Dipping Chocolate Tips: a simple path to smooth and shiny

As mid-February approaches, lots of people are going to tell you that you should be making, buying, and generally getting crazy about chocolate.

I find that logic flawed. You should be making, eating, and thinking about chocolate all year! And as for using chocolate to express love and affection? Let’s all make a note to do that all year, too.

However, if whipping up a batch of homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries happened to have (ahem) slipped off your to-do list until now, we can remedy that just in time for February 14.

Today I’ll show you how to make simple chocolate-dipped fruit, cookies, candies, and more. (Warning: The hard, cold truth is that most foods are improved upon by a quick dip in silky, rich chocolate. Nothing in your kitchen will be safe after this.)

In the from-scratch chocolate desserts realm of difficulty, dipped chocolate sweets fall somewhere in between quick one-bowl brownies and chocolate truffles.

To dip with chocolate perfectly, you’ll need to temper your chocolate. Don’t be intimidated! This is nowhere near as intense as it sounds, but it does require a bit more care and attention than making cookie dough.

Why temper chocolate instead of just melting it? Tempering chocolate is a fancier method of melting and cooling chocolate that aligns the crystals in the chocolate, resulting in shiny cooled chocolate with a crisp snap.

We have some excellent resources to teach you how to temper chocolate, step-by-step. Start by reading Susan Reid’s detailed article, and follow up with our tempering chocolate guide.

To properly temper chocolate like a pro, you should invest in a good thermometer (our test kitchen favorite is the top-of-the-line Thermapen).

But what if you don’t have a thermometer? Don’t despair! Chocolate perfection is still within reach. I often use a cheater’s method to temper my chocolate when I’m planning to use it for dipping. Follow along, and then get inspired to dip.

Dipping Chocolate Rule 1: Pick Wisely

Dipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflour

All chocolate is not created equal. The ideal chocolate for melting and dipping is called “couverture” chocolate. (Find it here and here.)

Couverture chocolate has a higher ratio of cocoa butter to cocoa, which helps it melt more smoothly. If you can’t find couverture, use the best quality chocolate that you can find. Higher quality chocolate will taste the best.

Also, make sure you’re using enough chocolate! If you use a very small amount (say, less than two cups), it will go cool too quickly and you’ll have to keep starting over.

Dipping Chocolate Rule 2: Practice TLC

Dipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflour

Tempering chocolate the “cheater’s way” requires a gentle hand and lots of care. Begin by bringing a pot of water to a simmer. Once it simmers, turn off the heat. Place two-thirds of your chocolate into a heat-proof bowl, and place it over the pot of water (most of the bowl should touch the water).

Dipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflourDon’t touch or stir the chocolate. Let it sit until it’s more than halfway melted. Once it’s melted enough, stir it very gently to help it finish melting.

(If you are using a thermometer and tempering your chocolate the classic way, you’ll want the melted chocolate to reach 122°F for dark chocolate and 105°F for milk or white chocolate.)

Dipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflour

When the chocolate is fully melted, remove the bowl from the pot of water. Add the remaining one-third of the chocolate and stir gently until melted.

Very important: Do not let any water get into the chocolate. This will cause the chocolate to seize up. Seized chocolate is not pretty.

Dipping Chocolate Rule 3: When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

Dipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflour

Once your chocolate is melted, you can start dipping. This is the fun part: Think about foods you like, and dip them! Delicate cookies, fruits like strawberries and dried figs, and candies like nougat or halvah work beautifully.

To keep your chocolate at the proper consistency while you work, you can hold it over the pan of still-warm water from the first step. Just make sure the water isn’t simmering anymore, and pour out some of the water so there is some air space between the chocolate bowl and the water.

Dipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflourDipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflour

If you’re planning to give your confections as a gift, consider something pretty, eye-catching, and easy to wrap up: crimson-hued cherries on the stem, airy meringue puffs, homemade peppermint-streaked marshmallows.

Dipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflour

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Let your sweets rest on the parchment to cool. If you want to coat something in chocolate entirely (like a truffle or a marshmallow), use our nifty chocolate dipping tools. The long handles and delicate tines let you swirl your food in the melted chocolate, creating a polished finished look.

Dipping Chocolate via @kingarthurflour

Once your chocolate cools, you’ll have a satiny coating that will break with a crunchy, satisfying snap when you bite into it.

Now you have all the tools and tips to make professional-quality chocolate confections, so start brushing up for February 14. And if you want to keep on the chocolate-making train come March (and April and May), you have my sincerest blessing.

comments

  1. Kalisa

    How do you keep your chocolate dipped strawberries from getting an unattractive pool of chocolate at the base? Even when I try to wipe away the excess chocolate I get little pools around each berry. Still tastes fine but I’d like to make a better appearance.

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      I hear you — that can be tricky. The best technique is to really let as much chocolate drip off as possible before placing the strawberry down to cool. Then place the berry very gently, and ideally with not too much excess chocolate, it shouldn’t create much of a visible pool.

    2. Marlene Ross

      I attach a toothpick to the stem of the strawberry, twirl it in the chocolate and then stick the toothpick into styrofoam blocks wrapped in plastic.

    3. Betsy

      I put my strawberries in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes before dipping. Just long enough to get the surface really cold, but be careful not to let them freeze.

  2. Margy

    Have you tried tempering chocolate using the new heated Kitchenaid bowl that you sell? I know that it has a tempering cycle, but I haven’t seen any details about how well it works.

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      I am not lucky enough to have one in my kitchen (yet!!), but the bakers in our test kitchen love it — they say it tempers chocolate easily and can actually hold it in temper for up to 10 hours (it also has a beater that can be stirring constantly). The neat thing is that the heated bowl also doubles as a proofer for your bread dough. Hope that helps! Posie.

    2. Betsy

      I bought one and love it, but had to work with it a while and get used to it. When you set the automated process for tempering, it melts the chocolate VERY slowly, takes way too long if you dip a lot.
      What I finally figured out is that I set the bowl on a slightly higher temperature to melt. Then restart it to hold at the appropriate temperature for the type of chocolate. It does an excellent job maintaining the temperature.

  3. Keri

    Is the Valrhona chocolate pictured also considered a couverture chocolate? There wasn’t a link to it so just wanted to make sure. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Margy

      Problem with the Valrhona is that it’s so good that it usually all gets eaten up straight out of the bag before it ever makes it to baking or candy making!

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      This happens at my house also! I guess we both need to buy one bag for baking and one bag for eating and hope that the baking bag makes it into our yummy recipes!JoAnn@KAF

  4. Ginny Sher

    I’m a little puzzled by the explanation on tempering chocolate. It’s not “just” heating it to 122°. It then needs to cool to the correct temperature and adding seed chocolate isn’t necessarily an indication that it cooled to the correct temperature. It’s a good start, but the information here is incomplete.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Ginny,
      Oh yes, tempering is definitely more complicated than just melting, so we’re glad that Posie linked to our excellent blog on tempering to help folks out. If you missed the link in the blog, you’ll find our Tempering Guide here. Hope this helps! ~ MJ

  5. Carol

    Who makes the graduated bowl that the chocolate is being melted in? I cant make out the name on the handle and using the words “graduated bowl” or “double boiler” doesn’t bring up anything on your search button. Thanks !

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Carol,
      That’s a great product made by Nordic Ware. We’ve carried them in the past, and love them. ~ MJ

  6. Kay2

    I realize it might not be the “textbook” way to do it but I’ve always used my crockpot for melting chocolate for dipping. It keeps it at the perfect temp as long as I need. When I made gluten free thin mint cookies (using a chocolate cake mix), I dipped about 5 dozen cookies and it stayed perfect from start to finish.

    Reply
  7. Nikki

    Any tips on what to do with any leftover chocolate? 2-3 cups is a lot but I understand the larger the batch, the smoother the process goes. Could it be re-heated with some heavy cream to make a ganache? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      There are quite a few choices for melted chocolate in baking! You might try a Sacher Torte, which uses melted chocolate in both the batter and the glaze: http://bit.ly/1P9xsLB If you’d like to make ganache, chop the saved chocolate finely and pour the near boiling cream over it to melt. You can use it for a glaze, or firm it up slightly and scoop for truffles, or firm it up and then whip it for a swirly rich frosting. If you’re feeling patient, you can retemper the chocolate and use it for piping decorations for petit fours or cakes. In any case, it’s not a waste! Laurie@KAF

    2. Margy

      I make bark with leftover tempered chocolate. I always have odds and ends of bags of nuts and dried fruits hanging around the closet and freezer in amounts that are too small for full recipes. Just mix them in, and either spread on parchment, allow to solidify and break up; or drop in clusters on parchment or in paper candy cups.

  8. Donna Bryan

    My goodness ! What a wonderful “conversation” ! I learned so much in just five minutes of reading. I just enjoy the entire site so much, and the products…well ! Of course !

    Reply
  9. Shalryn

    It’s next to impossible to get couverture where I live, so I’ve devised a system. I get the most top-of-the-line chocolate I can find (Callebaut at the very least), and melt real (not candle-making) beeswax into it at a rate of one well-packed tablespoon of grated wax per pound of chocolate. T|he mixture becomes smooth and silky, cools quickly, and hardens into a nice, glossy shell. I just thought I’d throw that option out there for anyone who has access to an apiary stall or honey-seller at the local farmer’s market.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kathryn, parchment paper works well to cool the dipped candy. A rack will create indentations in the chocolate. You can minimize the “foot” of chocolate that pools on the bottom of the candy by allowing excess chocolate to drip over the bowl, and then passing the candy (settled on top of the dipping tool) over the edge of the bowl. Although we don’t yet have a chocolate-dipping video, there are lots of helpful videos online that show various techniques for dipping candy in chocolate and achieving a nice finish. Barb@KAF

  10. Rhonda

    I am sure that this is a crazy question…Is it possible to mix tempered chocolate with ganache for a dipped cookie that is a bit richer but firms up more than ganache?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Rhonda it sounds like you might want to try simply making a ganache that has a higher ratio of chocolate to cream so that it sets up thicker rather than trying to add in tempered chocolate. Most ganaches are about 4:5 parts cream to chocolate. Try whipping up a batch that’s made of 4 ounces of cream to 10-16 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, depending on how thick you’d like the chocolate coating to be. This should give you a rich, slightly firm coating. Kye@KAF

  11. Linda

    This has been a very enlightening read! My question is I make chocolate nut clusters & I have always melted the chocolate stirred in the nuts & spooned them onto parchment paper. But until the last 2 years when the chocolate that used was no longer available, I had no problems; I melted the chocolate, no tempering, stirred in my nuts, scooped them onto parchment paper, put them in the fridge to set up, & then put them in freezer bags & froze them! Now with learning about tempering how do I keep the heat at the proper temp while putting in 2-3 cups of peanuts? Does anyone else do nut clusters & are these done differently?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Linda, you can try putting your bowl of melted chocolate on top of a warm bain-maire (warm water). The warm water bath transfers heat gently to the melted chocolate to keep it the right temperature for dipping. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  12. Marie

    I would like some information on what to add to the melting chocolate to make the melted candy look shinie. Would I use Karol syrup?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Adding corn syrup can help to increase the shine and the flexibility of your melted chocolate, Marie. Properly tempering chocolate is another key to shiny chocolate. If you haven’t already found your way here, we’d suggest checking out our Basic Guide to Tempering Chocolate for more detailed guidance. Mollie@KAF

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