Monday, 8 October 2012

Filled Chocolates - What to do and not to do

For my birthday my sister gave  me a professional poly-carbonate chocolate mold and a couple of bags of organic melting chocolate from the confectionery where she works, Woodshade Organics. I have written about them before, here. She also included her notes and some recipes from a chocolate course she did. With all this I thought I'd venture into the delicate world of confectionery too. At least on a small scale (for me and my closest). The principles aren't that hard, but perfection is. I made a couple of errors with my first batch, then did some online research and tried again. The second time was much better, and I'd now like to share what I've learnt. It's far from a definite guide, but it can help you avoid some of the same pitfalls I fell in to. As caramel filled chocolates are my favourite, those were the ones I made. But you can, of course put any filling to your liking, such as fruit, peanut butter, marzipan, nuts, mint, dulce de leche). You'll need:

About 200g high quality melting chocolate (I recommend Woodshade, but any good melting chocolate will do). The quantity really depends on how many you are making, how big your mold is etc.
Caramel Filling (enough for small 150 pieces. Any left over can always be poured over vanilla ice cream):
200g sugar
200g cream
50g butter
100-150g dark or milk chocolate
Pinch of salt
(A few drops of rum essence)

1 Candy thermometre (essential for a perfect result)

Step 1: To make the filling, start by letting the sugar melt slowly in a pot with a thick base and tall sides. Do not stir as you might accidentally set off a crystallization process and end up with a big hard lump. You can, however, move the pot around and shake it lightly to make sure the sugar melts equally. Make sure you don't use too much heat or the caramel will burn. Once all the sugar is dissolved and has turned an amber colour (you can let it go darker to get an intenser flavour, but be careful it goes from dark to burnt without warning), remove it from the heat and pour in the cream. It goes without saying that you need to be careful around molten sugar. Let it bubble up (hence the tall sides of the pot) and then start stirring it with either a metal whisk or a fork. Let it simmer for a minute or two while stirring constantly to make sure any sugar lumps are dissolved. Let it cool down to about 40ºC (104ºF) and stir in a pinch of salt and the butter until shiny. 
Chop the chocolate for the filling finely and add it. Dark chocolate for a darker more intense filling, milk or white for a lighter one. At this stage it divided my portion into 3. One for pure caramel, one medium runny to which I added a few drops of rum essence, and one which i gave a good amount of chocolate. The amount you add determines how liquid your filling is. The more, the harder. Add > 200g for a solid filling, 200g-100g soft to runny, and < 100g quite runny. There should be sufficient residual heat to melt it. Pour into a piping bag or just a small plastic bag and let it cool off completely, e.g. in the fridge. Cooling it down will further harden the filling.

Step 2: Tempering the chocolate for the shells. To get perfectly shiny chocolate shells you need to follow a strict procedure called tempering the chocolate. This will prevent the crystals in the chocolate to align randomly and create a matte or white looking chocolate. You will need a thermometre and a water bath/bain-marie (a bowl put inside another pot with simmering water). You can use a microwave but it's harder to control the heat, and if you are in a rush, you probably aren't making filled chocolates anyway. Chop the chocolate finely and let 3/4 of it melt in the bain-marie while stirring. As each type of chocolate has different amounts and structure of fat, use the thermometre and the following table (all temperatures in celcious):
                                            T1              T2          T3
Dark choclate                      52º             29º          31º
Milk Chocolate                    47º             27º         30º
White Chocolate                  43º             26º         29º

T1 is the first temperature you want to reach, but not pass. Take it off the heat a bit before the you reach the temperature as the residual heat from the pot might keep warming it up. This is why you need a bain-marie as it changes slower than over direct heat. You can put the pot on a cold surface if it's going too fast. Just be careful not to get any water in to the chocolate. Once T1 has been reached stir in the remaing 1/4 of chopped chocolate. This allows for a more even crystallization. Let it cool off to T2 while stirring it. Then slowly heat it back up to T3 which is the working temperature.

Step 3: Making the shells. Pour the chocolate into the mold and turn it in all directions to make sure it distributes all over the sides. Leave to rest upside-down over a grill rack. Scrape off the remaining chocolate on top. This is where I made mistake number one. I used far to little chocolate which resulted in very fine shells, which weren't going to hold anything liquid. Also, realizing my mistake I panicked and threw it in the freezer to make it cool of faster. As I started adding a second layer it hardened immediately and made very uneven shells. See below for the final guide for the perfect shell. 
Step 4: Adding the filling. After the shells have hardened, time to add the filling. As I knew my shells were very fine I went for my solid filling which I made small balls of and squeezed in to the shells. Then I poured another layer of chocolate on and put them in the fridge to harden.  
Step 5: After about 10-15 minutes of hardening I banged out my chocolates. These were some of the better looking ones, but many were cracked and full of tiny holes from air bubbles. Hmm, well, they could be eaten just the same... It's chocolate after all....
Step 3 - 5 revisited: So, for my definitive guide for the perfect shells, I got all creative and melted a bit of white chocolate which i drizzled in the molds with random patterns. i then tapped the mold against the table a few times to get rid of any bubbles. I let them harden, but not in the fridge. Just the time it took to melt the chocolate for the proper casings.  
I melted the chocolate according to the tempering process (one thing I did get right the first time). This time a made a bigger portion so I had plenty to work with. After reaching T3 I poured it in to the molds and carefully made sure it was well distributed. Then I tapped the mold against the table several times to get rid of any tiny bubbles.  
I then turned the mold upside down over an oven grill with some baking paper underneath. This way the chocolate would run down the sides and create a thicker shell. After settling for a couple of minutes I turned it round again and scraped the excess off the top (you always want a clean top; use a flat silicon spatula). I put in a zip-lock back and put it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to solidify. All the drippings on the baking paper was scraped up and put back in to the bowl of melted chocolate.  
After hardening I held the mold up against the light to find any this areas where the light came through. With a fine brush I painted those areas until no longer transparent. Finally, a good set of shells.
 I poured the liquid caramel filling with rum essence in. 
 Filled them up with more chocolate which was scraped clean and flat with the spatula. It was then hardened further 10 minutes in the fridge before tapping them out,
And here, the final result...home-made caramel filled chocolate. A littel laborous, but so worth it.