What is the meaning of tempering?
Tempering can be defined as the art of chocolate melting and cooling until a particular temperature is achieved. This temperature depends on the type of chocolate as there are different specific temperatures for tempering for different chocolate type. The overall aim of tempering chocolate is to ensure that there is stabilization of the butter crystals. A pleasing shine is often noticed on tempered chocolate when it is cool. Usually, chocolate leaves the manufacturer in tempered form. It is however possible for them to go out of temper if they are melted or not properly stored. Tempered chocolate is a requirement if you want to make fine candies including molding and enrobing.
Is it okay to use my microwave for chocolate melting? What other options do I have?
Yes it is very possible to use microwave to melt your chocolate. In fact, using microwave is reputed to be the most foolproof and efficient method of melting chocolate. A lot of cooks however still opt for melting their chocolate with double boiler. When you are using your microwave, you should use medium power (50 percent) so that your chocolate will not get scorched. You will also get an even melting. In terms of time, the time differs for different chocolate types and quantity. The look of the chocolate is therefore a better guide than trying to time it. You can check every minute till you notice that it looks wet and shiny. Compared to the double boiler, the microwave will not melt your chocolate into a liquid pool.
What method is best for storing chocolate?
The best method for storing chocolate is to put it in a dark place with cool room temperature and good circulation of air. As opposed to the belief of some people, using the refrigerator to store chocolate is not the best option. If your kitchen is always humid and hot however, it might be the only option you will have. If you are able to get the right conditions for storing your chocolate, it is possible to preserve dark and unsweetened chocolate for up to 10 years. With favorable kitchen situation, your dark and unsweetened chocolate should be able to stay for a year, while white and milk chocolate could stay up to 8 months.
Can I substitute semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with milk chocolates when I want to bake?
When you want to bake, you should not substitute semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with milk chocolate. This is because milk chocolate has lower quantity of chocolate liquor when compared to the semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. The implication of this is that you will not get the right reaction with the remaining ingredients that you are mixing the chocolate with. The presence of milk proteins further leads to a situation where it is difficult to melt the protein because it becomes highly sensitive to heat. Even though we love to eat milk chocolate, this doesn’t mean they can be used for baking.