There are two main rules to Handling Chocolate:
1. Do not let it come into contact with water while melting, and do not put it over direct heat. Water droplets that fall into a pan of melting chocolate will cause it to “seize,” or turn into a hard, chunky lump.
2. Similarly, overheating chocolate will ruin the taste and texture of the final product, which is why chocolate should always be melted over indirect heat or in small intervals in a microwave.
Melting Chocolate in the Microwave:
The microwave is a great tool for melting chocolate. If used properly, it can melt chocolate more quickly than a double boiler with minimal effort and mess. The most critical part of melting chocolate in the microwave is choosing an appropriate container. Ideally, you want to melt your chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl that remains cool or only slightly warm after several minutes of near-continuous microwaving. If the bowl is too hot for you to handle after it has been microwaved, it is too hot for your chocolate. If you have overheated your chocolate, immediately pour it into a cool bowl add chunks of unmelted chocolate, and stir continuously.
It is preferable to melt your chocolate on a low (50%) power setting, to avoid scorching or burning it. If your microwave does not have this option, heat the chocolate in shorter intervals and stir between each bout of heat. Additionally, if your microwave does not
have a turntable that rotates the bowl of chocolate, manually turn the bowl each time you stop and stir the chocolate.
It is very difficult to determine exact microwaving times, as it can vary depending on microwave wattage, quantity of chocolate, and even the cocoa butter content of the chocolate. However, as a rough guide, estimate about 1 minute for 1 ounce of chocolate, 3 minutes for 8 ounces of chocolate, 3.5 minutes for 1 pound of chocolate, and 4 minutes for 2 pounds. Run the microwave in 30 second-1 minute increments, stirring in between and rotating the bowl if necessary. Finish heating when most, but not all, of the chocolate is melted. Stir the chocolate continuously until it is smooth, shiny, and completely melted.
Melting Chocolate With Liquids:
Many recipes call for melting chocolate along with liquids like milk, cream, water, or liqueurs. Melting chocolate with liquids is often faster and more convenient, since it often speeds melting times and prevents common chocolate problems like overheating. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when melting chocolate with other substances.
Chocolate should never be melted with very small amounts of liquid. Always use at least 1 tablespoon of liquid for every 2 ounces of chocolate. This prevents the dry particles (cocoa and sugar) in the chocolate from binding together and becoming lumpy. Very dark chocolates may require more than this guideline, so be prepared to add another spoonful or two of liquid if necessary. When adding large quantities of liquid, add it all at once, rather than in small amounts, to prevent the chocolate from thickening.
Cold liquids should never be added to melted chocolate, as it can cause the chocolate to seize. Instead, ensure that your liquids are warm (but not boiling) when you add them to chocolate. Additionally, many recipes, like ganache, call for hot liquids to be poured over chopped chocolate. The heat from the liquid melts the chocolate, while the room temperature chocolate cools down the liquid. If you are following this method, allow the hot liquid and chocolate mixture to sit for a few minutes, then gently whisk them together until completely incorporated. Another useful tool for combining chocolate and hot liquids is an immersion blender. This handheld gadget does an excellent job of creating a smooth emulsion without incorporating air bubbles. Food processors, blenders, and electric mixers can also be used at low speeds.