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Tempering sour cream with hot soup.

© 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

"Temper" is a culinary term meaning to stabilize certain products. For instance, when a hot liquid, like soup, is mixed with cold cream, it is added slowly, whisking the entire time, so the dairy product doesn't curdle.

Likewise, chocolate is tempered by heating and cooling and heating again to stabilize the fat in the chocolate so it doesn't crystallize or "bloom" once it cools.

I tempered the sour cream by adding the hot Mushroom-Barley Soup slowly while whisking constantly.
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