As a nation we love eating chocolate and according to a recent Mintel market report we spend almost £4bn each year on it.
Despite the economic downturn our affection for chocolate remains strong as we continue to enjoy it as a snack and on special occasions.
The report also states we are eating better quality ethically-sourced chocolate with more interesting fillings and flavours.
Our love affair with chocolate does not stop at eating it as more of us want to make our own chocolates at home. The number of chocolate-making courses has burgeoned over the past few years as well as the number of books on the subject.
Learning to make chocolates requires skill and patience but is great fun. I have been on two artisan chocolate-making courses and I loved every minute of each. It is immensely rewarding to make a box of professional looking chocolates or a finely crafted Easter egg.
Making chocolates is straightforward, but if you want to make a chocolate shape which snaps crisply as you bite you will need to master a technique known as “tempering”.
Tempering is when you heat and cool molten chocolate so that it sets hard and will keep its shape and not crumble.
You can avoid the need to temper chocolate completely by making simple but delicious truffles and rolling them in sugar, cocoa or nuts, but if the recipe requires it and you want your chocolate to be shiny and “snapable”, without a white bloom, then temper you must.
You will need to use couverture chocolate which has a higher percentage of cocoa butter and is suitable for making chocolates and is available from good supermarkets. You will also need a sugar thermometer.
Hand Tempered Chocolate
To recreate the chocolates easily at home you will need to use this classic hand tempering technique.
350g couverture chocolate
You will also need a sugar thermometer.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heat-proof glass bowl.
Sit the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Ensure the water is not touching the underside of the bowl. Partially melt the chocolate by stirring gently until two-thirds of the chocolate has melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted. The chocolate needs to reach a working temperature of 48ºC (for all chocolates, dark, milk etc) on a sugar thermometer.
Pour two-thirds of the chocolate onto a clean, dry work surface (ideally marble or a granite work surface but not wood).
Work the chocolate by spreading it across the surface back and forth with a palette knife for at least two minutes or until the chocolate starts to thicken a little. The working temperature at this stage needs to be 27ºC (for all chocolates, dark, milk etc).
Using a scraper, quickly transfer the chocolate back into the bowl with the reserved third of chocolate. Stir well and allow the chocolate to warm up until it reaches the correct working temperature for the type of chocolate used i.e. 27-29ºC for white chocolate; 28-30ºC for milk chocolate; 29-31ºC dark chocolate.
If the chocolate has not reached the correct working temperature at this stage, place the bowl of melted chocolate back over the simmering water for a minute or two. Be careful the chocolate can quickly overheat.
If this happens, depending on the temperature you may have to retemper the chocolate again, starting at 48ºC (stage 2 of the method).
Raspberry Ganache Chocolates
350g temperered dark couverture chocolate
90g milk chocolate
170g dark chocolate
65ml whipping cream
6g glucose syrup
80g fresh raspberries
15ml crème de framboise (raspberry liquor)
Ensure the chocolate mould is clean and then polish it with a clean, dry cloth.
Pour enough tempered chocolate into the moulds to line the base and sides of each shell/hole.
Tip the mould upside down and allow the excess chocolate to drain back into the bowl. You need to get the right thickness or else if the chocolate is too thin the chocolates will break when tipping out. Allow the chocolate to set by placing in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Keep the remaining chocolate in the bowl for later.
To make the raspberry ganache filling:
Partially melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and store to one side. Using a small heavy-based pan, bring the cream and glucose syrup up to the boil. Using your fingers break up the raspberries and add to the pan with the crème de framboise. Allow to cool a little. Gradually pour the raspberry cream mix over the partially melted chocolate and mix with a whisk. To check the chocolate is fully melted, fold with a spatula until the chocolate is smooth.
Pour the ganache into a piping bag and place in the fridge to cool and set a little.
Pipe the ganache into the prepared shells leaving at least a 2-3mm gap from the top. Allow the ganache to settle and skin over.
To form the base of the chocolates retemper the chocolate set aside in the bowl. Pour the tempered chocolate over the filled chocolate shells and remove the excess with a palette knife. To do this hold the mould in one hand and carefully run the edge of the palette knife across the top to scrape off the excess chocolate and allow the chocolates to set in the fridge. Once set, turn the chocolate out by tipping the mould and tapping on the work bench. Move any chocolates that have released from the mould to one side as you may need to tap the mould a few times to release all the chocolates.
Store the chocolates in a cool, dry place (ideally 16-18°C).
Fresh cream dark chocolate truffles
100g dark cooking chocolate, broken into small pieces
100ml double cream
cocoa powder for dusting
Gently heat the cream until boiling point is reached. Pour over chocolate pieces and stir until all the chocolate is melted. Cover with cling film and leave to cool in a fridge for two hours. Take teaspoons of the chocolate mixture (ganache) and mould into nut sized pieces. Sieve cocoa powder over the moulded chocolate pieces. Keep cool until ready to serve.
For more information on chocolate courses visit www.bettyscookeryschool.