For most recipes, you can melt chocolate using one of three methods: direct heat, a double boiler, or a microwave oven. You can also use one of these methods when a recipe calls for melting chocolate with another ingredient, such as butter, shortening, or whipping cream.
For best results, coarsely chop chocolate bars and squares before melting them.
Choose one of the following methods to melt your chocolate.
- Direct heat: This method is easy and convenient. Place the chocolate in a heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly till the chocolate begins to melt. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir the chocolate until it is smooth.
- Double boiler: This method takes a little longer than the direct-heat method but eliminates the possibility of scorching the chocolate. Place water in the bottom of the double boiler so the top of the water is 1/2 inch below the upper pan. Then place the double boiler over low heat. Stir the chocolate constantly until it is melted. The water in the bottom of the double boiler should not come to boiling while the chocolate is melting.
- Microwave oven: Place up to 6 ounces of chopped chocolate bars, chocolate squares, or chocolate pieces in a microwave-safe bowl, custard cup, or measuring cup. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until chocolate is soft enough to stir smooth. The chocolate will hold its shape after it starts to melt, so stir it once every minute during heating.
Whichever method you use, remember these points:
- Make sure all equipment is completely dry. Any moisture on the utensils or in the container may cause the chocolate to seize, or stiffen. If this happens, stir in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon shortening (not butter) for every ounce of chocolate.
- Be careful to keep water from splashing into the chocolate. A single drop will cause the chocolate to seize.
- Keep heat low to avoid scorching.
- Always stir chocolate during melting, because most chocolate retains its shape as it melts.
Tempering chocolate is a method of slowly melting chocolate followed by carefully cooling it. This stabilizes the cocoa butter, resulting in a chocolate with a glossy shine that holds its shape.
Since tempering chocolate is a lengthy process, we use an easy method of melting chocolate that produces very, very similar results in less time. We call this method "quick-tempering."
Step-by-Step Directions for Quick Tempering
- Chop up 1 pound of chocolate bars, squares, or large pieces into small pieces. In a 4-cup glass measuring cup or a 1-1/2-quart glass mixing bowl, combine the amount of chocolate and shortening called for in the recipe (or use 1 tablespoon of shortening for every 6 ounces of chocolate).
- Pour very warm tap water (100 degrees F. to 110 degrees F) into a large glass casserole or bowl to a depth of 1 inch. Place the measure or bowl containing the chocolate inside the casserole. Adjust water height so that it covers the bottom half of the measuring cup or bowl containing the chocolate. (DO NOT SPLASH ANY WATER INTO THE CHOCOLATE.)
- Stir the chocolate mixture constantly with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. This takes about 15 to 20 minutes. (Do not rush the process.)
- If the water begins to cool, remove the measure or bowl containing the chocolate. Discard the cool water and add warm water. Return the measure or bowl containing the chocolate to the bowl containing water.
- Do not allow any water or moisture to touch the chocolate. Just one drop can cause the chocolate to become thick and grainy. If water should get into the chocolate, stir in additional shortening, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the mixture becomes shiny and smooth.
- When melted and smooth, the chocolate is ready for dipping or shaping. If the chocolate becomes too thick during handling, repeat step 4. Stir the chocolate constantly until it again reaches dipping consistency.
- Let your finished product set up in a cool, dry place. Do not chill your finished product or the chocolate will lose temper and become soft at room temperature.
Place cookies on a wire rack over waxed paper. Dip a fork into melted chocolate, and let the first clumpy drip land in the pan. Drizzle chocolate over the edges and tops of cookies.
For a more controlled drizzle or piping, place melted chocolate in a heavy plastic bag and snip off a tiny piece of one corner so you can use it as a pastry bag. Make the hole larger, if necessary. If the chocolate starts to stiffen as you work, heat the bag in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds.