I just received the latest Food Network Magazine in the mail yesterday and the whole issue is dedicated to chocolate. I thought to myself, what a perfect topic to blog about with Valentine’s coming up. Who doesn’t love chocolate?? Come on. Let’s all pledge to make chocolate covered something for our Valentine’s this year!
The Basics: Melting chocolate vs.Tempering chocolate. I would recommend melting if you are doing fondue but tempering if you are dipping and drying. It dries to a smooth, shiny finish. If you dip your food of choice into melted chocolate, it will come out looking streaky and cloudy. The main difference between melting and tempering is in melting you raise the temp of the chocolate to a high temp and leave it there. In tempering you bring the chocolate to a high temp and then bring it back down quickly to specific temperatures. I will attempt (key word) to explain each technique further. It is a bit confusing.
- Tempering: Tempering is a heating, cooling, and stirring process that induces the melted chocolate to set with a glossy surface and smooth texture. Tempering is important because it determines the final gloss and hardness of the chocolate. When you melt chocolate, the fat molecules separate. In order to get them back together, you need to temper the chocolate. A quick tempering method is to melt two-thirds of the chocolate (start with 1 lb of finely chopped choco) to be tempered in a double broiler to a temperature of 115°F, remove from heat and then add the remaining one-third (finely chopped) chocolate to the melted mixture, stirring until the mixture has reached 89°F and is smooth. (***a portion of this definition is from Epicurious and What’s Cooking America***). You must have an instant read thermometer when tempering. It is imperative so that you can understand when you have hit the peak high temp and when you get back down to its workable temp.
- Melting: You can either use the microwave (my preferred method) or the stove top. When using the stove, make sure you use a small, heavy bottomed pan. Place the chocolate (cut into small pieces) in the pan and heat on the lowest setting possible while stirring frequently. Remove from heat immediately after the chocolate has reached its metling point (see temperature reference below). In the microwave, place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl (I use my Pyrex glass bowl). Microwave at 50% power for 30 second intervals. Stir and continue at 30 second intervals until melted. Be careful not to overheat.
Must have products:
- A double broiler – A double boiler is a specialized set of pans consisting of a saucepan that holds hot water, and a bowl that fits securely over the saucepan. Chocolate is placed in the top bowl and allowed to melt over gentle, indirect heat. If you don’t own a double boiler, any metal or glass bowl that fits snugly over the top of a saucepan can be used.
- Instant read thermometer-this is just what it sounds like. A thermometer that reads the temp instantly.
- Melting temps – Milk chocolate or white chocolate – 110 degrees. Dark Chocolate – 115 degrees. Do not go higher than this or you will risk burning.
- Disaster strikes – Seizing is when water comes in contact with the chocolate (whether dripped from you hand, in the pan or steam in the microwave). The chocolate becomes grainy and unworkable. I learned this the hard way with white chocolate in the microwave. I believe you can try to add canola oil or cream to try to salvage it but I say toss and start over. It is almost impossible to get the chocolate to fully bounce back.
- Do not rely on appearance alone when microwaving chocolate. Chocolate tends to hold its shape. The only way to know if it is fully melted is to stir it.
- For best results, use at least 1 lb of chocolate. If that is more than you need, you can temper it, use what you need and let the rest harden and use at another time.
- Block chocolate or chocolate bars (cut into small pieces) will have better results than chocolate chips. It has to do with the chemical composition so I am not even going to attempt to explain this one.
A Twist on the ‘ol choco covered fruit idea: What else can be covered in chocolate you ask? Hmm. Pretty much the sky is the limit. A few ideas:
- Dried fruit-apples, bananas, apricots, pineapples.
- Crackers-Saltines, Ritz, Townhouse.
- Candy-Gummy anything, licorice.
- Salty snacks-pretzles (of course), potato chips, Fritos, popcorn.
- Cereal-Shredded wheat, Cheerios, Cap’n Crunch.
- Other fruit-Think outside the strawberry. Orange slices, apples, grapes.
- Other craziness-Bacon?? Cheese cubes??
***Temper the chocolate as described above. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and spray the paper with cooking spray (yep, I said cooking spray), dip the chosen yumminess in the chocolate using your fingers or a slotted spoon, let the excess chocolate drip off and set on the wax paper. Let cool. You can either cool at room temp or throw it in the fridge to speed the process up.
Happy Dipping everyone!!