Dipping or "enrobing" your favorite treats in chocolate can give them a remarkably finished and professional appearance, but the chocolate sometimes doesn't cooperate. Many varieties become too thick and viscous when you melt them, making it frustratingly difficult to achieve the thin, even coating you want. Professional pastry chefs and chocolatiers use chocolate that contains high levels of cocoa butter, which makes it thin and runny. At home, paramount crystals make a good option.
Smoothness Is Paramount
Although their name might suggest a resemblance to salt or sugar, paramount "crystals" are actually thin, flat flakes of fat. After you melt chocolate, you can scatter a few of these flakes over the surface and stir them in. They melt instantly, thinning the chocolate incrementally. Repeat, stirring each addition of crystals until they're thoroughly incorporated and your chocolate reaches a good consistency for dipping. Bear in mind that chocolate thickens as it cools, so you might need to warm your bowl periodically over a double boiler or in the microwave. Otherwise, you might use more crystals than you need.
Crystals vs. the Alternatives
Paramount crystals aren't the only option for thinning your chocolate, of course. You could shave cocoa butter into your bowl for the same effect, but it's a costly, premium ingredient. Vegetable oil is inexpensive and thins chocolate easily, but it has the disadvantage of remaining liquid at room temperature. Sometimes, this means your finished chocolates will be soft and tacky, melting and sticking to your fingers at the drop of a hat. Paramount crystals remain solid at room temperature, like chocolate and cocoa butter, so your dipped treats will develop a proper shell as they cool. This holds true for treats made with "candy melts" and other coatings, as well as chocolate.
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