I still cannot believe that Christmas is tomorrow...where has the time gone? Over the past couple of weeks, I've been trying to find time here and there to enjoy one of my favorite things about the holiday season: baking. To me, December is a month that all of the bakers out there embrace with open arms...and it makes the baker inside of me jump for joy.
Many people are intimidated by baking because it is often viewed as scientific. Unlike cooking, all of the measurements have to be precise in order to pull successful baked goods out of the oven. One of the most sensitive of all baking ingredients is chocolate. Many people add chocolate morsels to cookies, breads, cupcakes and muffins. However, if ever you want to add a little something something...a little razzle dazzle (did I just say that?) to baked goods, drizzling them with melted chocolate is an easy way to kick the flavor up a notch and make the tastebuds beg for more.
Melting chocolate to use as a baking or decorating ingredient requires gentle heat. If chocolate is overheated or heated too quickly, it may scorch, burn, lose flavor or turn coarse and grainy. It takes less than a minute in heat for chocolate to quickly change its form. There are basically two forms of chocolate to use when it comes to melting. There is solid chocolate and there is bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate. The cocoa butter found in solid chocolate melts at a fast rate and if it heats too quickly at a high temperature, it will seize. As for bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate, these types are usually found in baking chips. Typically, they can be heated at a slightly higher temperature but they also heat very quickly.
The following are a few tried and true methods to use when melting chocolate:
- Fill the bottom half of a double boiler with water and make sure that the bottom of the top half doesn't touch the water.
- Heat the water until it simmers.
- Place the chocolate in the top half and then place the top half over the water.
- Stir the chocolate until it melts completely.
- Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Place the bowl in the microwave and microwave at 30-second intervals (it is preferable to set the microwave to the 50% power setting to avoid scorching). At the end of every 30 seconds, remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the chocolate. Stirring the chocolate will help to melt the chocolate completely.
- Fill a large skillet with water and heat the water until just below simmering.
- Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and then put the bowl in the water.
- Stir the chocolate until it reaches the desired consistency (be sure to keep the water below simmering).
- Chop the chocolate into uniform pieces before melting -- this will ensure an even melting process
- Melt the chocolate slowly over low heat -- it has a quick burn rate
- Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula when it starts to melt -- melted chocolate pieces will help to melt all of the chocolate
- Keep cold liquids away from chocolate during the melting process -- cold liquids will cause the chocolate to seize (if a recipe calls for liquid to be added into chocolate, make sure the liquid is added prior to the melting process)