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. Molly Jenkins

    If you coat the whole cookie in chocolate how do you keep from leaving marks on the cookie? How do you dip them.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This is when dipping tools come in handy, Molly! There are a number of styles that you can experiment with to find your favorite, but we recommend a basic starter set like this one here. They keep your fingers (mostly) chocolate-free and your cookies looking professional-grade. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Bikingbaker

    Super informative. I just dipped a batch of biscotti which needed some help. They were very dry. I used a modified ganache 2 oz cream to 6 oz chocolate. Hope this firms up.

    Reply
  3. Virginia Bruce

    I make fruit jellies with Pomona pectin, and I want to coat them with chocolate. It’s hard to get the chocolate to stick to the jellies. Can I cover the jelly squares with cornstarch or something to get it to stick?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Virginia. Since you’ll be coating them with chocolate, we’d recommend coating them in either sifted powdered sugar or cocoa powder. The cocoa powder will be less noticeable when you bite into them since it will be closer to the color of the chocolate, but it could possibly give a slight bitter flavor that you wouldn’t get from the powdered sugar. Hope this helps! Annabelle@KAF

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

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