Melted chocolate serves as an irresistible dip for strawberries, sugar cookies, marshmallows and chunks of pound cake, or as a topping for ice cream. But if the chocolate hardens, you can no longer dip into it or pour it -- and the magic is lost. Keep chocolate soft and smooth by adding a few additional ingredients, so it's dippable and pourable even when it returns to room temperature.
Melted Chocolate Temperatures
Chocolate is only worth keeping melted if you do so properly. Chocolate that spends too much time on the heat will turn grainy and can even burn. Dark chocolate should never exceed the temperature of 131 to 136 Fahrenheit, while milk chocolate should remain between 113 and 122 F. Chocolate returns to a solid state when it reaches 65 to 70 F, which is room temperature.
Proper Melting Methods
Use a microwave or double-boiler to melt the chocolate. For the microwave, chop the chocolate into small chunks and it heat in a glass bowl on high power for 30 seconds; stir and continue to heat in 30-second intervals until it's still glossy, but liquid and smooth. To use a double-boiler, place a glass or metal bowl snugly over the top of a pot of boiling water. Bring the water to a boil; turn the heat off and then place the bowl on top with the chunks of chocolate inside. Stir continuously until the chocolate is almost melted, and then remove from the heat -- the residual heat will smooth the mixture out. If you get any water in the melted chocolate -- even a droplet -- it will seize and recrystallize; the chocolate is then unworkable.
You can keep melted chocolate from returning to a solid by maintaining it at a temperature between 86 and 90 F. This is too cool for it to burn, but isn't warm enough for it to harden. Keep it in a metal bowl or glass serving dish set tightly over a bowl of warm water or in a warm environment, such as a toasty kitchen. When kept at this temperature, the chocolate will be warm to the tongue, but not scalding.
Create a Sauce
For chocolate to stay smooth and liquid even at cooler room temperatures, you need to create a sauce. For an easy version that's delicious over ice cream or as a dip, place 8 ounces of chopped bitter- or semisweet chocolate in a metal or glass bowl. Heat a cup of heavy cream and 1/2 cup of light corn syrup together in a small sauce pan and then pour over the bowl of chocolate. Allow the mixture to sit for several minutes, until the chocolate bits soften considerably, and whisk to incorporate. Store in a sealable glass container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Use it chilled or reheat it for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave.