One last thing: melting. The traditional method is to put broken-up pieces of chocolate in a bowl and that bowl on top of a pan of simmering water, making sure that the base of the bowl never comes into contact with the water (it is the steam that melts it).
I am however a complete convert to the microwave for this. I’m not quite enough of a microwave queen, though, to be confident of giving you precise instructions. What I do is give 4 ounces of broken-up chocolate about a minute on medium, then look to see if another minute’s required. Not only is it easier to melt chocolate in the microwave than in a bowl over a pan of water, but it’s much harder, even in my clumsy experience, to burn it so that it seizes up and becomes expensively unusable.
Though if this does happen to you, you might be able to save it by whisking in, off the heat, a lump of butter or drop of vegetable oil. But it’s safer to use the microwave and proceed slowly — a hard proviso for the impatient cook, I know, but if I can do, so can you.
Excerpts from ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson
The New York Times Magazine
Nov 18, 2001