If you have never tried making chocolates, take heart! Chocolate is a forgiving medium. Once you have the essential equipment – a candy thermometer, a bowl, a pan and some heat – there is really only one trick you need to know, called tempering. If not handled correctly, chocolate is greasy and crumbly. To make sweets with a dry, glossy surface, smooth texture, and a clean “snap,” follow these five easy steps:
1. Break the chocolate into squares of about 1cm. Heat a pan of water until it is barely simmering. Put a clean, dry, glass or metal bowl above (not touching) the water, with the chocolate and a candy thermometer in it. Note that if even a small amount of water gets into the chocolate at this stage it will solidify.
2. Heat the chocolate to 50°C. Let dark chocolate cool to 32°C, milk chocolate to 31°C.
3. Pour out a small portion onto a smooth, nonporous surface and fold it onto itself with a flat scraper until it thickens. Return the thickened chocolate to the bowl and stir it in. Test a small portion by letting it cool. If it is not right, reheat to 50°C and try again.
4. Once the chocolate is tempered, you have many options. You can simply pour it into molds, add a delicious center filling, or add nuts or dried fruit before molding. For large centers, maintain the temperature, and use a dipping tool to transfer the centers in and out of the molten chocolate.
Truffles are a classic treat and even simpler to make. Boil 1/4 cup of cream, and pour it over 100 grams of broken chocolate. Wait for one minute then stir until the chocolate melts. You can flavor the mixture with a tablespoon or two of liquor or champagne. Cool the mixture until it can be scooped into balls, then roll them in sugar or cocoa powder.