Anyone can pour melted chocolate into molds, let the mounds set then pop them out. But not everyone can create the perfect balance between rich creaminess, sweetness and bitterness. Too much sugar and chocolate is cloying. Too little sugar and chocolate tastes bitter. Too little cream and chocolate loses that melt-in-the-mouth texture.
The last time we were at the baking supply store, Sam included two blocks of chocolate among our purchases. One was a block of milk chocolate and the other was a block of pure unsweetened chocolate. We also bought a silicone mold. Sam had been experimenting. The first attempt was good. The second yielded so much better results that I felt I needed to write about the experience.
First of all, chocolate and chocolate candy are not the same things. Chocolate, in its raw form, is bitter and hard. To turn chocolate into sweet delectable morsels, ingredients like sugar, cream and, sometimes, butter must be added at the right proportion and temperature. It’s a tedious and labor-intensive process. In fact, when I told Sam that I was going to write about her chocolate experiment, she said I should pay her 10K. It was a joke, of course, but the girl knows the value of labor. Popping handcrafted chocolate candy into your mouth and relishing its delightful flavor and texture is a beautiful experience. And once you taste well-made good quality handcrafted chocolate, it’s hard to go back to factory-made candies.
Second, no recipe goes into this post. Somewhere down the road, Sam will sell her handcrafted chocolate so any and all recipes must remain her secret. However, there are lessons that can be shared.
Use the best quality chocolate you can find
Have you ever wondered why some store-bought chocolate candies don’t melt in your hands while others do? If you hold a chocolate candy between your fingers and they leave no trace on your skin, that means the chocolate did not melt despite contact with your warm skin. And that, in turn, means that there are more extenders like flour and powdered milk in the chocolate candy than real chocolate. Good quality chocolate is expensive. And candy makers who want to sell more at a lower price use extenders and artificial flavorings to compensate for the small amount of chocolate actually used.
If you want to try your hand at making handcrafted chocolate, the first thing to do is to find a good source of chocolate. Generally, chocolate is sold under the following categories:
The categorization many vary from region to region but all of the above can be bought as blocks, morsels or droplets. Morsels and droplets are easier to work with but, based on weight, they are also more expensive. You have to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of each kind of chocolate to determine what you need for the handcrafted chocolate project you intend to experiment with. You will also need to discover which chocolate sellers have truly good chocolate and which ones are just ripping you off.
Use plastic molds
When Sam and I bought chocolate molds, she wanted plastic but I insisted on silicone. Silicone is more durable whereas plastic turns brittle over time, I told her.
When she started experimenting, she told me that silicone is not the ideal material for chocolate molds especially when making chocolate candies with center filling. The silicone is too soft and it’s impossible to swirl it around to coat the sides and bottom of each hole evenly without making a mess and wasting precious chocolate.
If you look closely at the photo above, the chocolate with ganache filling looks weird because the bottom and side of the chocolate shell is not even. That’s because Sam used the silicone mold. I understood. So, next time we’re at the baking supply store, we’ll get plastic molds.
The first attempts with any experiment is rarely successful. It’s just a fact of life. Don’t get discouraged if the first batch of your handcrafted chocolate looks and tastes inedible. You did not fail. Rather, you discovered one wrong way to make handcrafted chocolate and you know you won’t repeat it the next time.