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Suppose I want to coat a random object in chocolate.

(Because, let's face it, why would you not want to do this??)

Can I simply buy my favorite brand of chocolate, melt it, and pour it over stuff and wait for it to set? Or is that likely to ruin the chocolate in some way?

(The obvious follow-up question being "if that's not the right way to do this, what is?")

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Have you looked at ganache recipes? Usually calls for chocolate and some sort of thing like cream or I use coconut cream as a vegan alternative. –  lemontwist Sep 27 '12 at 13:51

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Cocoa butter crystallizes into various types of crystals depending on the temperature at which it cools. If the butter cools into an ad hoc assortment of crystal types then they don't arrange themselves uniformly and the chocolate will be dull and sticky.

The process of melting chocolate to encourage proper crystal growth is called tempering. You will find quite a few questions on the subject here.

You can use any chocolate that contains cocoa butter. However, if you are going to be putting that much work into tempering your chocolate you might spring for the nicer quality chocolate and not just plain Hershey's.

Alternatively, if it meets your needs, you can either serve your chocolate still melted or make a thick syrup/fudge dip that stays soft and doesn't need to be tempered.

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To be 100% clear: If the chocolate is not tempered, what effect does that have exactly? –  MathematicalOrchid Sep 27 '12 at 15:56
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@MathematicalOrchid the chocolate will separate, creating lumps of scorched starch swimming in melted cocoa butter. It has the mouthfeel of sand mixed in oil. Coating things in chocolate is a fairly advanced matter, you have to read up on it and don't mind the few first attempts having a low success rate. It goes beyond simple tempering, you have to controll three temperatures; of the coating, of the thing getting coated, and of the environment. See my answer to cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/21137/…. –  rumtscho Sep 27 '12 at 16:08
    
rumtscho's description is a bit of an exaggeration. You have to really overheat it to do that. If you just melt it a bit too much (so the good crystals melt) it won't be scorched, it'll just be dull and sticky, or even crumbly - you've probably seen these things in chocolate that got left out for a while, maybe in a hot car. –  Jefromi Apr 17 '13 at 4:33

Cocoa butter contains different fats with different melting points. In order to avoid whitish smears in your coating, the chocolate must be melted just above melting point, and kept under constant stirring. This is quite tricky but its the way to ensure a homogeneous coating.

Commercial coating does not contain cocoa butter but some other shortening with a single melting point, thus easing manipulation. But it is not chocolate.

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I have had success simply melting chocolate chips from the grocery store to coat strawberries. No adding cream or anything. Food Network recipe says use chips. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/chocolate-covered-strawberries-recipe/index.html Delicious!

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I agree and have had great success melting chocolate chips (carefully) and dipping fruit and bottoms of cookies into it. While it may not be the highest degree of shiny, snappy quality you'd expect from professional chocolatiers, it's darn fancy and yummy for a home cook! Go for it! :-) –  Kristina Lopez Sep 27 '12 at 18:11

Melting chocolate chips on top IS my favorite kind of frosting. Milk chocolate chips can especially be effective as frosting.

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Tempering properly and coating with real chocolate is all well and good, but probably a bit much work for many. There is an alternative (which Juancho mentioned), though. There are commercial chocolate coatings (e.g. Magic Shell) which are very easy to use - no tempering. They're not pure chocolate though; there's a substantial amount of another oil to make things work right. I haven't tried it, but it looks like you can make your own with coconut oil (for example this recipe). Could be that with your favorite chocolate, you'd prefer that to commercial versions, and that it'd be worth the time savings compared to working with pure chocolate for you.

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Magic Shell works based on temperature; the oil used (coconut oil) is highly saturated and so has a relatively high melting point; in contact with the ice cream, the oil hardens. Simply dipping a cookie or marshmallow into Magic Shell won't cause it to harden, like with bar chocolate; you'd then have to refrigerate whatever you dipped and it'd only stay hard as long as it was cold. –  KeithS Sep 27 '12 at 23:11

Chocolate chips are fine by me to make chocolate-coated whatevers. Hershey bars (no nuts please), Kisses (kind of a paint to unwrap tho), Ghirardelli squares (no fillings), they all work.

A few things:

  • Always use a double-boiler to melt chocolate. You don't have one? Poppycock; get a large-ish metal or Pyrex mixing bowl and set it on top of a saucepan large enough for most of the bowl to be in the pan but small enough that the bowl will sit on top and leave enough space for an air gap between bowl and boiling water. Voila, a double boiler. The double boiler will prevent the chocolate getting too hot and "breaking" (cocoa solids precipitating out of the oil); still gotta keep an eye on it, but it's harder to mess up.

  • Pouring is more difficult than dipping. While you're pouring, the chocolate's off the heat and so it's cooling, you're exposing the chocolate to surfaces that may be hotter or cooler than the bottom of the bowl it's been melting in, etc etc. If the object is small enough for it to be practical to dip, then stick a toothpick in it and dip it. If it's too big (bigger than your average finger food like a banana chunk, strawberry or cookie), then go ahead and pour, but be patient and I strongly recommend using a bowl or double-boiler pan with a prominent pouring spout on the brim, and a rubber spatula; get the chocolate close to the pour spout, then carefully use the spatula to push a little chocolate into the pour spout and then onto your random object.

  • The random object must not be a living thing. Chocolate may melt at body temperature, but there's only 7 degrees F difference between body temperature at 98 and painfully hot at 105, and at 125* you can very quickly cause blisters. If you're planning a fun, slightly messy Saturday night with your main squeeze, I'd go with chocolate syrup.

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+1 for the degree of LOLs I got out of the final point. :-D –  MathematicalOrchid Sep 28 '12 at 6:53

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