I want to make chocolate covered pretzels, as they are tasty and seem quite simple. My question is this – what type of chocolate do I use- chocolate chips, those chocolate candy disks you find at craft stores, or something else?
While I work with chocolate occasionally for cakes or cookies, I’m not a confectioner, so I went straight to the source for the answer to this one. Maria Marini, owner of The Chocolate Fanatic in Amherst, NH, was happy to oblige. Maria works with the kind of chocolate which requires tempering, an exacting procedure necessary to producing the kind of products she and her family make at her store.
You, however, can use any kind of chocolate you like, no tempering required. Chocolate chips are fine, as are the melting disks companies like Wilton make. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate – whatever your pleasure – it’s your choice.
Lots of different things can be coated in melted chocolate. Candied orange peel, fresh fruit like strawberries (be sure they’re very dry – a blow dryer on low can be used after you wash them), and cookies, as well as pretzels, are possibilities. Pretzels being non-perishable, they’ll obviously have a longer shelf life than fruit. Maria warns against refrigerating your finished product, because the humidity will cause condensation on the surface of the chocolate.
Simply melt your chocolate of choice, dip your pretzels, and spread out on waxed or parchment paper to dry. Store layered in tins or plastic storage containers at room temperature, preferably at 70°F or lower. At temperatures much warmer than that, the chocolate will become soft. If you live in a warm climate and don’t have air conditioning, you won’t want to try this in the summer.
Regarding the process, the key word is “melt.” A safe temperature is between 100°F and 120° F. This makes sense when you realize that cocoa butter melts at about body temperature. You only want the chocolate fluid, not hot. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolate can handle higher temperatures, but white and milk chocolates, because of their different compositions, can burn at temperatures of 130°F or so. Here are three ways to safely proceed.
Use a microwave. As they vary in power, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Just remember to go slowly, in stages, and to stir after each “zap.” Often chocolate which is at the melting point doesn’t appear to be.
Use a double boiler. There’s no need to buy one; it’s easy to create your own with a bowl and a pot. Remember that steam is hotter than water, and don’t get so focused on what’s happening in the bowl that you lose track of what’s happening in the pot. It’s easy for the water to get too hot; it should gently simmer.
Use a bain marie, or water bath. This is another “rig-your-own” affair, consisting of a wide skillet of water heated on the stove top to just under a simmer, and a heatproof bowl. This is quick, easy to monitor, and control.