I hope that everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving! Now, we're on to Christmas, and to me, that means candy making! I have made chocolate goodies for many years now, and have taught several classes on how to work with chocolate. If you're unsure about working with chocolate, please read through these notes so that you can have fun creating some wonderful and easy chocolate treats for your friends and family!!
I haven't mastered tempering chocolate, so I mostly use chocolate that doesn't need to be tempered. You can find this type of chocolate in any cake and candy supply store, and they come in large chips or buttons. It is often called coating chocolate, molding chocolate or compound coating. You can buy the Wilton brand coating chocolate at many craft stores, but I wouldn't reccomend these just because I don't think that they taste as good as other coatings. I usually purchase Guittard Appeals, Nestle brand coating chocolate, or Merkens coating chocolates. If you live in Utah Valley, you can buy coatings at the Bosch Kitchen Store ($4.75 for a 2 lb. bag) or Funfinity ($3.99 per pound). In Salt Lake County, I would reccomend Gygi's ($10 per 5 lb bag).
There are several different ways to safely melt chocolate without scorching it or causing the chocolate to seize. If your chocolate has changed from a shiny liquid to a dull thick paste, the chocolate has seized. This can happen if the chocolate is burned, or if moisture gets into your chocolate. Chocolate melts at a very low temperature. Temperatures that feel comfortable for your finger can be too hot for chocolate. Chocolate does not mix well with moisture of any kind. The moisture from a damp spoon can contaminate a batch of melting chocolate. Once the chocolate has seized, it can not be un-seized, and must be discarded. So, keep these points in mind as you work with your chocolate!
Methods of melting chocolate:
1. Microwave: Place one or two pounds of coating chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Take out of the microwave and stir well. Keep in mind that the container you're heating the chocolate in will hold enough heat to cause the chocolate to continue to melt. Put chocolate back in the microwave for 20 seconds. Take out and stir. If the chocolate is still not completely melted, put it back in the microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring well after each, until chocolate is completely melted.
2. Heating Pad: Place one or two pounds of coating chocolate in a flat bottomed bowl. Turn your heating pad to medium heat and place bowl on pad. Chocolate will be melted and at a good dipping temperature in about two hours.
Note: Remember, never add water, milk or any other liquid to “thin” your chocolate! This will make the chocolate seize, and you will not be able to use the chocolate. If you need to thin your chocolate, you may purchase Paramount Crystals to add to your chocolate that will help thin the chocolate.
White coating chocolate may be colored by adding Powdered Food Coloring. Powdered food coloring will not thicken the coating and should not change the flavor. Pastel colors such as pink, green blue or lavender only require a small amount of food coloring. If you are trying to achieve a darker color such as red or dark blue, use about 1 tsp of color to ½ cup melted coating. To achieve black colored chocolate, use milk or semi-sweet chocolate and add black powder until you get the desired shade.
Chocolate may be flavored with a Pure Oil Flavoring. Never use an extract flavoring, it may cause the chocolate to seize. Many extracts contain water. Also keep in mind that chocolate easily takes on the flavor of other things. It is best to store chocolate in an air tight container so that it doesn’t take on the flavor of other foods in your pantry.
It is best to store chocolate at about 68-72 degrees, the temperature of a cool pantry or dark cabinet. Kept at this temperature, chocolate (assuming it isn't covering fruit or other perishables) has a shelf life of about a year. It is best not to store your chocolate in the freezer. Chocolate that is frozen and then thawed, could bloom (or develop what looks to be a filmy white residue). But if you must freeze your chocolate, let it warm gradually to room temperature before you try cooking with it.