To set up: Line the bottom of a 10 x 15 inch baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper, leaving a 2inch overhang at each end. Line a second baking sheet or tray with wax paper and place next to your work surface.
To temper chocolate: Melt 3/4 of the chopped chocolate (24 ounces semisweet) with the shortening in the top of a double boiler over simmering water or a bowl that sits in a pan of very hot (but not simmering) water. Stir the chocolate constantly as it melts, being very careful not allow chocolate to overheat or to allow even one drop of water to enter bowl. When just about smooth (one or two small pieces of chocolate may remain visible), immediately remove the chocolate from the stove and briskly stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Stir constantly until perfectly smooth.
To assemble chocolate crisps: When smooth, stir in cereal and, when well combined, use a large rubber spatula to help pour into prepared baking sheet. Use an offset metal spatula to spread chocolate mixture evenly in pan, then lift pan and give it one or two good rap's on the counter to remove any air bubbles and assure an even layer. Place in freezer (uncovered) for no longer than 5 minutes, then remove and, using sturdy cookie cutters (plain or flutted), cut chocolate into shapes. As you cut, gently push chocolates out of the cutter onto second sheet, lined with wax paper.
Note: Since cutting cooled chocolate into shapes takes a little muscle, place a pot holder or a folded dry kitchen towel over top of cutter to protect your hand.
To wrap and store: If desired, wrap crisps individually in colored foil wrappers (available in stores that specialize in candy making). Alternatively, store unwrapped crisps in a tin, separated by sheets of wax paper. Tempered chocolate should be stored at a comfortable room temperature.
To form drop candies: After tempering chocolate, choose any type of addition: i.e. crispy cereal, cocktail peanuts, raisins, walnuts, minimarshmallows, mini m & m's, diced chewy caramels and the list goes on... After stirring in your chosen addition, drop mixture by heaping teaspoonfuls onto wax paper lined tray, with 1inch in between each mound. When finished, place tray in the freezer for 3 to 5 minutes (no longer). Remove and let sit at room temperature until completely set. Store in an airtight tin, separated by sheets of wax paper.
Chocolate Variation and Temperature Guide
Beginners should stick to working with the darker chocolates (semisweet, bittersweet and dark sweet). The lighter chocolates (milk and white chocolate) are more heat sensitive because of the milk solids.
If you feel more confident using a chocolate thermometer, purchase a mercury thermometer specifically designed for chocolate. When melting the initial bulk of chocolate, don't allow the temperature to rise above 118F. At 115F, it's the right time to remove the bowl from heat and stir in remaining chopped chocolate. After stirring until smooth, check temperature. The darker chocolates should be cooled to 90F to be in proper condition after setting. Lighter chocolates should be cooled to 86F. Keep stirring briskly until desired temperature is reached, then chocolate is ready to work with as directed in your given recipe.