CHOCOLATE MAKING TECHNIQUES

CHOOSING YOUR CHOCOLATE

You can use almost any good quality chocolate although it’s best to steer away from cooking chocolate as it contains high levels of vegetable fat.

Check the level of cocoa solids displayed on the wrapper before you buy, the higher the percentage, the more bitter the taste will be—also check the vegetable fat content—it is often used as a cheap substitute for cocoa solids. Fortunately, supermarket ‘own brand’ eating chocolate is easy to use, achieves good results and above all is great value for money. (Do not use Cadbury, Galaxy or Bourneville as these contain mixtures of different fats which prevent the chocolate from setting.) For the best results, you should use the professionals’ choice - couverture. This is a special type of chocolate used in patisserie and confectionery (it means "to cover" or "to coat") and is available in easy-to-use buttons.

GETTING STARTED

Home Chocolate Factory ‘Easy-to-Use’ moulds are made from a high quality food grade plastic and can be used again and again. To wash the moulds, just use warm soapy water and dry completely, preferably using paper towels as these soak up all moisture. It is important that the moulds are completely dry before being used as moisture is one of the biggest causes of poor finish. It is not necessary to wash the moulds after each use.

This is only needed if sticking should occur or if you are using a different colour chocolate in the mould. Do not wash your moulds in the dishwasher as the high temperatures will cause them to melt. Be careful not to touch the inside of your moulds with your fingers as this can also affect the final finish.

TIP: For real shine on your chocolates, polish the inside of the moulds with dry cotton wool.

MELTING YOUR CHOCOLATE

TIP: For best results, we always recommend tempering chocolate before use.

‘Bain Marie’

The best way to melt chocolate is to use a ‘bain marie’ or double saucepan. You can also place a heatproof bowl containing the chocolate over a saucepan of hot water. Ensure that the bowl is not in the water and that the water is gently simmering not boiling. Stir the chocolate until it just begins to melt, then remove from the heat, continuing to stir, until the chocolate is completely melted. If necessary, return the bowl to the saucepan for a few moments, but do not overheat. The chocolate is now ready to temper.

Microwave

If you prefer to use a microwave oven to melt the chocolate, then take great care as it is easy to burn the chocolate. Microwave in short 30-60 second bursts on Medium/High. After each burst, remove the chocolate and give it a stir - even if it doesn’t look like anything has happened. When fully melted at 44C, it is ready to temper. TIP: Chocolate can be remelted two to three times, but do not reuse burnt chocolate or chocolate which has come into contact with water.

Tempering or Pre Crystalisation

Tempering is the process of gently heating and cooling chocolate to stabilise the emulsification of cocoa solids and butterfat. It allows the chocolate to shrink quickly so that the chocolate is easily released from the mould and it can be kept at room temperature for weeks without losing its crispness and shiny surface. It may take one or two attempts to get it right to begin with, just use a small amount of couverture to practice with. Most importantly, give yourself plenty of time and try not to rush - the results are well worth the effort. In principal tempering entails heating to 44C, cooling down to 28C and reheating and using the chocolate at 32C. There are different ways to temper chocolate and you can find detailed information at www.callebaut.com/uken/techniques

Tempering Coverture

Couverture is supplied ready tempered and will remain so as long as, during the melting process, the temperature does not go above 29C for white and 31C for milk & dark. If this temperature is exceeded, you will need to temper the chocolate as described in the next section.

You will need:

• Couverture - (340g or more)

• A saucepan and metal bowl - The metal bowl needs to fit on top of the saucepan

• A cooking or chocolate thermometer marked in individual degrees (A small digital thermometer is best as they are more accurate).

• A rubber spatula

Method

1. Fill the saucepan 1/3 of the way with water and heat to steaming hot but not boiling.

2. Place 2/3 of the couverture into your steel bowl and place the bowl on top of the saucepan. It's important to make sure that water never directly touches the bottom of the bowl. The chocolate should slowly begin to melt. Try not to disturb the chocolate during this process. A few stirs with a rubber spatula near the end of the process should help mix the melted chocolate.

3. As the couverture melts, monitor the temperature with your thermometer. The melting temperature of the chocolate should be 44C.

4. As soon as the chocolate has reached the temperature, remove the bowl from the saucepan. Use a towel to wipe away moisture from the bottom of the bowl. This will prevent any water from finding its way into the bowl. Water will separate the chocolate and ruin the batch.

5. Place the bowl on a table and add half of your remaining chocolate to the bowl. Stir until the introduced chocolate completely melts.

6. Take the other half and repeat the process. Monitor the temperature of the chocolate as you mix it. You should notice the temperature drop to around 32C.

7. If the chocolate is not fluid enough, place the bowl over the hot water for a few seconds and stir – do not exceed 32C.

This method is called ‘seeding’ as you are utilising stable crystals in the chocolate you are adding to the melted chocolate. To test, dip the tip of your knife in the chocolate. When it hardens quickly, it is perfectly tempered and ready to use.

Tip – A hairdryer is a useful aid in keeping chocolate at the working temperature. Short bursts of hot air around the bowl and on to the chocolate will enable you to work for longer periods and maintain the working temperature.

START MOULDING

Take a spoon and deposit chocolate into each mould until it is full. Gently tap the mould on the work surface to remove air bubbles. If necessary scrape off the excess chocolate with a palette knife. Place the filled mould in the refrigerator for around 30 mins or until it has set. Remove the mould from the refrigerator, gently twist it and then turn it upside down. The chocolates will then pop out of the mould easily. If they don’t, it could be because the chocolate has not set properly. If so, return them to the refrigerator for another few minutes.

RECIPE IDEAS

Mint Crisp - Melt the chocolate in the normal way, add a few drops of peppermint oil and mix in granulated sugar. The amount of sugar you add is up to your taste.

ChocoRice & Hazelnut Crunch - Just mix some puffed rice (such as Rice Krispies or Coco Pops) into the melted chocolate before putting in the mould. Try adding chopped roasted hazelnuts into the melted chocolate and you'll get a fabulous hazelnut crunch.

Chocolate Shells - For an interesting decorative effect, brush a little melted white chocolate on to the insides of the Sea Shell mould (making sure not to cover the whole mould) and then fill it with chocolate. This also works with milk and dark chocolate.

Filled Chocolates - First create a hollow chocolate shell by filling a suitably deep mould with chocolate and then place the full mould in the fridge for about 3 minutes. Take the mould out of the fridge and turn it upside down. The liquid chocolate in the centre of each mould cavity should then drain out leaving a chocolate shell. This can be filled to within 1.5mm of the top with a delicious centre such as praline cream which can be made from chocolate spread, a flavoured fondant, marzipan, toffee, jam or marmalade. Once filled, place the filled moulds in the fridge until the centres have hardened then run liquid chocolate over the back of the moulds, scraping off the excess chocolate and allow to harden again. Alternatively a nut or part of a nut can be placed in the centre.

HOLLOW CHOCOLATES SUCH AS EASTER EGGS, TWO PART FIGURE MOULDS

The moulds will need to be cut out leaving a border of at least 5 mm all around the edge of the shape. (The moulds are designed with outlines for you to follow with your scissors.) The following five easy steps refer to making a chocolate egg but these instructions apply to any hollow moulds.

1. Fill one half of the egg with 2/3rds of melted chocolate.

2. Using four bulldog clips, clip the second half of the egg to the first making sure that the two eggs are completely in line with each other.

3. Swirl the chocolate around the egg for 3-5 minutes, making sure that the whole surface is covered.

4. Place the egg mould in the fridge, turn the egg over after 4 minutes then return to the fridge for a further 30 minutes.

5. The chocolate can now be removed.

POUR BOXES

Moulds to make edible chocolate boxes are also available from the Home Chocolate Factory. These are easily made following the first four steps opposite. Once you have allowed your boxes to set in the fridge you may find them slightly difficult to remove from the mould, in which case, with a pin simply place some tiny holes in the corners of the box. This lets the air in and should ensure the boxes pop out easily.

STORING YOUR CHOCOLATE & COUVERTURE

1. You should keep chocolate in a dry area and avoid any risk of condensation of water on the chocolate. As a result of excessive changes in temperature, the formation of a water film on the chocolate may cause sugars to dissolve, which may re-crystalise on the surface causing sugar whitening. Water will also accelerate deterioration in the taste.

2. Chocolate must be stored at a temperature of 18-20C. Temperatures above 25C may destabilise the crystalline structure of the chocolate and give the appearance of a fatty white stain.

3. Chocolate should be kept out of the light. The taste of chocolate deteriorates rapidly when it is exposed to light. Chocolate should be stored in a dark container or bag and ideally in a cupboard away from light.

4. Chocolate can quickly become impregnated with external smells and therefore, should be kept away from any strong smelling products.