Simply getting the temperature wrong just 1-2 degrees can ruin the process, making your chocolate unable to set at room temperature. Fortunately, there are some alternative options you can try to set your chocolate properly.
Why Does Tempered Chocolate Harden Quicker?
The cocoa butter in your chocolate can assemble in 6 different types of crystal structures. The beta-crystal is the most stable. And by melting the chocolate at specific temperatures, you allow the beta-crystals to flourish and propagate while the other crystals dissolve. And it is this compact and stable structure that makes tempered chocolate so advantageous.
Since the molecular structure is so stable, when you place the tempered chocolate in relatively warm temperatures of 60-70-degree Fahrenheit, it takes a firm and rigid structure. And when you break the chocolate, the crystals simply come apart smoothly, without creating any edges or tears.
How Long Does It Take Melted Chocolate to Harden in the Fridge?
Chocolate can harden sufficiently in the fridge in 10-20 minutes. This is a useful method of hardening chocolate for making things such as chocolate molds or lollipops.
Of course, you have to consider the thickness of your chocolate as well as its quality. The thicker the chocolate you put in the fridge, the more time it will take for it to set. For a really large batch of chocolate, it can take 1-2 hours for the entire thing to harden sufficiently.
The constitution of the chocolate also counts. The higher the fat content of the melted chocolate, the quicker it will harden in the fridge. This is because fat or lipid molecules consolidate much easier than protein or carbohydrates.
If you are especially short on time, the freezer is your best option. Within 5-10 minutes, the chocolate will harden enough that you can crack it or use it as a mold.
However, untampered chocolate has an unstable crystal structure so it melts far quicker than its tempered counterpart. So, if you do harden chocolate with the help of a fridge or freezer, you should return the remaining chocolate back to the cool temperature fast.
Of course, the best way to harden chocolate is gradual. This way the chocolate stays firm for longer, meaning you do not constantly have to put it in the fridge after each use.
How Long Does It Take Melted Chocolate to Freeze?
Freezing the chocolate completely is a good way of storing chocolate for a long, long time. The time it takes to freeze chocolate completely will depend on the amount, thickness, and quality of the chocolate. Usually, it takes around 10 minutes.
Again, it is best to harden chocolate gradually. So, start by storing the chocolate in a plastic bag or container in a normal refrigerator for 24 hours. Make sure the bag or container is air-tight, so that moisture does not get in the chocolate. The moisture will not ruin your chocolate but it will disrupt the taste and texture.
After you have hardened the chocolate in the refrigerator, move it to a freezer. This way you can save your chocolate for as long as 2 years. But the longer you wait the more you compromise with its taste and texture. And high-quality chocolate is best when you enjoy it within 6 months of storage.
How Long Does It Take Chocolate on Fruit to Harden?
In most cases, it will take you 15-30 minutes in the fridge to harden the chocolate on a fruit. The type of fruit has little to no impact on how the chocolate sets. The main factor here is the type of chocolate and how thick the coating is.
If the chocolate has tempered well, you can get it to harden up in less than 20 minutes in a regular refrigerator. If you want to do it faster, put it in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Again, you have to consider how thick the coating is. If you put a thick coating of chocolate, as you do with chocolate apples, it is best to keep it in the cooler for a bit longer.
What Is the Best and Fastest Way to Harden Chocolate?
For untampered, regular chocolate, the fastest way of solidifying it would be to put it in a blast freezer. This can get you solid chocolate in less than 10 minutes whereas a refrigerator may take you up to 20 minutes.
But the best way to set chocolate is to temper it first. Yes, the process is tricky and easy to get wrong. But a properly tempered chocolate will harden within 5 minutes even at room temperature of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. You do not need a freezer or refrigerator. All you need to do is store the chocolate somewhere cool and dry.
Moreover, tempered chocolate stays hard for a longer period without requiring the help of a fridge. In contrast, even if you do freeze untampered chocolate, it will melt very quickly, requiring you to start the freezing process all over again.
Why Is Your Melted Chocolate Not Hardening?
There can be several reasons as to why your chocolate refuses to harden properly, be it tempered or untempered. Here, we are going to cover some of the more common factors responsible for a runny chocolate batch:
The Temperature Is Too High
When we say that tempered chocolate hardens at room temperature, we are talking in the range of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, the present temperature in your room can be higher than that, especially during summer or if the room is particularly humid. This can cause even-tempered chocolate to not set properly.
Not Freezing It For Long Enough
You can check to see whether the chocolate is set in the freeze by gently pressing it at around the halfway mark. But if you repeatedly open the fridge and move the chocolate around, you are inadvertently resetting the freezing point. So, give your chocolate enough time to set and have patience.
Not Enough Seed Chocolate
Tempering chocolate is a gradual process of crystal formation. A beneficial fact is that if some parts of the chocolate have formed the proper crystal, those crystals, in turn, catalyze more chocolate to follow suit. These initial chocolate crystals are what we refer to as “seed chocolate”.
So, by adding even a small amount of already tempered chocolate (seed chocolate) in a larger batch of untempered chocolate, you will increase the tempering rate drastically. But if there is not enough seed chocolate in the mix, then the final product will not harden adequately.
So, the first time you melt the chocolate, you only make part of the chocolate into the desired crystal structure. The rest remain untampered. This is why tempering chocolate is a multi-step process.
The Temperature Was Not Accurate During Tempering
As we have alluded to already, chocolate tempering is very sensitive to certain temperatures. Get it wrong even by a couple of degrees and your whole effort may end up in vain.
Now, different qualities of chocolate have different temperature ranges. For example, you have to melt dark chocolate between 55- 58 °C or 131-136 °F and then cool the temperature down to 28-29 °Celsius or 82-84 °Fahrenheit.
In contrast, milk chocolate has a melting temperature of 45C-50C (113-122 F) and a cooling temperature in the range of 27-28 C (80-82 F). The temperature differences may not seem too extensive. But the consequence for getting them wrong can be.
Getting these temperatures right is crucial. Otherwise, the cocoa fat in the chocolate will not form the desired crystal structure.
Water In the Hole!
When it comes to tempering chocolate, water is your number one enemy. Make sure that all of your cooking tools like a spatula, pan, thermometer are dry and pristine. Because the smallest amount of water can ruin the crystal formation and lead to grainy, unsettled chocolate.
In an appropriately melted batch, all the molecules are distributed even in the spread. But the moment any water gets in, the sugar and cocoa solids adhere together like dough. This makes for a clumpy and semi-solid emulsion that is not suited for baking or dipping purposes.
How to Fix Chocolate That Won’t Set?
When it comes to making chocolate that sets properly, the key is in the melting process. The smoother the chocolate melts, the quicker and more stable it will set. Because the smoothness on the outside indicates how well the crystals have formed on the inside.
But due to many reasons, some we already discussed, the chocolate can end up not properly melted. As a result, it will not harden no matter how long you leave it to set. And even if it does solidify somewhat in the fridge, it quickly melts the moment you touch it or try to use it in your dish.
So, here are some fixes for chocolate that will not set properly.
The Microwave Method
If there was a problem with the tempering process, the best way to fix it would be to melt it again. And you can accomplish this easily with the help of a microwave oven.
Divide the unsettled mixture into 4 parts. Put one part in a separate bowl. Place the remaining 3 parts in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it at 60-70% power for 30 seconds.
Take the bowl out and stir quickly 15-20 times. This ensures that the heat spreads to all of the chocolate equally.
Return the bowl to the microwave and this time heat it for 20 seconds at the same power. Take it back out and stir once again 15-20 times. Note that with each turn, you are keeping the bowl in the microwave for less time. This is because you want to use the already formed seed crystals to do much of the work.
By now, most of the chocolate should be melted, with just a few solid bits remaining. Add the portion you put aside earlier and stir continuously for 90-120 seconds. The residual heat should be enough to melt all of the fat. Dip a spoon or your finger to see if the consistency is smooth and glossy.
If it is not, put it back in the microwave, this time for only 10 seconds. Bring it back out and stir it again until you reach the desired consistency.
Keep a special eye out for the temperature. The ideal way to do this would be to use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature after each turn in the microwave. Here are the ranges you are looking for:
- Dark – 86 to 88 °F
- Milk – 84 to 86 °F
- White – 82 to 84 °F
Fixing Seized Chocolate
When you get water into your melted chocolate and it starts to form clumps, we call this phenomenon “seizing”. Once this happens, your chocolate will not have the consistency you need.
To fix this issue, you need to add more liquid. This sounds contradictory at first, but adding more liquid will help you correct the initial moisture. See, the first few drops of water has caused the sugar in the chocolate to form clusters. So, by adding more liquid, in this case, water, you are dissolving those clusters back into the fat.
For this to work, you need to add just enough water for all the clumps to dissolve but not so much that the mixture becomes soup. Start by adding a tablespoon of boiling water to the mix and stir vigorously. Continue to add one tablespoon of water at a time until the consistency is smooth and clean.
Of course, doing this will dilute the chocolate. So, the taste will not be as rich or dense as it initially was. But now the melted chocolate will have no problem hardening evenly. To prevent this from happening in the first place, make sure all your tools are dry and clean when you start the melting process.
Put It in the Blast Freezer
Say you have tried tempering chocolate but something went wrong. Now, the chocolate will not set and you do not have the time to repeat the process.
A quick and easy solution would be to put the bowl in a blast freezer. The extremely cool temperature will harden up your chocolate.
Now, this chocolate will not have the same structural stability. Meaning they will melt away quickly after you take them out of the fridge. So, the best way would be to wait until the last minute to bring out the chocolate if you wish to use it in its solid form. Then when you are done, put the remaining chocolate back in the freezer.
Does Putting Chocolate in the Fridge Ruin It?
Storing chocolate in the fridge will not completely ruin it. You can still eat it without fearing food poisoning or rotten chocolate. But when you refrigerate fresh chocolate, you are seriously compromising on the taste and texture. As chocolate absorbs moisture and odor easily, putting it in the fridge with other food products will affect its taste and smell.
So, if you have to store chocolate in a fridge, make sure you do so in an air-tight container free from any moisture or odor.
Do Chocolate Chips Harden Faster than Chocolate?
Chocolate chips take longer to melt but less time to harden. This is because manufacturers infuse the chips with lecithin. Lecithin is a type of lipid that helps the chips to maintain their shape and size for a long period. This raises the melting temperature of the chips and increases their stability.
To conclude, properly tempered chocolate is very useful to have for both baking and dipping. It is a versatile ingredient that you can melt, mold, and harden to your liking. Hopefully, with the help of this article, you will be able to achieve a properly set chocolate in no time.