What Is Melting Chocolate?
Mmmm....melted chocolate. Are you familiar with melting wafers? It’s the type of chocolate that’s used for candy making, the kind that you dip truffles and other candies into when melted, but which will have a soft, satiny sheen after it’s hardened. You might also hear it called dipping chocolate or candy-making chocolate. It’s available in dark, milk, and white varieties. You can also get it in many different colors, which you can use for all the holidays celebrated with chocolate (for example, pink and red for Valentine’s day and pastels for Easter).
Melting chocolate usually comes in wafer form because wafers melt more easily than large chunks (and probably also so they don't get confused with baking chips. You can find it in most grocery stores these days and definitely online.
How Is Melting Chocolate Different from Chocolate Chips and Baking Chocolate?
Chocolate chips have stabilizers that help them keep their shape at high heat. This makes them a mediocre choice for melting, and a no-no for any type of candy making.
Baking chocolate is a little more versatile. While usually used for recipes that contain chocolate, such as cakes and brownies, you can also use it for meting. But for best results, you have to add cocoa butter to it (about 5% by weight), and you have to temper it if you want a shiny coating.
What Is Tempering?
Tempering is a rather complex process of heating and cooling chocolate for candy making. This is necessary because melting changes the structure of the chocolate, and if it isn’t tempered, the cocoa butter can separate, causing a dull, grayish coating instead of a shiny shell. To temper, chocolate must be gently heated to a specific temperature range--this differs slightly for milk, dark, and white chocolate--then rapidly cooled. It can be tricky to get this right, and is one of the reasons candy making has a reputation for being difficult.
Good News: Melting Wafers Don’t Need Tempering
If you use melting wafers, you don’t need to do any tempering. This is because these wafers contain vegetable oils rather than cocoa butter, which don’t separate from the chocolate like cocoa butter can do.
One More Option: Couverture
If you want to use real chocolate with real cocoa butter for melting, you can: it’s called couverture chocolate (click to see it on Amazon). It’s expensive, it always requires tempering, and it can be very fussy to work with.
It’s true: compared to couverture, melting wafers are inferior in a number of ways. They contain a miniscule amount of real chocolate, as well as some less-than-ideal vegetable oils. But if you buy a good brand, you sacrifice almost nothing in flavor, texture, or the look of the finished product. So if you're looking for easy, melting wafers are hands down the way to go.
How Do You Melt the Melting Wafers?
You can do it in a double boiler, but the easiest way is to put them in the microwave. Chocolate burns very easily, so never give them more than 30 seconds at a time at half power. Stir well before deciding if they need more time. If there are a few wafers remaining, a good stir will usually finish the melting.
Now That You've Got Your Melted Chocolate, What Do You Do With It?
Here are just a few ideas:
Bark. Pour the melted chocolate over any combination of toasted nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for an easy, elegant treat.
Candy molds. Pour it into these easy-to-use trays to make simple holiday chocolates.
Frozen chocolate-covered bananas. Just roll the bananas in the chocolate and freeze on parchment or waxed paper. If you want to be fancy, poke a stick in one end and roll in nuts, coconut, cocoa powder, etc.
Fondue. Use it as a sauce for dipping tiny delicacies: grapes, strawberries, caramels, vanilla wafers, pretzels, diced Belgian waffles, chunks of donut, sugar cookies, jelly candies...
Chocolate "chip" cookies. Instead of baking chips, swirl melted chocolate into batter for a totally different texture.
Icing and frosting. Use it as-is to pour over desserts as a quick icing, or mix with some heavy cream in a double boiler for a more formal ganache.
Drizzle. In a similar vein as icing, drizzle it atop an iced cake, a cream pie, or cheesecake. To make fancy patterns, fill a plastic storage bag with chocolate and snip a small hole in one corner.
Toffee. Sprinkle unmelted over warm toffee and spread it around as it warms, or pour melted wafers over it. Sprinkle with chopped nuts for a glorious finish.
Toffee bars and Blondies. Melt it over toffee bars/blondies just out of the oven in place of chocolate chips. You’ll get a smoother, shinier coating than you’d get from baking chips.
Ice cream topping. Pour it over ice cream. It will harden almost immediately into a delightful candy shell.
Chocolate covered bacon. You don’t need a recipe for this. Just pour it over nice, flat strips of cooked bacon on parchment paper and let harden, then refrigerate. Or dredge the bacon in it for a more thorough covering.
Cake batter: Swirl it into cake and cheesecake batter.
Hot Chocolate: Garnish hot chocolate (the beverage) with a swirl.
Coffee: See hot chocolate above.
And last but not least, dip just about anything in it, including:
Apple slices and orange sections
Rice Krispie treats
One more idea: Do all of these things but use dark and white chocolate swirled together.
What other things can you drench in melted chocolate? Leave a comment with your ideas!