Temper isn't just a phrase you toss around at toddlers who are mid-tantrum. Temper also refers to the state of a chocolate product. You'll know chocolate is in temper when you see the pretty shine and distinct snap of a good chocolate bar. You'll know chocolate isn't in temper when you see a white, cloudy film on top of your bar. That film is called bloom, and in the world of chocolate, bloom is bad.

To keep melted chocolate in temper so that when it cools it will once again become snappy and solid at room temperature, the first rule is to not exceed about 90°F while it's melting. Exceeding 90°F melts out specific crystals found in chocolate that create snappy solid chocolate.

How to melt chocolate in a microwave: The easiest way to control the temperature of the melting chocolate is to use the microwave oven at 20% power. Melting the chocolate in short bursts of 20% power keeps the temperature below 90°F and the chocolate in temper.

To melt chocolate and keep it in temper, follow these simple steps.

- Place finely chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. - Microwave at 20% power for 15 seconds; remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. The first couple of times you heat and then stir it, the chopped chocolate will still be pretty solid, but it is important to stir after every burst of power to keep the heat evenly distributed throughout the chocolate. - Repeat process until most of the chocolate has melted and is smooth. - Let it stand for a minute or two, stirring occasionally, until all of the chocolate melts and it's silky-smooth.

The next rule: use the best quality chocolate you can afford. And please avoid using baking chips.