Chocolate scorches easily, so always melt it over hot - not boiling - water. It is best to use a double boiler, but you can improvise by using a bowl in a small saucepan over very gentle heat. The water must be kept below simmering to prevent steam from curling up and hitting the chocolate. If steam gets into the melted chocolate it will immediately thicken the mixture to a stiff mass. If this does happen, however, you can rescue the chocolate by softening it again. To do this, add 1-2 tbsp.
of vegetable shortening (never use butter as it contains moisture which will cause the chocolate stiffen even more!) to the chocolate and stir vigorously. You can also melt chocolate directly over very low heat in a heavy gauge saucepan, but you must watch the mixture carefully.
How to make chocolate curls:
Use a vegetable peeler with a long narrow blade and a chunk or bar of chocolate. Warm chocolate and blade slightly. Be sure your peeler is absolutely dry. Draw the peeler along the smooth surface of the chocolate.
How to grate chocolate:
Be sure that the block of chocolate is cool and firm. Grate on hand grater, cleaning the grater often so that the chocolate doesn't clog the surface of the blade. You cn use a blender, but be sure to cut the chocolate into sm pieces first.
How to store chocolate:
Chocolate should be stored in a cool, dry place at a temperature of about 60F. If the chocolate becomes too warm, the cocoa butter rises to the surface and forms a dusty gray film known as "bloom." This "bloom" is not harmful and, once the chocolate is melted, it returns to its natural rich brown color. If you do store chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer, take in out and let it stand until it returns to room temperature before you use it in a recipe. Chocolate is very sensitive to sudden changes of temperature and you will not get the best results if you do not treat it with respect!