Chocolatier Jacques Torres says that bar chocolate used for cooking and eating will keep for up to a year if tightly wrapped and stored in a relatively cool, dry place such as a cellar or a cupboard away from the oven. He advises against storing chocolate in the refrigerator because the moisture in the air will give it a powdery, gritty look (a condition known as bloom). This doesn't affect the taste, but over time food odors in the refrigerator might. If you must refrigerate chocolate (i.e., you do not have a cellar or your kitchen is very hot in the summer), snugly store bars in plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag. Always allow refrigerated chocolate to reach room temperature before unwrapping. "Otherwise, when the moisture dissipates," says Torres, "the chocolate will become wet and soggy." For best results when baking, he likes baking chocolate and cooking-chocolate bars by Dove, Valrhona, and Callebaut. Torres suggests melting chocolate in a double boiler, using a candy thermometer, and keeping the temperature below 105° for milk chocolate (the milk in the chocolate will burn at higher temperatures) and below 120° for dark chocolate. You can use a microwave, but to avoid burning, melt the chocolate in stages: Zap for 1 minute, stir, and continue microwaving in 30-second to 1-minute intervals, depending on the amount of chocolate. Stir after each step until it has fully melted. If you're wondering how to store fancy boxed chocolates, Torres's solution is simple: "Eat chocolate candy as fast as you can or the chocolate will oxidize." Not a problem.

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