Until recently, melting chocolate was done in a “bain-marie” – a French term for a double boiler…where you use a bowl or smaller pan which is placed inside a larger pan which has a couple inches of water in it. You bring the water to a simmer and let the heat of the hot water melt the chocolate. The most important part of this was to be sure that NO WATER came in contact with the chocolate – or even any steam…as this would cause the chocolate to “Seize” – to harden never to be used again.
This process is still used and generally works pretty well (Although if you have ever had your chocolate seize – it is not pretty…you have to throw the chocolate away!)
However, nowadays most chefs use the microwave. You take away the water issue and it takes less time and less equipment. The only thing you need to be careful of with this method is not to over melt (and cook or burn) your chocolate.
Depending on the power of the microwave – you weigh out your chocolate*, put into a microwavable container (not plastic) and microwave on high for 15 – 30 seconds. Check, stir ( or shake the bowl to change the position of the chocolate pieces) and then repeat. You do this for 2 or 3 times. You need to decide when it is done. The chocolate pieces will look as though they are still solid and in their original shape BUT this can be deceiving. The chocolate will be fully melted BUT look like it is not. So that is why you want to stir it /check it after each time
You will end up stirring the chocolate for up to a minute and it will continue to melt as you stir and become a smooth emulsion. We have a video which shows you how the chocolate will go from pieces to liquid with the continued stirring. Notice as the video starts that the chocolate looks to be clearly in pieces and gradually melts and becomes smooth!
* Most users will be using chocolate in pieces – and/or chopping up block chocolate into pieces