Monday, 21 November 2011

Making your own chocolates

I am indebted to Denise of Knitting Kitties for initial encouragement and advice which set me off down the path of confectionery making; and at the moment that sugary path is leading to chocolates.

These chocolates are supposed to be for my brother Dan whose birthday is this week, but, Dan, I am not sure I fancy my chances of getting these out of the mould in one piece and then lugging them up on the train, so I apologise in advance if I don’t manage it. (I would like at this point to commend my brother Dan, who is excellent at hoovering up culinary experiments and indeed was the only person brave enough to drink my sloe gin. Also he once ate an entire slab of fudge without cutting it up into bits first).
An unmoulded chocolate with a shamefully scruffy bottom
Although I am not sure about these ones, in general, chocolates are not that hard to make. Isn’t that useful to know? I have only experimented with a few fillings so far, but, actually, all you need to know is the principle and then you can make the rest up, and I am going to explain that to you now (although I also have this book: Miss Hope’s Chocolate Box, which is actually very good and inspiring and has the recipes I have been using. Also it is very funny, and I do recommend it). Then you can make chocolates for everyone for Christmas, and they will all think you are showing off and will go in the other room and drink sherry and talk about you. Get her, they will say. And the Guardian will write articles criticising you and all your kind and the horse you rode in on, although, all I can think is that if that man who wrote the article could see my giant bag of crochet squares all the same colour it might actually kill him and then where would we be.

So. To make chocolates. You need to buy a flexible silicone chocolate mould. I bought mine from Lakeland Plastics for £5.99, and I got one with a lot of holes in, because then I thought I could make a lot of chocolates at a time (working there on the basis that the more chocolates the better). You can make different chocolates in the same mould and whip it in and out of the fridge, so you don’t need to have a lot of separate ones unless you want different shapes (if you make them all the same shape, you won’t be able to tell which flavours they are unless you do some plain and some milk or attempt marbling or something).
Try not to be distracted by any shameless black squirrels who come to nibble your nuts (ignore the scruffy garden. Look at the posh fence!)
First you melt chocolate and coat the mould. You do this by breaking your chocolate up into small bits (a 100g bar is enough for about 8-10 chocolates, allowing for mistakes and eating some with a spoon), and microwaving it on full in bursts of about 20 seconds. When it is mostly melted but some of it is still solid (in my microwave this takes about 60 seconds), you take it out, and stir it till it is all liquid. This is called tempering. Then you coat the moulds with a teaspoon, not too thickly. If you get gaps and can’t fill them, put the mould in the fridge for 5 minutes until the chocolate has set and then just give it a second coat, then it will be easier. (If you have one of those posh silicone brushes that might work better, but a teaspoon is ok if not).

Then, you just fill your chocolates with something sweet. So far I have tried caramel and peanut (not together). The recipes are in the book, so I can’t really give you the exact quantities, but basically the peanut filling is peanut butter, a splash of double cream, and some sugar (you make quite small quantities – you only need a bit), and then you melt it together, so you could just have a go and add sugar to taste. For the caramel you could use any toffee sauce recipe (mine just uses cream and sugar) – it is ok for it to be fairly liquid, so you don’t have to mess about with a sugar thermometer. (Note from me: when you are boiling sugar, never stick your thumb in it to test it. You may think, God, no-one would do that, but, I did once and it hurt very much).
Lady, after I've watched you empty your handbag to find your camera to take a picture of me and get Strepsils, receipts, and a great big cabbage everywhere, I can only say it's a travesty that it was your species that got the opposable thumbs
You could also try making a ganache, and flavouring it with various things, to use as a filing - I am sure you will have lots of ideas (you could be like Heston and make bizarre things. I bought garam masala chocolates from a posh shop on the Ile St Louis for Partner when I was in Paris, but he has not eaten them yet because he likes to save chocolates, like a mad person). When you have filled all your little holes apart from the hole within you which will only be filled by Self Knowledge, stick it all in the fridge for a bit to firm up.

Then you remelt the chocolate which is left over (20 second bursts again and keep checking), and cover all the little holes with a layer. Then, leave it all overnight to set properly, and take the little chocolates out of the moulds carefully. Remember to try to share the chocolates with other people and not eat them all on your own in 5 minutes, even though that is what you will want to do. I think they keep for about a week in the fridge, so if you do want to make these for Christmas you will have to do it at the last minute, but that’s fine, it’s not as if you’re going to be busy over Christmas, is it? (Just remember. The more you make yourself, the less probability there is that you’ll be standing in Waterstones at 3:45pm on Christmas Eve looking at that £14.99 hamster calendar, and at least when you’re standing in your kitchen slaving over a hot bowl of chocolate you can have a nice cup of tea. With brandy in it. And you can eat the chocolate with a spoon).


Anonymous said...

I love the idea of making chocolates but then I love the idea of making everything. In practice I do have a go at quite a few but sometimes I have to stop myself. I think I would eat all the chocolates if I tried this. Also I would eat all the yummy stuff that goes in the centres before it gets to be in the centres. So I will sit this one out but it does sound lots of fun and make you look rather clever.

I thought the Guardian man was tres dull and boring himself and just in the very old fashioned sense. We don't have to take any notice of him. I won't.

omlair said...

You made it sound very fun and interesting, and I do like making myself look awesome.

Denise said...

I know I warned you about the melting sugar. What came over you to stick your thumb in there?

I'm trying my hand at making bacon, maple carmels this year. If I can't muster the energy with working.

kristieinbc said...

These look so good! I don't know if I would have the willpower to make them and not eat the whole batch myself.

Dan said...

Susie, how cruel to show me photos of tasty chocolates and then inform me that they may not arrive. Can I just state that I hoover up your culinary experiments merely because they are always so damn gorgeous. I am usually (a bit) more restrained with food, lest anyone has visions of me trapped in one of your back rooms like Gilbert Grape's mother.

Ros Made Me said...

I love making sweeties... fudge, cocnut ice, truffles... now look what you have done, I am going to have to make something... Farewell LBD for Christmas!

Rachel said...

Susie, you have inspired me to go out and buy chocolate moulds. I always make sweets for Christmas (it saves thinking) and was wondering about extending the range (as I'm not entirely sure the recipients like the ones I make) - filled chocolates it will be! The shop I bought them from didn't have any plain ones like yours. They had some plain-ish ones that were very expensive and some cheaper ones shaped like seashells and some little piggy ones that I couldn't resist. Ian points out that pig-shaped chocolates might be a little guilt-inducing, but, but... they're really cute!

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