Melting chocolate is a big deal for some and isn't really for some others. I have messed this up a few times, a couple of times during my first few attempts at melting chocolate and then later too. Specially while trying to melt small quantities of it. Well melted, smooth chocolate can make a difference to the texture of your bakes and desserts, so its helpful to know how.
The microwave has been my method all along, I have been fairly successful mostly. Its quite simple, but not always. Just chop your chocolate coarsely and heat it in a microwave safe container on MEDIUM (50% power, am guilty of doing it on HIGH mostly) for dark chocolate and LOW (30% power) for milk and white chocolate, stirring in between till the chocolate is mostly melted. The remaining heat melts the rest of the chocolate. Disadvantage is, its not always possible to estimate the time accurately as it depends on the wattage of your microwave, the quality of chocolate, voltage fluctuations etc. You risk scorching the chocolate if you microwave it for longer than necessary. You can't see what's happening in the bowl as you heat. Checking the progress more often has ruined the smoothness of the melted chocolate for me a few times.
And then, since I use the microwave for baking too, I sometimes need to remember to melt the chocolate before I pre-heat it and make sure it stays liquid till the stage I need it that way. I do not use a double boiler as I do not have one, I don't always have the right sized utensils for the amount of chocolate I need to melt. The bowl with the chocolate has to sit on top of a larger bowl containing barely simmering water, without the water actually touching the bowl. You can't see the water level underneath the bowl as you heat.
No matter which method of melting chocolate you choose, you must remember
- Chocolate should be melted uncovered at low temperatures always.
- The chocolate must not come in contact with moisture. Make sure the container, the knife, the cutting board, the bowl, the spoon, the spatula (Gawd!) everything is dry. I prefer to chop it fine so that it melts faster.
- Any moisture (unless specified in the recipe) will cause the chocolate to seize up and turn into one lumpy mass of it. If that happens, start with fresh chocolate. Unless the chocolate tastes burnt, take heart, you could still use it where you need to heat it with cream or milk to make ganache or chocolate sauce.
- At least one tablespoon of liquid for 2 ounce or 56 grams (aprox) of chocolate is compatible when your recipe directs you to melt both together.
- The objective is to melt the chocolate to make it warm, never hot.
So here is how to do it the skillet way
Place the chocolate in a dry stainless steel bowl or saucepan (with a handle will help). Of course one of a suitable size which will allow you to stir the chocolate comfortably with out it spilling out. A larger one would be better than a smaller one. Only may be you will have more chocolate on the bowl than you could scrape out and actually use.
Have your spatula ready.
Take a wide skillet ( if it is not wide enough, you can't see the simmer and adjust the heat as needed) with some water in it on your gas stove. Induction stove is tricky, can't sustain the bare simmer long enough. If you keep the bowl with the chocolate in it, the water should come up may be half an inch or so. (watch the video) Make sure the water level is not too high up the sides of the bowl as the water may get into the bowl (and cause the chocolate to seize) as you stir and move the bowl or lift it out.
Bring the water to a bare simmer, reduce the heat to low. Place the bowl with the chocolate in the water. The bowl must sit in the water. Do it! the pool of chocolate favors the brave here!
Keep stirring the chocolate with the spatula, you are mixing the warmest pieces of melted chocolate with the unmelted pieces.
When most of the chocolate is melted, carefully take the bowl out of the skillet. Stir to melt the rest. The water under the skillet forms a thin film preventing the chocolate from getting scorched says Alice. The best part is here you can see the level of the water, can see the chocolate melting (and take it off the heat immediately) and can control the heat level better.
Medrich cautions that white and milk chocolate are more delicate and hence you need to turn off the heat under the skillet for 30 seconds before placing the bowl in, then stir almost constantly, the book doesn't mention anymore. Melted white and milk chocolate should fee barely warm to the touch, dark chocolate warm to very warm, but not hot.
You could use the same methods as above when you need to melt chocolate with butter or other liquids in adequate quantities. The above information has been compiled from Alice Medrich's Chocolate Holidays.
Watch Alice Medrich doing this here, the video is titled the ' The Best Way To Melt Chocolate'
If you are a beginner, this is one method way safer than the others. Try it and then chose the microwave way or double boiler down the line if that's more convenient. As with most things, you will get better with practice. Then there is no stopping you from baking those perfect moist brownies or that simple Eggless Chocolate Mousse!