How Do I Cook with Chocolate Instead of Just Eating It?

From melting to substitutions, we've pulled our most popular chocolate questions from our Ask the Expert blog to help you navigate baking with chocolate.

How can I prevent chocolate from burning when I melt it?
The secret to not burning the chocolate is to take it away from the heat before it's completely melted, and keep stirring until it is. When you melt chocolate on the stovetop, place it evenly over the bottom surface of a heavy saucepan over low heat. Again, remove the pan from the heat before the chocolate is completely melted and stir: in less then a minute, the chocolate will be smooth and silky.

More often than not, I melt chocolate in my microwave. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe shallow dish (Microwave-proof pie plates are ideal) and microwave at 50% power (medium heat) for 2 to 3 minutes or until it's soft enough to stir smooth. To be on the safe side, start checking at about 11/2 minutes.

Get Recipe: Fudge Sauce

What is the gray coating on the surface of my baking chocolate?
No worries: that gray-white cloudy covering on your chocolate is called "bloom", and it is simply the result of being stored for a while at a somewhat warm temperature. What you're seeing is a result of some of the melted fat migrating to the surface. Your chocolate is still perfectly good for eating and cooking.

MyRecipes.comI melted chocolate and added it to cream as per my recipe, but the chocolate turned into little solid slivers or fragments. What caused this?

When you add warm melted chocolate to anything cold, it instantly hardens-usually in the shattered looking form you describe. Either melt the chocolate with the liquid (be sure there is a minimum of 1 tablespoon of liquid for every two ounces of chocolate or the chocolate will seize. Or warm the liquid before combining the two.

To add melted chocolate to an ingredient like whipped cream or ice cream that can't be warmed, you will need to make the chocolate into a stable sauce by adding butter, cream or other liquids to it first.

Get Recipe: Mocha Chocolate Sauce with Pound Cake

I was melting chocolate and it turned into a thick, grainy mess. What happened-and what can I do about it?

Your chocolate seized, and there are ways to fix it. But first, you should know that it was caused by even a tiny amount of water or steam (or any other liquid. Oddly enough, the fix is to add more liquid. Renowned food scientist and cookbook author Shirley Corriher uses the rule of thumb that for every 2 ounces of chocolate, you must have a minimum of 1 tablespoon of liquid. Liquid might include butter (butter contains about 18% water), cream, corn syrup, alcohol, or water. Also, you can melt the chocolate with the butter or cream for better results.

Can I substitute unsweetened chocolate for bittersweet chocolate?

Unsweetened chocolate, as its name indicates, contains absolutely no added sugar, while bittersweet chocolate has anywhere from about 10% to 50% sugar. Because of the difference in sugar content, these two types of chocolate are not interchangeable in recipes.

The good news is this: bittersweet and semisweet are very similar. Bittersweet chocolate is often now labeled "dark chocolate" and clearly lists the percentage of chocolate. That percentage tells you how sweet the chocolate will be: chocolate labeled "70% chocolate" contains 30% sugar, "60% chocolate" contains 40% sugar, and so on. Semisweet chocolate tends to be higher in sugar than bittersweet or dark chocolate, but there can be overlap.

The bottom line: if your recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, you can use dark or semisweet, and when using semisweet, you can go just a little light on the sugar.

Get More: Chocolate Recipes

Can unsweetened cocoa powder be used instead of unsweetened or semisweet chocolate squares or chips?

To replace one ounce of unsweetened chocolate, use 3 tablespoons cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon butter, shortening or oil. Dissolve the cocoa in liquid that is already used in the recipe.

To replace one ounce of semisweet chocolate, use 3 tablespoons of cocoa plus only 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, shortening or oil and 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.

For more cooking questions answered, visit the Ask the Expert page.

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