Okay, maybe I'm overselling it, but last week I learned how to temper chocolate in the microwave, and I happen to think this is huge news.
Tempering chocolate determines the final gloss and hardness of the chocolate -- that professional hard shell coating on a perfect truffle or likewise bonbon. When you melt chocolate, the molecules of fat separate. Putting them back together is to temper it. The most common way to do this is over a hot water bath, slowly melting and stirring until the chocolate reaches the magic 88-90 degrees F sweet spot (31-32 degrees C.) At this point a bunch of the chocolate is usually poured onto a cold marble slab and spread around with a spatula so that it partially cools, before blending it together with the rest of the warm chocolate still in the bowl.
In other words, this is something that I never, ever planned to do. I'd leave that to the pros, like Thomas Haas.
But then I met pastry chef and chocolatier Derrick Tu Tan Pho, who is the Director of the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. He was in Toronto to spread the word about Cacao Barry, the brand new 1 kilo boxes of professional style chocolate couvertures, just in time for holiday baking season. But these easily measured high quality chocolate buttons are besides the point if you don't know how to use them properly.
So here's the chef's foolproof method for tempering chocolate in the microwave, using about 1 kilo of chocolate:
Pour chocolate couvertures, or other high quality chocolate chopped into equal pieces, in a microwave-proof bowl.
Microwave for 30 seconds on high (all temps on high).
Give a quick stir, and microwave for another 30 seconds.
Give another quick stir, then microwave for another 30 seconds. This time, mix well for one minute.
Then microwave for 10 seconds. Stir. Microwave for 10 seconds more. Stir. Then five seconds. Stir. Then a final five seconds. This adds up to 4 x 30 seconds. And in the end, after a good final stirring, your chocolate should be glossy and perfect, and using a thermometer it should hit the above mentioned 31 degrees C.