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Chocolate is a common ingredient in both commercial and homemade candy for good reason. Chocolate is delicious, comes in various flavors and is a versatile baking ingredient. In fact, studies have shown that chocolate contains neurotransmitters, which releases endorphins that cause you to feel giddy. Unfortunately, chocolate can be a bit temperamental when working with it. If it isn’t properly melted and stored, you could be left with nothing more than a wasted pile of unusable chocolate. Take into account the following guidelines to help ensure you have a successful experience when baking with chocolate.

Melting Chocolate

Melted chocolate has many uses such as using it to dip fresh fruit into and creating your own candy. It can be melted in a double broiler on the stove or in a bowl in the microwave. No matter what you’re using it for or how you’re melting it, remember these tips to prevent ruining the chocolate.

Never try melting large blocks or bars of chocolate without first chopping it into uniform pieces. Doing so will allow for a more even melting experience. When you are ready to melt the chocolate, do so slowly over low heat. Chocolate is delicate and if it becomes overheated or heat is applied to quickly, the chocolate will become grainy or lumpy. The chocolate will also need to be stirred frequently when the outer edges begin to melt. Make sure to stir frequently with a clean, dry rubber spatula.

One of the most important tips to successfully melting chocolate is to avoid all contact with water. Even a mere drop of water can render chocolate unworkable. This means any bowls, utensils, candy models and workstations that the chocolate will encounter must be completely dry.

Storing Chocolate

In order to keep your chocolate tasting its best, you must properly store it in slight cool place that is both dark and dry. Ideally, chocolate should be stored in an airtight container and placed in a location with low humidity and temperatures between 60- and 70-degrees. Keep the stored chocolate out of direct sunlight, and away from items — including other foods — that produce strong odors. Chocolate can absorb odors from other items, which will affect the taste of the candy.

Bloom is a common problem with improperly stored chocolate. Even if it is in high quality candy packaging, chocolate will “bloom” if it is frequently exposed to fluctuating temperatures and moisture. “Bloom” is when the cocoa butter in the chocolate rises to the surface, creating a cloudy grayish color. While “bloom” isn’t harmful and doesn’t render the chocolate inedible, it does negatively affect its look and can alter its taste.