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Andy Talk: How to Melt Chocolate

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Welcome to AndyTalk -- where Scottsdale-based chef and cooking instructor Andy Broder will share kitchen tips, recipes and musings on food and life. This week: melting chocolate.

Chocolate is high maintenance. Melting and chopping chocolate can be a surprising obstacle course for the naïve cook. If you use the wrong tools, or you're off by a few degrees you'll ruin the chocolate.

Luckily, there are some simple tricks that allow you to cook with chocolate and be confident that your sweets will look and taste great.

The reason chocolate is hard to melt is cocoa butter. It melts at body temperature, which is why chocolate melts in your hands. But chocolate is more than cocoa butter, so it's not as simple as 98.6 F

The long-established way to melt chocolate is in a double boiler. I don't own a double boiler. I use a bowl set on top of pot - with an inch of water in the pot. When you heat the water you get steam, which heats the bowl. The chocolate in the bowl melts gently. The problem is the steam. If chocolate gets wet - even a few drops of water - it seizes up into a granular, unpalatable mass. Water tends to accumulate dangerously around the rim - so I avoid the double boiler.

I melt chocolate in the microwave. Recipes typically say to put the chocolate in for 15 seconds on high, take it out, stir, and repeat ad nauseam until the chocolate melts. Depending on how much chocolate you have this can be ten or more repetitions. I'm as impatient as the next guy, and I want it to go faster. At some point, most people succumb to the urge to nuke it for 30 seconds ... just once. The chocolate will burn.

The solution is the defrost setting. Defrost on most microwaves asks you to put in the weight. For the chocolate in my Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake I program a weight of .8, and it runs on low power defrost for about three and a half minutes without burning. I repeat one time and I'm finished.

If it's hot outside I'll put the chocolate on the patio to melt. You can also put it in a hot car.

Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.

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