If eating chocolate is meant to be therapeutic, ever tried making it? Melting, gently stirring, setting it, garnishing it. A perfect activity for a day indoors in the winter.
Why not try some out over the holiday season – play with flavours and toppings, shapes and fillings. Here are some ideas and a short guide on how to get the end product to look and feel right using a low stress method to get the chocolate looking professional.
The process used to mould and set chocolate is called ‘Tempering’ and stops the cocoa butter in chocolate from clumping as it cools. Instead by controlling the temperature carefully you encourage the cocoa butter to form the right type of crystals and create an even set. There are a number of ways you can temper chocolate. We tried this simple method of seeding melted chocolate with solid chocolate in order to rapidly cool and help encourage the correct crystallisation and set.
What you will need:
- A thermometer
- A flexible spatula
- A double boiler – simply put, a small pan or bowl set over a saucepan with very hot water in it (be sure the bowl is well above water level)
- A chocolate scraper if you are moulding chocolate – to scrape excess off filled moulds
How to temper chocolate:
Adapted from the Valrhona cookbook (and the BBC Good Food Guide)
- Chop your chocolate finely (or use chocolate chips)
- Set aside a quarter of it
- Put the remaining 3/4 into a bowl over a pot of barely simmering water.
- Melt it slowly whilst stirring constantly – to a temperature of 55C-58C (131F-136F) for dark chocolate, 45C- 50C (113F-122F) for milk or white.
- Take the bowl off the hot water and pour 2/3 of it into a fresh bowl. Keep the original bowl warm by wrapping the base with a kitchen towel. It must not set so stir it regularly.
- To the fresh bowl containing the larger amount of the melted chocolate, add in the rest of the finely chopped chocolate that you originally reserved. Stir to dissolve it and monitor the temperature. It needs to drop to 28C-29C (82F-84F) for dark chocolate, 27C-28C (81F-82F) for milk and 26C-27C (79F-81F) for white chocolate.
- Once the temperature has dropped and all the chocolate is melted, add in the remaining melted chocolate that you have kept warm. Do take out any unmelted chocolate before rewarming otherwise the final product will be thick and clumpy.
- Stir to mix the chocolate and check the temperature. You want dark chocolate to warm to 31C-32C (88F-90F), milk chocolate to 29C-30C (84F-86F) and white chocolate to 28C-29C (82F-84F).
- Test the chocolate is ready by spreading a little of it on parchment – it should harden to a shiny finish and snap when broken.
Fist up we tried setting the tempered chocolate into thin discs- simply spreading a tablespoon of chocolate onto a greaseproof paper and allowing to set. You can top with nuts, dried fruit, sprinkles or sparkles, or flavour with mint or orange essential oils for an easy edible gift and a great introduction to creating home made chocolates.
Our next adventure was to create some filled chocolates. These do take a little longer as you need time to set the shell, fill it and then seal it and turn them out.
We got a plastic chocolate mould from Lakeland. Apparently silicone moulds are not as good as the chocolate will not be as shiny. So whilst it might be frightening to think any chocolate poured into a hard mould will ever come out, have faith, for it will as long as you temper it properly. It took us two attempts to get it right so please do not despair if it does not work first time, it is so satisfying when it does.
Here was our moment of truth – tapping out the chocolates. Will they come out?…
Thankfully they did – so slightly rustic looking but a seriously delicious edible gift!
- 400g (14oz) tempered chocolate
- 225g (8oz) Dark Chocolate
- 120ml (half cup) Double Cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Quarter teaspoon powdered cinnamon
- Quarter teaspoon powdered ginger
- One eighth teaspoon powdered star anise
- pinch of salt and pepper
- edible glitter (optional)
- If you have some edible glitter, use a brush to spread some lightly in the base of each well of a chocolate mould.
- Pour some of the tempered chocolate into the mould - you can use a chocolate dispenser or a piping bag. Keep the remaining tempered chocolate warm and in a temperature range of 31C-32C (88F-90F) (if using dark chocolate).
- Tap the mould on the counter to release air bubbles so that the chocolate lines the mould completely.
- Leave for 2 to 3 minutes then tip the mould over a bowl to catch any excess unmelted chocolate and then turn it upside down, shake it a little and place on the parchment.
- Prepare your ganache by chopping the dark chocolate finely - use a food processor if needed to get a fine grain but be careful the chocolate does not start melting.
- Put the chopped chocolate into a bowl.
- Warm the cream in a saucepan to boiling point and pour it over the chocolate, whisk this until the chocolate is melted and the truffle mixture smooth. Add the butter and spices and salt.
- Continue to whisk - the truffle mixture should be glossy and smooth.
- Allow to cool to room temperature
- Turn your mould back round and peel off the parchment paper
- Scrape off any chocolate on the surface of the mould using a scraper or spatula.
- Spoon or pipe the truffle mixture into the chocolate shells to ¾ full. Tap the mould on the counter to release any air bubbles.
- Place in the refrigerator to allow to cool overnight or at least for 60 minutes.
- Use a teaspoon to place melted tempered chocolate onto each shell, spreading it out to cover completely seal the ganache.
- Allow to set for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 60 minutes at room temperature then tip over clean sheet of parchment, tap the sides of the mould and the chocolates should fall out.
- Store in an airtight container in a refrigerator, but allow the chocolates to warm to room temperature before serving.
More chocolate at home ideas:
Sarah of Maison Cupcake has these Reindeer Chocolate Mendiants made in a similar way, which she decorated with pretzel and glace cherries.
Another easy idea is to make chocolate bark – spread out the chocolate into a parchment lined baking tray. Jude makes this peppermint candy cane chocolate bark for a super festive treat.
Choclette makes these pretty salted, caramelised almond chocolates.
Michelle has these lovely chunky chocolate cheerios
So why not give it a go? it is an impressive gift, a great skill to learn and so much customising you can do to make these suit you!
We shall return no doubt with suggestions for Valentine’s and Easter. We certainly have a tempering bug now!