One of the most important elements for chocolate work is melting equipment. A double boiler is most commonly used. This tool usually consists of a saucepan that is filled with simmering water, and a fitted metal bowl that sits over the top of the saucepan and holds the melting chocolate. This setup ensures that the chocolate receives gentle heat from the hot water below, but does not overheat or come into contact with the water. A makeshift double boiler can be fashioned from a metal or glass bowl that sits snugly over the top of a saucepan, but extra care must be taken so that water droplets and steam from the lower pan do not accidentally splash into the chocolate.
Using the Microwave
Chocolate can also be melted in the microwave. To use this method, it is best to have a microwave with an adjustable power feature, so you can heat the chocolate at 50% power and avoid the possibility of overheating it. If your microwave does not have this option, you can still microwave chocolate, but you will have to heat in shorter intervals and be very careful. For microwaving chocolate, I prefer using a heavy glass bowl that distributes heat evenly and does not get too hot.
Equipment for Melting Chocolate
An accurate thermometer is necessary for tempering chocolate. Look for a thermometer with a range of at least 60 degrees to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. A standard mercury laboratory thermometer will work, as will an instant-read thermometer or a specialized chocolate thermometer. Be aware, however, that the sensor on many instant-read thermometers is located at least an inch above the tip, so it can be hard to gauge the temperature of a small quantity of chocolate. Most candy thermometers are designed to measure the high temperatures of sugar syrups, so they do not have the necessary range of low temperatures for chocolate work.
To work seriously with chocolate, you need a kitchen scale to weigh the quantity of chocolate. It is nearly impossible to get accurate quantities of chopped chocolate using measuring cups. Look for a kitchen scale that goes up to at least 5 pounds and allows you to switch easily between ounces and grams. Other helpful chocolate accessories include flavored oils and extracts, heatproof spatulas for stirring chocolate, dipping forks for dipping flavored centers and truffles, and pastry bags and tips for piping chocolate and decorations. If you’re molding chocolates, you will need the molds, of course, and perhaps also candy colors and small pastry brushes with which to decorate the candies. There is a near-endless list of optional chocolate accessories you might need, depending on your recipe, but this short list covers most basic needs.