How Do I Make Chocolate Candy?
The US sells over sixty million pounds of chocolates for Valentine’s Day alone. These bite-sized chocolates are usually adorned in a brown bonbon wrapper and placed in a decorative heart-shaped box. Some even come with a guide to identify and distinguish each chocolate by category (cream, caramel, nut) and flavor. While nothing says “I love you” like a box of chocolates, there is one way to show how much and that is by making the chocolates yourself.
It may be argued that it is more convenient, less messy, and more economical to purchase premade chocolates. While there is merit in this point, there is a satisfaction gained from creating a chocolate from scratch, as well as sentimental value. Handmade chocolates can be made free hand, or with a mold. There are endless varieties and combinations but basically each confection contains chocolate, a filling, and perhaps some add-ins.
A general discussion of selecting, tempering, and molding chocolate will be addressed in this article. Additionally fillings such as caramels and creams and add-ins such as fruit and nuts will also be presented. Finally, storing recommendations and packaging ideas will be suggested.
Although I buy more than my share of assorted chocolates, there are times when I insist on making my own. For instance, I love a dark chocolate with a pistachio cream center as well as a habanero almond caramel turtle. When I want to impress someone, or when I am feeling particularly creative, I pull out the chocolate ingredients. Although I have taken classes from some of the best known chocolatiers, the reality is, anyone can make quality chocolates from home.
What Equipment Do I Need to Make Chocolates From Home?
• The one most important tool for making chocolates is a digital instant read thermometer. Your chocolate will need to be tempered by melting and heating it to a specific temperature. (see article on tempering chocolate).
• An assortment of chocolate molds is the second recommendation.
There are three types of molds available:
Plastic: These are inexpensive and easy to find. They are often used to make chocolate pops as well as other chocolates shaped treats.
Silicone: These are still reasonable in cost and are becoming increasingly popular. The chocolates pop out of the mold easily and they are easy to clean.
Polycarbonate: These are more expensive but a good investment if you intend to make chocolates regularly. The chocolates are released easily and come out shiny. They are particularly hearty.
• If you plan on dipping or enrobing your bonbons, then a dipping fork is a handy tool. It is much more delicate than an eating fork and is nominal in cost.
• If you plan on using the microwave to melt your chocolate, then you need an assortment of glass bowls.
• Pastry bags are extremely convenient to use to pipe your filling into the chocolate shell. You can use the corner of a zipper-type bag but the pastry bag is more precise.
• Other items of convenience include parchment paper, food grade gloves, bonbon liners, and a heating bag (to keep your chocolate in temper).
What Type of Chocolate Do You Need to Make Chocolates?
There are several types of chocolate to choose from. The basic types are white, milk, and dark. Dark is sometimes categorized as semi-sweet and bittersweet. It has been trendy to choose coverture with a specific percentage of cacao content. The higher the cacao content, the more bitter the taste. (See article on types of chocolate). The price per pound of coverture varies depending on the brand and quality and the quantity that you purchase. Can you save money and add convenience by using chocolate chips? Well, perhaps. They are formulated for baking and so they melt slightly differently from coverture. If I have to use them, I have had good luck with the brands Ghirardelli and Guittard, as well as the 365 brand from Whole Foods. You might have to thin the melted chips (see article on thinning chocolate)
What Other Ingredients are Used to Make Chocolate?
Chocolates are categorized as creams, caramels, and nuts. Candies such as marshmallows and toffee bits, as well as dried fruits like coconut and cherries are popular add-ins as well. Most centers in chocolates are made from common ingredients such as heavy cream, butter, confectioner’s sugar, granulated sugar, honey, corn syrup, almonds, peanuts, pecans, and more chocolate. An array of extracts such as mint, rum, raspberry and orange are convenient to have on hand.
How Do I Make Cream Fillings for Chocolates?
Several companies offer premade fillings for sale. Often they come in a triangular pastry bag, making it easy to fill chocolate cavities. Most homemade chocolate creams are made from a basic ganache that is then modified for various flavors. (see article on ganache). Ganache-filled chocolates are often called truffles. Also, look for convenience products such as Nutella, Biscoff spread or pistachio cream to fill chocolate shells.
How Do I Make Hand-Dipped Chocolates?
Bite-sized chocolates, especially those with a firm center like caramel, toffee, or pralines are often enrobed or hand-dipped into melted chocolate. In a factory, the caramels are lined up and an “enrober” coats them with melted chocolate while the run-off is collected and reused. The same effect can be obtained at home by placing your centers on a cooling rack nestled on a baking tray. After the centers are covered in chocolate, the chocolate collected on the baking sheet can be reused. Hand-dipping your chocolates is a little more tedious but can be done with little waste and with nothing more than a lightweight dipping fork.
How Do I Make Bonbons and Truffles?
Generally a bon bon is a piece of candy covered in chocolate, so it can include a wide variety of fillings. For the purpose of this article, we will assume that a chocolate with a soft center is a bon bon and a spherical shape is a truffle. It is possible to make your own hollow chocolate shells and then fill them with a creamy type filling, but you can also purchase them premade from a chocolate distributor and fill them yourself. The most common method is to fill the cavities of a candy mold with melted chocolate, let it sit for several seconds, and then tip it over, allowing the melted chocolate to run out while the set chocolate creates a shell. After cooling, the soft center is piped into the shell and a final layer of melted chocolate is placed to complete the shell. Chocolates are released after proper cooling has occurred.
How do I Make Free-Hand Chocolates?
Perhaps the most popular “free-hand'' chocolate is the pecan caramel turtle. Other tree nuts can be used as well but generally five nuts are used to represent the arms, legs, and head of the turtle. A dollop of melted chocolate is placed on a non-stick surface and the nuts are strategically placed. A portion of caramel is added and finished with an additional dollop of melted chocolate The result is a nutty, gooey, chocolatey piece that resembles a turtle. While these vary in size, they can also be made in smaller form or contained by creating them in a silicone baking cup. Other free-hand chocolates, like medallions, are made without a mold. A portion of melted chocolate is arranged in a circle and toppings such as crushed cookies, nuts, orange zest and diced dried fruit are placed on top.
How Do I Present and Store my Chocolates?
Since we have not discussed a specific recipe, the safest answer to storage is to refrigerate your chocolates. This can be a little tricky as the refrigerator sometimes adds condensation to your chocolate or unwanted smells and flavors from other foods sharing refrigerator space. Chocolate itself is shelf stable, as are many of the ingredients used as toppings and fillings. Honey added to a ganache filling increases its shelf life. In most cases, you will not need to refrigerate your chocolates, but if you wish to err on the side of safety, the fridge is a good bet.
Arranging and presenting your chocolates is one of the most satisfying steps in creating chocolates from home. Traditionally, chocolates are placed in a small candy wrapper, which is slightly smaller than a mini cupcake liner. Most craft stores sell basic colors but additional designs and colors can be found online. There are decorative boxes available at the dollar store that will put the finishing touch on your chocolates if you’re intending to gift them, or travel with them. Otherwise a cake plate will showcase them. Finally, if you have the gumption, you can make an edible chocolate box and place the bonbons inside the box.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore