True chocolatiers visibly flinch when I suggest tempering chocolate in the microwave, but for personal consumption, less mess, and speed it works well.
Here is my tried and true method:
In a four cup Pyrex measuring cup put 3/4 of the amount of chopped chocolate you are tempering. (I use anything from three ounces to a pound. If you are using chips, just measure out one cup and divide it into two portions, one with 3/4 cup and one with 1/4 cup.)
Take the remaining 1/4 and divide it into two equal portions. Chop this into pea sized pieces.
Nuke the chocolate in the measuring cup on high for one minute. Stir. If it is not completely melted nuke it again for another 10-15 seconds. Stir until smooth.
Add one portion of the remaining pea-sized chocolate and stir until smooth. (This may take a minute, or two, so be patient. Don’t re-nuke the chocolate. You’re seeding the melted chocolate to bring down its temperature.)
Add the last portion of chocolate and stir until smooth.
Now, you are ready to make barks, clusters, or chocolate covered anything.
I like making a bark with crisped rice cereal and maple-sugared nuts. Just mix in whatever ratio of ingredients to chocolate you like, stir and spread out on a sheet of foil, or drop by teaspoonfuls.
(To make easy glazed nuts put 2 TBSP. maple syrup—the real stuff—in an 8-9″ skillet and heat on medium until it bubbles and reduces by about a third. If you want to add a bit of cayenne, chipotle chili powder, smoked paprika, cinnamon, or curry powder, do it now. A dash of sea salt always points up flavors. Add about 1-1 1/2 cups of chopped nuts and stir until nuts look dry in the pan, about 5-7 minutes. Pour onto a piece of aluminum foil and let sit until crispy, about a few minutes.)
I have coated pieces of halvah, small cookies, home-made caramels, etc. with melted bittersweet chocolate and they have been delicious.
Almonds, dried cherries, different cereals, peanuts, pretzels, cacao nibs, dates, walnuts, and anything else that appeals to you will probably work. The simplest things are often the best, like dark milk chocolate (62-70%) with corn flakes.
If you feel artistic, you can make mendiants by dropping tablespoonfuls of chocolate on a foil sheet. Round them out with the back of the spoon, and place a beautiful whole nut, piece of glaceed fruit, caramelized cocoa nib, and dried fruit on top. Just gently press your additions into the chocolate so they won’t fall off.
Note: Every chocolate hardens at a different rate. How quickly your chocolate will harden depends on the humidity. Some will set up in minutes, while others may take more than an hour.