Q. Why do some chocolate recipes ask that you add shortening before melting it?
A. If you're melting chocolate to use in such items as chocolate covered strawberries, often times a recipe will call for added shortening. This is because the addition of shortening creates a smoother and more manageable consistency than melted chocolate alone. Doing this helps to make a more evenly coated product.
The ratio between shortening and chocolate is very straightforward. You simply add 1/2 teaspoon of shortening to each ounce of chocolate, melting the combination and stirring until it is smooth. Remember: Do not use butter or margarine because both of these contain water, which can ruin the melting process.
The issue with water cannot be overemphasized. Whether you use a double boiler, microwave, or direct heat to melt your chocolate, you must always make sure that all of your utensils are completely dry. Any amount of moisture may cause chocolate to "seize," or clump and harden. If this happens, add shortening using the previously prescribed ratio.
Another thing you should remember when you are melting your chocolate is to always melt it slowly over low heat. It doesn't really take much to melt, chocolate-covered fingers on a hot summer's day are proof of that. Chocolate begins to melt at 80°F and is fully melted by the time it reaches 100°F to 115°F. You really don't want more than that because at higher temperatures chocolate may scorch, separate, become grainy, or become too thick.
For more info on melting chocolate, continue to the next page.