Q: For our anniversary, I was planning to dip strawberries in chocolate. As I was melting the chocolate in my double boiler, it suddenly turned into a solid lump. What happened?
What happened is your chocolate got ‘seized’, and I don’t mean by the culinary police. Seizing happens when water gets into melted chocolate. Only a very small amount of water, a drop or two, is enough to seize the quantity of chocolate you were likely working with. The water may have been on one of your utensils or may be steam condensed from the lower part of the double boiler falling into the chocolate. It is important to have everything dry, and to use only a very low simmer for the water in the double boiler.
Adding more liquid will eventually smooth the chocolate back out, but may also make it too thin for dipped strawberries. Sometimes, the addition of a small amount of flavorless cooking oil will solve the problem, although this may also make the chocolate too soft for dipping. Do not use butter or margarine as they contain water, which will only make matters worse.
The best, and easiest, way to turn this disaster into a hit is to make a chocolate fondue. For each ounce of chocolate, add a tablespoon of whipping cream and continue to cook until smooth. If you wish, you can also add a teaspoon of Amaretto, Cointreau, Rum or other liqueur per ounce of chocolate.
Chocolate fondue is usually served in a special serving dish warmed with a candle. If you don’t have one of these, warm a heatproof bowl by filling it half full of water and bringing the water to a boil in your microwave. Dump out the water, dry the bowl and pour in the fondue mixture. Serve with sliced up pieces of fruit such as banana, pear or apple, maybe some miniature marshmallows and, of course, the strawberries for dipping.