The Chocolate Holidays

Did everyone enjoy their Easter (or at least the long weekend)? I’m one of the lucky ones in that I get Monday off as well. Ah… four day weekends 🙂

Easter is one of the three big chocolate holidays each year. Obviously the others are Valentines and Halloween. Depending on how you celebrate other holidays (such as Christmas), you might get some other “chocolate holidays” but none of them are as big as those three.

Now I’m not a huge fan of the “omg, chocolate!” approach that stores and people seem to have in regards to these holidays. Sure I like chocolate and sweets, but I don’t need a year’s supply. Especially because if you have that much on hand, it sure as heck isn’t going to last a year (unless you have Herculean will power).

I vaguely remember hunting for chocolate eggs as a kid. And all the candy from Halloween. Never liked the candy from Valentine’s because I grew up when cinnamon hearts seemed to be the go-to, and I didn’t like them. But those are sort of general memories. The specific things I remember are dressing (and bundling) up to go trick-or-treating with friends. Helping my parents surprise each other with stuff on Valentine’s (though more often on Mother’s/Father’s Day). And the “egg hunts”. Those were awesome!

One year my mom took rolls of yarn (a different colour for each of us girls) and wound it all over the house. Ending at a small basket with a stuffed animal and some chocolate. Another year there were a series of riddles we had to solve, or codes to break. Always ending at a basket with a stuffie and chocolate. I fully intend to implement such cool “egg hunt” methods with my own kids (when I have ’em).

Now, I’m sure at the time I was all about the chocolate. But it was the stuffed animals that lasted and I loved. (Rather wish I hadn’t decided adults couldn’t have an extensive stuffie collection and gotten rid of most of them) So an alternative to just tons of chocolate, as well as an option to cutting back without cutting the sweets is to make your own 🙂 Fun not only for you, but if you have kids I’m pretty sure they will be thrilled to make their own chocolate/candies.

Now, I’ve spotted various tricks on Pinterest about using melted hard candies to make cool looking candy details. A little while ago I made a birthday cake for my dad and wanted to make candy ‘fire’. So I bought a bag of hard candies; y’know the kind that sort of look like round balls of coloured glass.

I melted them in the microwave and used a fork to drip on a slanted parchment wrapped cookie sheet. While they looked good, I will never be doing that again. A chef friend suggested it might be easier to work with if I used a double boiler, but… I’m put off enough I won’t be trying it.

The problem?

Well the candy came out super heated. Melted a plastic fork, made the bowl too hot to handle, and then re-hardened almost before I could drip any of it. So I kept having to reheat it. Then when I was done it took forever (i.e., a lot of boiling water, and a lot of patience) to get the leftover candy of my (metal) forks and the ceramic bowls.

But in case you want to decide if the results are worth the hassle, here’s what it looked like when finished.
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(The cake was meant to look like a mountain plateau with spouts of fire ’cause I presented it to him before a d&d game… It made sense to me…)

But what about other fun candy ideas? Well, in the past I’ve made chocolate dice.

ChocolateDice

I had to make silicone moulds of my actual dice, but they turned out really good. Not so good when I tried to make them hollow with a filling. The two halves just didn’t bond together for some reason… But the solid dice were a huge hit when I gave them out as Christmas presents to all my gamer friends and family (which meant a HUGE amount of dice were cast). Took… 2 weeks using three sets of moulds to make enough. (Each mould was made to do a full 9 set dice -d4, 3 x d6, d8, d10, d100, d12, and d20)

Now, because it’s Easter, I decided I wanted to revisit the idea of chocolates with some type of filling. So I picked up a silicone baking mold from the local dollar store.

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These are Easter eggs, so they need to be colourful. And I just recently discovered the crafty baker’s paradise otherwise known as Bulk Barn. So I stocked up on coloured chocolate and candy chips.

My husband was more than a little dismayed at just how much I bought, but… Now I can make colourful dice for next Christmas… or people’s birthdays. (We are all such huge nerds)

After melting them in small batches in the microwave, I used a paint brush to put the colours on the mould. It’s slow going, but gave me a decent amount of control.

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I worked with one colour at a time, trying my best to follow the lines as defined by the mould. As I added colours that shared a line with one I’d completed previously, I overlapped the new colour onto it. I was a little worried that the colour would show through, but that doesn’t seem to have been an issue (but see later in the post).

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Depending on how much of each colour you’re using, and whether you work like I did (where a single colour was used on each of the individual eggs -based on a predetermined colour scheme), or whether you complete each egg before moving on to the next… you’re going to see varying mileage on your chocolate.

I found that I had about 20 minutes before the chocolate/candy started to re-harden and get gummy. Which made that last egg hard to keep neat.

And because I only have four paint brushes (that are my designated ‘baking’ brushes), but eight colours, I also noticed that some of those later colours got gummy quicker. (As in, the brush got clogged with chocolate, not that the melted chocolate hardened quicker) This probably has something to do with the fact that I cleaned the brushes between colours with really hot water, but no soap. Either have more brushes, or be more thorough in your cleaning between colours.

imageNow I know from my attempts with the dice, if the exterior layer of chocolate isn’t thick enough, it’ll just crumble when you try to remove it from the mould. So I slathered an extra layer of white chocolate on the inside of the eggs. For this, I just spooned it in, and spread it up the sides with the back of the spoon. Unfortunately, the quick introduction of hot chocolate made the previous colours melt a little.

You can’t really tell in that picture (my hands were sticky and I was trying to touch my phone as little as possible -it didn’t turn out that great), but as I spread the chocolate around I could see the colours from below mixing with the white. I just tried not to press hard, to minimize the impact on the coloured patterns. But I wasn’t fully successful (as you’ll see later). I’d suggest trying to make the patterned colours thicker when you first apply them. So that if the back bit melts, it’s not as big of an issue.

Then I added my fillings 🙂

I mixed up a quick batch of icing (confectioner’s sugar, milk, and vanilla) to a slurry consistency (so not actual icing). Then either added sliced maraschino cherries or shredded coconut. Now this turned out uber sweet… like almost painfully sweet. So I fully encourage you to experiment with what types of filling you want to use.

I forgot to take a picture of this stage.

imageBut the next one is to put a layer of chocolate over the back, to seal the filling in.

I definitely put too much filling, as I had to pour/spoon chocolate onto the mould around the egg to seal the edges in. Which meant I had to cut the excess off after they were hardened. It worked decently, but if I wasn’t careful, bits of the back broke off too. (Thankfully that was on a coconut egg, which had a fairly solid filling)

The two eggs on the bottom were made just solid chocolate (either white, or milk). They have nice flat backs and sit nicely. The others have slightly rounded backs and rock a little bit.

To help identify the fillings, I used milk chocolate to back the cherry, and white chocolate to back the coconut.

I was a little worried that my back layer wasn’t going to be thick enough, but it turned out well.

I popped the mould into the freezer for 30 minutes. You could probably use the fridge, or even just leave it out on the counter if you wanted. As I painted individual colours, the previous colour was generally hardened by the time I painted the next. But, this is a bit more chocolate than what was being used there, so I wanted to make sure it really hardened. Hence the freezer.

Once they were done, I popped them out of the moulds. “Pop” is a bit of a misnomer. I had to peel the silicone mould off the eggs. It was awkward, and I’m not sure if I would have been able to get them out if the mould hadn’t been so soft/floppy. (My dice moulds are very stiff, but by bending them I can get the dice out. Of course, this can make the silicone crack, and just generally wears the moulds down faster)

But anyway… Here are the finished eggs!

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I left them on the counter overnight so that they could thaw. Once they did, two of them leaked a little, but it was hardly anything. I’m pretty sure if I only did a 3/4 fill and then finished it with chocolate that this wouldn’t be an issue. And even thawed, the coconut one with the slightly broken back didn’t leak at all. (Hurray!)

These are pretty big, so eating them is going to be interesting.

You could use any mould really, to make chocolates like these, but try to avoid ones with a lot of tiny detail. Those have a tendency to break when you’re removing them from the mould. Unless you’re going solid chocolate. Then you can probably get away with some small nooks and whatnot.

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So after painting the moulds I thought that maybe little kids might have problems with that. Plus I was curious about melting the chocolate inside icing bags.

Normally when you melt chocolate wafers or chips in the microwave you have to stir it every 10-15 seconds. Obviously you can’t really stir it when its in a bag. Instead you have to crunch and massage it. Now, I used the leftover bits from my first set of eggs for all the colours and new chips for the white filling and milk chocolate. Re-heated or new, they all took about twice as many 15 second bursts to get melted. And some of them didn’t melt completely (I’ll get to that in a moment). It might have something to do with my putting the bag inside a cup so it stood upright in the microwave, but for whatever reason, it took longer to heat up.

Once I’d heated a bag I put it into another cup with some boiled water to keep it warm while I heated the rest of the colours. I’m not sure if it helped or not, but it didn’t hurt anything.

You can see in the above picture that I was just being really squiggly with the colours. It didn’t turn out as pretty as I’d hoped, but it wasn’t horrible. Additionally, you might notice a couple of icing bags sitting at the side with elastics around their tips. I just squeezed the chocolate back away from the tip so I could tie it off. When it came to both the white chocolate and milk chocolate bags, I had to refill and melt them again. The elastic worked perfectly to keep all the melty goodness contained. So I’m leaving my leftover colours in the bags for the next time I want to make something colourful.

 

imageYou can see that they look really colourful from this side. If I were to do this again, I’d personally change the order I used the colours in. I like the look of the red and blue on top (rather than the bottom of what you can see).

Once more, I used a colour on all six of the eggs before moving to the next colour. I might also (in the future) try doing one egg at a time. And using a toothpick or something to perhaps swirl some of the colours together. I think it might turn out interesting.

If you’re doing this with kids, I’d highly recommend using icing bags regardless of whether they want to do detail work or not. I cut the tip of the bag pretty small so the chocolate came out in small streams. With a steady hand (and/or practice) it shouldn’t be too difficult to do detail work. And then this way you have less stuff to clean up afterwards (as no bowl, spoon, or brush has been used).

Once the squiggles were done, I filled three of the eggs with white chocolate, and three with milk chocolate. It felt like it took more chocolate than last time to fill an egg. And maybe it did, or maybe it just took longer because I was squeezing it out of an icing bag rather than spooning it in.

I shook the mould to try and settle the chocolate into all the little nooks and crannies, but you can see that there are/were “air pockets” that didn’t get filled.

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I would definitely do these again, so much more of a success than my attempted candy fire. Just… maybe smaller moulds next time. 🙂

 

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