by Sherry Nixon
With Easter on the way, it’s a perfect time to think chocolate. Of course, when ISN’T it a perfect time to think chocolate? You can always take the easy way out and pick up pre-made packaged chocolates. But, this year why not consider making your own? It’s a lot easier than you think – and it makes a perfect activity with kids of virtually any age, even grown-up kids!
The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of chocolate – “real” chocolate and chocolate melting wafers. The former must be tempered and is difficult to handle so, instead, I recommend wafers. They’re easy to work with, have a great chocolate taste, come in a variety of colours and are readily available at most bulk stores, craft stores and candy making suppliers – including Isn’t Life Sweet.
You’ll also need to decide beforehand what you’d like to make – solid or hollow chocolate treats, suckers, filled chocolates or whatever else you can think of. If you’re short on ideas, try the location where you found your chocolate wafers. They’re sure to have plenty of molds plus other candy-making supplies, including sucker sticks, colours, decorations, etc.
Now that you’ve got all your supplies ready to go, it’s time to make some chocolates. The first (and most crucial) step is melting, which must be done gently and never over direct heat. The most reliable way is to place your bowl of chocolate wafers in an electric frying pan filled with water that’s warm enough to melt the chocolate, but cool enough to put your finger in. Usually, “simmer” is a perfect setting. Alternately, a double boiler works great.
The simplest method is to put your oven-ready bowl of chocolate in a microwave. Start out with the timer set for one minute, remove the chocolate and stir, then repeat in decreasing intervals of 45 seconds, 30 seconds, etc., being sure to thoroughly stir the chocolate each time.
Whatever method you use, the ultimate goal is to have chocolate that pours easily and contains no lumps. If you overheat the chocolate it will harden and there’s no way to save it. So, slow and easy does it! It’s also important that no water, milk, alcohol, water-based flavours or liquid food colours come into contact with the chocolate or, once again, it will be ruined.
While your chocolate is warm, carefully pour or spoon it into your molds. Try to be as accurate as you can, as it will save you time trimming off the excess later and make for cleaner, more professional looking results. You want to fill the molds right to the top, but it’s always better to slightly underfill than overfill. If you’re making suckers, now is the time to insert the sticks into the slot on the mold, making sure the end of the stick is entirely covered in chocolate.
Once the molds are filled, tap them lightly on your table to remove any air bubbles or pop the bubbles with a toothpick or pin. Transfer them to the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to allow them to set. Once the chocolate is set, remove the molds from the freezer, invert them over a baking sheet or your table and, if properly set, the chocolates should fall right out. Make sure you hold the mold close to the table to lessen the chance of breakage and, if desired, have a piece of Styrofoam or clean towel to catch the falling chocolate.
If the chocolate is difficult to remove, give the mold a slight tap or twist it gently. If you’re still not having any success, your chocolate is probably not set and should be returned to the freezer or fridge for an additional few minutes. Voila, you’re a chocolate maker!
Next time, we’ll go beyond the basics to discover some other delicious treats you can experiment with.