Looking to start making some amazing creations out of your food? Learn all the tips and tricks right here with some Chocolate Basics!
Chocolate is my passion. Creating something sweet to eat or to give as a gift brings me incredible joy. I took my first candy making class at the local cake/candy decorating store when I was 13 years old. I instantly fell in love with the art of candy making and have been creating confections ever since. I enjoy sharing my passion for chocolate by teaching candy making to others. Whether you want to make simple bon bons and truffles or an elaborate chocolate sculpture, there are some very basic principals that apply. In my next post I will teach you how to make the adorable White Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats Lady Bug pictured at left. But before I give you those instructions, you need to know the chocolate basics.
There are several different types of chocolate that are available to the home cook for use in candy making: pure chocolates, confectionery coating, and chocolate chips. Pure chocolates contain cocoa butter and must be properly tempered in order to set up correctly. Tempering refers to a process of heating and cooling pure chocolate to ensure that the cocoa butter in the chocolate hardens in a uniform crystal structure. Chocolate that is tempered has a smooth texture, a glossy shine and snaps when bitten or broken. Chocolate that is not tempered might be cloudy, gray, or sticky at room temperature. There are four types of pure chocolates: unsweetened (no sugar added), bittersweet (small amount of sugar added), semi-sweet (more sugar added), and milk chocolate (milk and sugar added.) White chocolate can also contain cocoa butter and need to be tempered, however, it doesn’t contain any cocoa powder, so it isn’t technically considered chocolate. I will refer to it as white chocolate, when using it in a recipe, for lack of a better term. Tempering chocolate requires practice, but can be done in a home kitchen. I have been making chocolate for almost 30 years and I am fortunate to have two Savage Brothers 50 lb. chocolate kettles that do the tempering for me, so I don’t have to hand temper my own chocolates. There are so many great resources for those of you that would like to temper chocolates click here for directions. If you don’t have any chocolate making
experience or you just feel that tempering is too difficult, don’t fret as there is a chocolate product that is easy to melt and sets up beautifully with very little effort. Chocolate manufactures, such as Peters, Merkens, and Wilton make products called candy melts, confectionery coating, or summer coating . These products do not contain any cocoa butter which is what needs tempering. The cocoa butter has been replaced with a vegetable oil, usually palm kernel oil, so that the product melts smoothly and sets up easily. The flavor is
definitely not the same as chocolates made with cocoa butter, but it is an acceptable alternative. This product is available in milk, dark, white, and even flavored and colored varieties. These coatings can be purchased from craft or cake decorating supply stores in wafers or blocks. I personally prefer the taste of Peter’s confectionery coatings, but Merkens coatings are very popular and Wilton’s coatings are easily available at most craft stores. The third type of chocolate available to home cooks is chocolate chips which are available in bittersweet, semi-sweet, milk, white (some with cocoa butter, some with palm kernel oil), peanut butter, butterscotch, and cinnamon flavors. Dark and milk chocolate chips usually contain cocoa butter and can be used for some recipes, however they have additives that allow them to retain their shape at higher temperatures so they don’t melt as easily as a chocolate bar. If you melt chocolate chips and use them for candy making, unless you temper the chocolate, your candy will be soft and sticky. Please don’t add paraffin (wax) to melted chocolate chips for dipping as some recipes suggest. Why would anyone want to eat wax? You are better off using a confectionery coating or learning to temper.
MELTING CHOCOLATE OR CONFECTIONERY COATING INSTRUCTIONS:
If you are using a large block of chocolate or a candy bar, chop your chocolate into small uniform pieces. The best way to do this is to use a serrated knife to shave off small bits of chocolate. Place the knife blade on the edge of the chocolate block, and press down on the top of the knife while shaving off a small amount of chocolate. Then just chop any larger bits before using. You can also use a food processor to chop your chocolate. Add small chunks of chocolate to the bowl of the food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs.
Melting chocolate or confectionery coating in a double boiler:
Heat 1” of water over low heat in a saucepan. Place a bowl over the saucepan, being sure the bottom doesn’t touch the water. Put chopped chocolate, wafers, or chips in the bowl and stir occasionally until melted. It is very important that you do not allow any water to come in contact with the chocolate. Chocolate mixed with a drop or a few drops of water with seize (stiffen or harden). If this happens your only option is to add more liquid in order to get the chocolate smooth again. However, you can not use this thinned batch of chocolate for tempering or dipping as it will never harden properly. All is not lost as you can turn it into a delicious chocolate ganache or use it for baking.
Melting chocolate or confectionery coating in a microwave:
Every microwave is different so this is just a guideline, but it is safest to go slow and stir often. I always use high power for short busts of time. Pour 16 ounces chopped chocolate or confectionery coating wafers into a microwave safe bowl. Heat on high power for 30 seconds, remove from microwave and stir. Your chocolate wont look melted much at all at this point (1), but if you don’t stir it, you may burn the chocolate in the center of the bowl. Return to the microwave and heat for 25 seconds. At this point the chocolate will look only slightly melted around the edges (2) but if you stir vigorously the chunks will indeed start to become liquid (3).
Continue to heat for 20 seconds. Now your chocolate will look more liquid (4), but you will have chunks remaining. Stir vigorously and the heat from the melted chocolate will indeed melt the chunks (5). If, after stirring for a while you still have chunks of chocolate remaining (6), heat for 10-15 second intervals, stirring in between each until melted (7). Do not rush this process. Chocolate burns easily. If you do burn the chocolate, throw it away and start over in a clean bowl. To melt more than 16 ounces, you can increase your times by 10-15 seconds per interval. For 2 lbs. (45 seconds, 35, 25, 10). For 3 lbs. (60 seconds, 45, 30, 20). If your microwave is less powerful, increase the times, but go slowly.
Melting Confectionery Coating in a Skillet:
If you are planning to make a lot of chocolates using various colors of confectionery coating, then melting them in a skillet is a great option. Fill your skillet with some warm water. Fill glass jars, coffee mugs, or ramekins with the confectionery coating wafers. Place jars in water in skillet. Make sure the water comes up about half way on your shortest jar. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and allow the wafers to melt, stirring occasionally. You can keep your coatings melted all day using this method. Just be sure to replenish the water as it evaporates and be careful that you don’t spill water in the chocolate, or it will be ruined.
Coloring Confectionery Coating:
Confectionery coating wafers are available in a rainbow of colors and even various flavors. Most colored wafers taste like vanilla, but there are mint, fruit, peanut butter, and butterscotch flavors available. If you need a large amount of one color or need dark red or green, I suggest buying the pre-colored wafers. If not, then just melt down white wafers and color them yourself. You need to use colorings that are specially formulated for chocolate. Standard grocery store food coloring is water based and it will not work. Gel, paste, or powdered colors will work to beautifully color your confectionery coatings. These colorings are easy to find at craft and cake decorating stores. Add a small amount of coloring at a time and stir well. Add more coloring if needed to achieve the desired shade. Just a note, that some colorings are more vibrant than others. Pink for instance is very vibrant. Add one drop at a time. You can always add more, but the only way to tone down a color is to add more chocolate.
MODELING CHOCOLATE RECIPES:
|I created these calla lilies out of
white modeling chocolate.
Modeling chocolate or chocolate clay can be used like fondant to decorate and cover cakes or it can be used as a sculpting material to create forms and shapes. I personally think modeling chocolate tastes much better than fondant and use it almost exclusively. I love working with modeling chocolate and find that almost anything you can create with polymer clay, you can also make using modeling chocolate. It will harden when left at room temperature to dry, but can still be eaten once hardened. You can purchase pre-made modeling chocolate, but it only requires two ingredients, and is very simple to make.
You can use pure chocolate for this recipe without having to temper it or you can use confectionery coating. I use pure milk and dark chocolate, but use white confectionery coating to make my modeling chocolate. The pure milk and dark chocolate have a richer flavor than the coatings but I actually prefer the taste of the white confectionery coating in this application and it is much less expensive than pure chocolate. Use your judgement when selecting a chocolate for this recipe. You will definitely taste the chocolate, so choose what you like to eat. Every chocolate has different amounts of fats and sugars so this recipe is a guide. Some chocolates will require more corn syrup than others. Also, the moisture in your room can also effect the moisture in your modeling chocolate. See the troubleshooting section below for instructions to solve problems with your modeling chocolate.
decorated with modeling
Modeling Chocolate Ingredients:
White Modeling Chocolate:
16 ounces white chocolate
1/3 cup light corn syrup (add more if needed)
Dark Modeling Chocolate:
16 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup light corn syrup (add more if needed)
Milk Modeling Chocolate:
16 ounces milk chocolate
1/3 cup light corn syrup (add more if needed)
Modeling Chocolate Instructions:
Melt chocolate or confectionery coating (1). Allow the chocolate to cool to about 91 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often. If you add the corn syrup when the chocolate is too hot, the cocoa butter or oil will rise to the surface and you will have a greasy mess. (See trouble shooting below.) If you don’t have a thermometer, test the temperature of the melted chocolate by putting a drop on your lip. It should feel cool. If it’s hot, let it cool longer. Pour in corn syrup (2). Stir until well incorporated (3).
The mixture will become thick very quickly, so scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate all of the melted chocolate (4). Pour mixture out onto a counter top, preferably marble or granite (5) . Knead until glossy and smooth (6). My hands tend to be rather warm, so I use a plastic bench scraper to help me knead the modeling chocolate, so that I don’t over heat it as this can bring out the oils in the chocolate. Store the modeling chocolate wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a zip top bag or airtight container. Modeling chocolate will keeps for several months, if stored properly.
Trouble shooting – How to fix dry or greasy/oily modeling chocolate:
Dry modeling chocolate: As I mentioned, all chocolates have different amounts of fat in them. That is why these recipes may need some adjustments. If you are kneading your mixture and find that it is crumbling and dry (A), then you will need to add some corn syrup. Pour on a small amount of corn syrup and mix it in (B). If you begin to knead the mixture and it still feels dry, add some more corn syrup and continue to knead until the mixture becomes smooth and soft (C). Just a note, that if you are working on granite or marble, the surface is cold which is great for kneading this mixture. If, however, you are in the middle of kneading the mixture, and you walk away, when you return, you may have hardened bits of chocolate stuck to the granite or marble. These hardened bits may not melt back into a smooth dough.
Oily modeling chocolate: There are several reasons you may end up with oily modeling chocolate (D). First, if your chocolate is too hot when you add the corn syrup the oils may separate from the chocolate. I recommend you allow your melted chocolate to cool to around 91 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the corn syrup. Second, you may be working in a warm room or have warm hands. As you knead the mixture, the warmth will begin to bring out the oils in the chocolate. I use a plastic bench scraper to knead because I have warm hands (E). and I knead my mixture on a granite slab to keep it cool, even if my room is warm (F). If you do find that you have oily modeling chocolate, all is not lost. Don’t just wipe up all the oil and get rid of it. You do want to get that oil back into the chocolate, or your modeling chocolate will end up being brittle as it dries. You will need to continue to knead the chocolate until all of the oil is absorbed back into the chocolate. This can take a while, but don’t give up. Eventually it will become smooth and glossy (G) . You may need to try one of these techniques to make this work:
- Move the chocolate to a cooler work surface like granite or marble.
- Dip you hands in ice water to cool them down and continue to knead.
- Use a plastic bench scraper or a rubber spatula to knead instead of your hands.
- Scape up the mixture and set it on plastic wrap for about 2 minutes allowing it to cool slightly. Then remove from plastic wrap and continue to knead. If you allow it to just sit directly on your work surface, you may end up with hardened pieces of chocolate that will not blend in to the mixture.
Sticky, Soft, or Wet Modeling Chocolate: You may find that you have added too much corn syrup or too much coloring and that your modeling chocolate is just too sticky, soft, or wet. If it is sticky, wash your sticky hands then continue to knead until all of the corn syrup is incorporated. Take the sticky, soft, or wet dough and roll it in a ball then flatten it out in a disc. Then wrap it in plastic wrap and allow it to sit for at least an hour so that it can dry out a bit before using. If it is really wet, allow it to dry at room temperature until workable. As a last resort, you can try to knead in some melted chocolate, but you can end up with hard clumps of chocolate or an oily mess. Drying is your best option.
Hard Modeling Chocolate: Your modeling chocolate will harden as it ages. Always keep it formed into a flat disc and keep it wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in a zip top bag or airtight container. Even if you do this, you will find that your modeling chocolate is fairly hard when you go to use it after it has been stored for a few days. You can break off a piece of modeling chocolate and hold it in your hands for a few moments in order to warm it enough to begin kneading. Knead it until it becomes workable. If you just can’t get it soft enough, place a hunk in the microwave and heat on defrost for 3-5 seconds. Remove and knead it carefully (there will be hot spots and you can burn your hands, so be cautious.) The modeling chocolate may become oily if you do this and you will have to follow the instructions above to fix the oily mixture.
Coloring Modeling Chocolate:
White modeling chocolate can be colored using paste food coloring or powdered food coloring. I have even had success using store bought liquid food colorings, however the modeling chocolate becomes very soft and doesn’t harden as well. I recommend using food handling gloves when coloring modeling chocolate, or you will end up with brightly colored hands that may take days to return to normal. If you need a large amount of any one color, you can make the modeling chocolate recipe using colored confectionery coating wafers.
Coloring Modeling Chocolate using Paste Food Coloring:
Add a drop of color to the modeling chocolate and knead until well blended. Add more drops of color until you reach the desired shade. Remember, you can always add more coloring, but you can’t take it out, so add drops slowly then knead and check the color before adding more.
Coloring Modeling Chocolate using powdered food coloring:
Sprinkle a small amount of coloring onto the modeling chocolate and knead until well blended. Add more color as needed to get your desired shade. I prefer to use powdered coloring for red and green, as I can get a more vibrant color that way.
To Store Modeling Chocolate: Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in a zip top bag or airtight container. It keeps for months if stored properly. If it becomes hard, break off small pieces and knead until soft. If you can’t do that, place the hard modeling chocolate in the microwave and heat on defrost for 3-5 seconds. Remove and carefully knead. It can be very hot, so proceed with caution.
To use Modeling Chocolate:
|Chick made from modeling
chocolate in a hand made
chocolate egg sitting on a
chocolate pretzel nest.
Simply pinch off pieces of modeling chocolate and sculpt into shapes. If you have a hard time working with the modeling chocolate because it is hard, warm it in your hands and knead until it is pliable. If it is too, soft, wrap it in plastic wrap and allow it to cool down for a while before using.
Modeling chocolate can be rolled thin using a rolling pin or a pasta machine. Dust your work surface or the rollers on the pasta machine very lightly with powdered sugar for white chocolate, milk, and colored chocolates or dust it with cocoa powder for dark chocolate to keep the modeling chocolate from sticking. Cut the modeling chocolate using a pizza cutter, knife, or cookie cutters. You can even mold the modeling chocolate using silicone molds that are dusted with powdered sugar or cocoa powder.
I’ll post the instructions for decorating the Rice Krispies Treats Lady Bug Pops tomorrow.