OK, so white chocolate isn't technically chocolate. (It lacks one key ingredient, chocolate solids.) Doesn't matter. It's still all kinds of good, whether you're decorating a cake, making a dip for cookies or fruit, glazing a donut or coating a cake pop.
That said, white chocolate has some pitfalls, as anyone will tell you who has tried to melt it only to end up with a scorched, lumpy mess.
The problem is that white chocolate — a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, vanilla and a fatty substance called lecithin — has a low burn point. White chocolate will burn at 110 degrees; for darker forms of chocolate it's 115 degrees. Those few degrees can really make a difference.
You probably can't salvage white chocolate once it scorches, so you'll want to get things right the first time. Follow the simple tips here to melt white chocolate like a boss.
Start with the right equipment
Using a double boiler is the most effective way to melt white chocolate evenly and reliably. But a microwave will work, too.
If you're not familiar with a double boiler, it is a special pan made up of two parts: a saucepan that holds hot water and a bowl that fits securely over the saucepan. White chocolate placed in the top bowl will melt over indirect heat.
If you don't have a double boiler, MacGyver one. It's easy: Just choose a small or medium saucepan and a shallow, heatproof bowl that fits over the top. Fill the saucepan with a small amount of water, making sure it won't touch the bottom of the bowl. You want the boiling water to warm the bowl, but you don't want it to get too hot too fast and scorch the white chocolate.
Stay away —far, far away — from liquid
Once white chocolate warms up and begins to melt, any other liquid will make it seize and become lumpy. Take these precautions:
Add any flavoring, shortening or butter, or color extracts to the white chocolate before melting.Use a clean, dry spoon for mixing. Metal and silicone work better than wood because they are less prone to holding moisture. Or, use a spoon-shaped rubber spatula.Don't lift the top of the double boiler while the white chocolate melts. Escaping steam can come into contact with the chocolate, and we already know how that story ends.Don't cover the top of a double boiler while heating, because this can create steam, too.
Once white chocolate scorches, chances of revival are not great. But if you have some minor lumps or bumps, there are a few ingredients you can add that might help: unflavored oil (such as canola), shortening or butter, or milk or cream. Warm some to the same temperature as the white chocolate, then add it one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly.
Melting on the stove
If you're using white chocolate from a bar or from bulk pieces, use a sharp kitchen knife to cut it into small bits, roughly ¼-inch each. Place the white chocolate (and whatever other extracts or flavorings you'll be using) in the top of your double boiler.
Fill the bottom half of a double boiler with about 1 inch of water. Heat on medium high until the water begins to come to a light boil.
Reduce heat to low. Place white chocolate in the top of the double boiler. Stir gently but continuously until the white chocolate is mostly melted but a few bumps remain. Remove the top of the double boiler, making sure no steam escapes.
Transfer the top of the double boiler to a heat-safe surface; continue gently stirring. The few remaining solid bits should melt in the residual heat.
Melting in the microwave
This works too! Cut the white chocolate as specified in Step 1 above, but place it in a microwave-safe bowl.
Set your microwave to 50 percent strength.
Heat the white chocolate for 30 seconds, then take it out and give it a stir. Depending on your microwave, you might not see much change yet. Keep the faith.
Continue microwaving in 30-second bursts at medium power, stirring as needed. Once the pieces are mostly melted, remove from the microwave and let the remaining bits melt in the residual heat.