Finely chop chocolate for melting, and heat it slowly. Place it in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Or zap it in short bursts (30 seconds or so at 50 percent power) in the microwave. The small pieces will help the chocolate melt evenly, and the low heat will make sure it won’t burn.
Related: Try our German Chocolate Praline Cake
Buy chocolate chips if you plan to melt them. They often contain stabilizers that help them hold their shape, which can make melted chocolate lumpy.
Spend a little more for good white chocolate. The main ingredients should be cocoa butter (the fat from the cocoa bean), sugar, milk, and pure vanilla. The good stuff will smell lightly of cocoa and have a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Related: Try our Raspberry-Topped White Chocolate Mousse
Be afraid to use chocolate that looks like it’s covered in white dust. That’s probably just cocoa butter that collected on the surface when the chocolate got too warm. The film doesn’t affect the flavor of the chocolate or make it unsafe to eat.
Pay attention to cacao percentages. They tell you how much of the chocolate is made from the cocoa bean (including the chocolate liquor and the cocoa butter). The rest is made up of anything from sugar to milk to flavorings to emulsifiers. Pro tip: Don’t try to make ganache with chocolate of more than 60 percent cacao; the cream will separate from the chocolate.
Related: Try our Fudgy Brownies with Orange Ganache