Photo courtesy Flickr user Peter Pearson

Here’s more evidence that, as Chris Young hypothesized a few months ago, sous vide is the new microwave: People are using devices like the Anova to temper chocolate.

I know, I know: We all thought that chocolate appeared in its finished form like a magical food from the gods. But it actually takes a lot of steps to make a shiny, delicious chocolate bar, the last of which is tempering, which means heating and cooling the melted chocolate to the right temperature so that certain crystals develop, making it shiny and shelf-stable. If it’s not, it will develop white blotches and streaks that change the texture entirely.

Pastry chefs and chocolatiers use all sorts of methods to temper chocolate, such as “tabling” it, which is visually and technically challenging. Theo Chocolate, for example, tables all the chocolate for its confections (think thousands of candies every month).

People who aren’t such purists use, you know, a machine to do this work. Those machines are huge, so you’ll often find home cooks tempering chocolate in the microwave.

Or at least, you used to. Recently I discovered a new recipe for tempering chocolate that seems even easier: sous vide! Simply heat the chocolate in a vacuum-sealed bag to a certain temperature in the water bath, “squish it around in the bag,” reduce the temperature of the water bath, squish a little more, and then pull it out. Who says you can only use your Anova to make a steak or some eggs?

I love the idea of this shortcut. It uses updated technology (the microwave is so 1966) in a new and no-nonsense way to transform a technically difficult task into one that anyone should be able to do. At the same time, I’m not sure it would really work. After all, when melted chocolate touches water, it seizes and gets all clumpy and unworkable: With this method, you’re submerging chocolate in the enemy.

But I get it: We’re all obsessed with chocolate, and anything to get our hands on it is going to be popular. Take 3D printing. “The first thing people want to 3D print is chocolate,” said Luis Rodriguez Alcalde, a 3D-printing expert who runs 3 Digital Cooks. Dozens of printers claim that they’ve mastered printing chocolate, which means they have to have mastered tempering, right? Some even say it’s the easiest medium to work with. But anyone who has tried tabling chocolate or making it from scratch knows that’s far from the truth.

Regardless, this kind of innovation only helps transform the tools and techniques that professional and home chefs use in the kitchen, demystifying and democratizing cooking for all.

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