Things You'll Need
Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate bars or chips
Pan or container suitable to heating method
Double boiler or heavy saucepan
Cup or bowl and shallow pan
Solid shortening, as needed
Cocoa beans made their way through history to become favored by many for what they are most regularly used for today: making different forms of chocolate. While ancient Aztecs gave human sacrifice victims gourds of chocolate tinged with blood to cheer them up before the sacrifice, most Americans today use cocoa powder or sweetened chocolate purely for its taste and often as a sweet candy coating. There are four methods you can use to melt chocolate: in the microwave, in a double boiler, over direct heat or over hot water.
Break chocolate bars apart with clean hands, then use a knife to chop the chocolate into smaller chunks and shreds. Place the prepared chocolate or chocolate chips into a container, reserving 1/4 cup chocolate per cup in use.
Set the microwave to 50 percent power for 45 seconds, if you are using the microwave method. Stir the chocolate and continue heating for 15-second intervals, stirring after each one, until chocolate reaches desired texture.
Fill a pan with a few inches of water, if you are using the double boiler method. Bring the water to a gentle boil, then place a heatproof pan containing the chocolate on top of the bottom pan, creating a tight seal. Stir constantly until process is complete.
Place a pan on low heat, if you are using the direct heat method. Put the chocolate in the pan and stir constantly until the chocolate is melted.
Heat a shallow pan full of water, if you are using the hot water method. Remove from the heat. Place a container with the chocolate over the pan and stir until the chocolate is smooth.
Add reserved chocolate to melted chocolate 1/4 cup at a time and stir until entire mixture is smooth. Remove from heat source immediately.
Allowing water or steam to come into contact with chocolate causes texture problems and hardening. Keep all cooking utensils free of liquid and take extra precautions when working with a double boiler. If water does come in contact with melting chocolate, try adding 1 tbsp. of vegetable shortening per cup of chocolate while stirring over low heat.
Reliable heating devices that spread heat evenly help provide a better finished product.
White chocolate burns easily. Use the lowest temperature possible to allow melting without scorching.
Skipping the final step saves time but is not advisable as this last step helps the melted chocolate solidify after you coat the candy.