I have such a weakness for chocolate: mass-produced chocolate often hits the spot but the exquisite ones you can buy in artisan chocolate shops are always a treat.
With good chocolates, you only need to eat one or two to get that lovely, all-is-well-with-the-world feeling! Well, maybe three……..
However, I do like to make my own because they are actually quite easy if you have the widely available silicon moulds. You can put whatever you want into them and a large batch can be made at a fraction of the cost of buying them.
To temper or not to temper!
If you want the easiest approach, just use melted chocolate. However, tempering chocolate gives a wonderfully crisp texture and a shiny finish whereas just melting the chocolate gives a duller, softer finish.
Taste-wise, there is no difference, although I usually do like to temper my chocolate when making filled chocolates as I love the contrast between the crisp chocolate and the soft filling.
If I am working with quite a lot of chocolate (500g or so is “quite a lot” for home purposes!) then I will temper the chocolate properly, using a thermometer to get the right temperature. However, more often than not I am doing smaller quantities, so I do it without measuring – and it works very well:
- I simply melt about 3/4 of it in the microwave until it is very runny and quite hot* before removing from the microwave
- I then stir in the rest of the chocolate, chopped into small pieces, until it has melted
The addition of the rest of the chocolate brings down the temperature.
If you are measuring the temperature, heat the chocolate to:
42C for dark chocolate
32C for milk chocolate
31C for white chocolate
Then add enough chocolate to bring it down to about 28C for white chocolate (31C for dark chocolate; 28C for milk chocolate).
*take care not to over-heat the chocolate: if you take it too far, it will seize and burn – this is one of those heart-stopping moments in the kitchen! If you are being more precise, use a thermometer and go to about 31C for white chocolate (42C for dark chocolate or 32C for milk chocolate).
Top tip: use the best quality chocolate you can. The cheaper supermarket brands do not work well for tempering or using as the shell, although they are fine melted for using in the filling.
My tips on tempering and using chocolate are here.
A very fruity filling: fruit powder all the way!
I wanted maximum sharp fruit flavour to balance the rich, creaminess of the chocolate so I used one of my favourite baking ingredients: fruit powder. Fruit powder has the most incredible intensity of flavour and, being dry, it doesn’t affect the texture of what you put it in.
Fruit powder might not seem the cheapest of ingredients, but a little goes a long way: a light dusting over sweet bakes, or over chocolates gives a lovely fizzy tang. It is so simple to use and the flavour you get is wonderful.
If you don’t want to use fruit powder, use fruit purée, adding it a little at a time, with a little more melted chocolate in the filling to help it set. Add enough to get the depth of flavour you want.
Filling the moulds
I use inexpensive silicone chocolate moulds that I bought in a sale a few years ago, and they are perfect for home-made chocolates.
You just spoon melted chocolate into each one, rotate the moulds so that the chocolate has the chance to cling to the sides and repeat a few times to ensure full coverage. If need be, leave them to set and add a little more chocolate to give thicker shells: as long as there are no holes all will be well.
You then fill them almost to the top with whatever filling you want:
- peanut butter mixed with melted chocolate
- fruit curd………
You then pour over more chocolate and run a palette knife over them to smooth off the surface. Don’t worry about any bits of chocolate on the top of the silicone moulds: they will come off when you come to turn out the chocolate.
To refrigerate or not!
You can put the chocolate to set in the fridge, but it is likely to bloom a little (discolour) and is prone to a little excess condensation from the fridge which can affect the crispness of the chocolate. However, I don’t get any difference in flavour. If you have a wine fridge, which controls the humidity better that a fridge, pop them in there: just clear a shelf of wine while they set. I find I get the best results leaving them in the wine fridge.
However, whenever I have put them in the fridge, I pop them in an airtight container: this way I have never had chocolates that have lost their crispness, and there has been minimal blooming – if any. And if you do get a bit of blooming and are not happy about it, drizzle over some melted chocolate!
Turning out the chocolates
Once the chocolate has set, I find the easiest way to turn them out is to stretch the moulds in all directions: you will hear the crackle of the bits of chocolate that clung to the top of the silicon moulds earlier. Invert them so the chocolate bits fall away and gently push them out.
This stretching loosens the chocolates from each individual mould, making it easier to turn them out.
Recipe: blackcurrant chocolates – makes 30
- about 200g best quality white chocolate, melted or tempered
- 120ml double cream
- 75g blackcurrant powder (or use 140ml blackcurrant purée squeeed from either fresh or frozen blackcurrants)
- a couple of tablespoons cassis liqueur, optional
- 100g white chocolate, in smallish pieces (increase this to 140g chocolate if using blackcurrant purée)
* this ganache will make more than you need for these chocolates, but it is not that practical to make a smaller batch. So either make up a second batch of chocolates or freeze the ganache for later: simply defrost it before using
(1) Line the silicone moulds with the chocolate: see Filling the moulds above. Make sure there are no gaps: you don’t want to see the silicone mould through the chocolate. Leave to set in a cool place. See To refrigerate or not! above. I dusted just a little blackcurrant powder into the base of the moulds before adding the chocolate to give a nice speckled look to the chocolates, but this is certainly not essential.
(2) Make the filling: put the chocolate in a small bowl and heat the cream in a small pan until it just comes to the simmering point. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Leave it for a few minutes and then stir until the chocolate has melted. Add the blackcurrant powder (or purée) and stir well.
NB: to avoid the powder clumping in the mixture, mix it with the cassis to form a smooth paste before adding it to the hot ganache. If you are not using cassis, mix the powder with a little of the ganache first.
(3) Leave the filling to cool completely: you don’t need it to set, although it will not set firm here anyway.
(4) Spoon or pipe the filling into the chocolate shells, coming to with a few millimetres of the top.
(5) Pour over the rest of the white chocolate (it will probably need melting or tempering again), ensuring you have covered the filling totally. Run a palette knife over the surface to flatten it off and leave to set. See To refrigerate or not! above.
(6) Remove the chocolates from their moulds. See Turning out the chocolates above.
You can really vary the flavours in so many ways. Two of my favourites are raspberry filling and a rich, boozy Baileys filling.
My recipe for raspberry chocolates is below; I will post the Baileys recipe shortly.