The Elf has learned a few important steps to take to melt chocolate chips successfully. Since many cookie recipes call for melted chocolate, this is a baking trick you want to master.
Chocolate chips are made to retain their shape. They don’t melt as easily as baking chocolate or other types of melting chocolate because they contain less cocoa butter than those chocolatey items.
On the upside, chocolate chips have more surface area than baking bars, which speeds up their melting time. In that regard, melting chips takes a bit more monitoring than melting bars to make sure they don’t burn or scorch. Chips begin to melt at around 90° F as cocoa butter begins to soften. The process continues smoothly when temperatures are between 104º F and 113° F (40 and 45 °C). Chocolate chips that are heated too quickly, do no melt smoothly, or melt with lumps are said to “seize.” Don’t let heat exceed 115° F (for milk and white chocolate) or 120° F (for dark chocolate) or you will have a bowlful of seized chocolate … which is not a yummy sight.
Sugar in the chips can burn if the chocolate is melted too quickly or at too high of a temperature, leading to a lumpy or gritty texture – known as “seizing.”
Water causes the chocolate to harden upon contact. When your bowl, spoon, or spatula have even a few drops of water, chocolate will likely seize.
However (as with many cookie problems), many cases of seized chocolate can be redeemed. This is especially true when the chocolate is lumpy but not overly scorched. Simply add about a tablespoon of cooking oil or shortening per cup of melted chocolate and blend until smooth. Avoid adding butter, spreads, or milk.
If used properly, a microwave can melt chocolate chips quickly and with minimal effort and mess.
Use a microwave-safe bowl. It is important that the container you use remains cool or only slightly warm after several minutes of microwaving, or the container itself will overheat the chocolate.
Use a low (50%) power setting. If your microwave does not have this option, heat the chocolate in shorter intervals and stir between each bout of heat.
Activate the turntable. If your microwave does not have a turntable that rotates the bowl of chocolate, manually turn the bowl each time you stop and stir the chocolate.
Microwave at 30 second intervals. Exact microwaving times vary depending on your oven wattage, the amount of chocolate, and even its cocoa butter content. As a general rule of thumb, microwave 1 ounce of chips for 1 minute, 8 ounces (1 cup) for 3 minutes, and 1 pound (2 ½ cups) for 3-6 minutes.
Stir at each interval. With a plastic spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl, regardless of the amount of chips, and note how much the chocolate has softened.
Remove chips before they are completely melted. Melted chocolate will be smooth and shiny, but will retain its shape. Stir the chips until they are melted.
Chocolate will harden quickly as it cools, so use it right away. With the spatula, scrape the melted chocolate into a measuring cup or directly into your other recipe ingredients.
A double boiler is a pot that is comprised of two saucepans fitting snugly one on top of the other. The extra layer between the heat and the chocolate protects the chips from seizing. You can melt chocolate chips when you place them in the top saucepan and heat them over indirect heat.
Boil water. Fill the lower saucepan one-quarter to one-half full with water. This is enough to sustain a boil but not so much that the water touches the top pan. (Boiling water on the upper pan’s surface will place the chocolate on direct heat and will scorch chocolate.) Place the lower pan on the stovetop heating element until it begins to simmer. Remove the pan from the stovetop and set it on a heat-resistant surface.
Pour chocolate chips in the upper pan. Set the upper pan on top of the lower pan. Allow the chips to begin to melt.
Stir. Once the chocolate begins to soften, stir it gently. Remove the upper pan from the lower pan just before chips are completely melted. Stir the chips until they are melted. The melted chocolate will be smooth and shiny.
The chocolate will harden quickly as it cools, so use it right away. With the spatula, scrape the melted chocolate into a measuring cup or directly into your other recipe ingredients.
You can create a makeshift double boiler by heating a larger pot of water to boiling, removing it from the heat, and setting another pan over it containing chips – being careful to keep water from contact with the chocolate.
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