In some ways, making molded chocolates is simple. You liquify chocolate, pour it into a mold, let it harden, pop out a bonbon and you’re done. Even world-famous chocolatier Jaques Torres is a little chagrin about how much he charges for a chocolate bar that only requires a few steps to make (see his video below). But the chocolate molding process has a lot of little details that differentiate the ho-hum hobbyist from artisanal confectioner. Learn the process plus some great tips to make go smoother.
Not any chocolate can be boiled and dropped into a mold to make a shiny treat. The tempering process — which includes several steps of heating and cooling melted chocolate — stabilizes the material and also gives it a porcelain-like sheen.
While some home cooks like to temper their chocolate by hand, it’s an exacting and time-consuming process. Even professional chocolatiers have machines that take care of the heating and cooling so they focus on making fillings and molding.
Most amateur candy makers buy bags of chocolate that only need to be warmed up in the microwave. Some of these tempered chocolates are made by artisanal producers, others by some of the largest names in chocolate.
Very generally, candy ready chocolate is melted in the microwave, about 30 seconds, until most of the chocolate is smooth and there are a few bits that need to be folded in to smooth out the mix. That said, you should definitely read the instructions on any chocolate you make so you don’t overheat it or struggle to make it the right consistency.
There are numerous reasons why you might choose a particular mold. You’re making a wedding cake and you want a chocolate cake topper. You’re baking a birthday dessert and want the lettering molded.
Chocolate molds come in sever materials, very commonly polycarbonate, plastic and silicone. While a lot of new chocolatiers like silicone for the ease in unmolding the confections, polycarbonate is used more often by professionals who want to make large batches of chocolate in the same size. You will also find a lot of shapes only make in silicone.
Beyond the molds, you can make do with tools you probably have in your kitchen, but if you’re planning to make chocolates regularly, you may want to invest in a piping bag or squeeze bottle you can use to fill molds. You may also want an offset spatula or wide scraper to help with scraping down the molds after you’ve filled them.
The hotter the room you’re working in, the longer it will take for the chocolate to solidify. A good temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You can work a little hotter, perhaps 70. If your kitchen is 80 F or hotter, you’ll probably want to put on the air conditioner.
Prep the Molds
Regularly clean the molds with hot soap and water. Make sure they’re dry before you start filling them. To give it a final once over before starting, wipe down each compartment with a cotton ball or cheesecloth to ensure they’re free of debris.
The best way to fill the mold, particularly depends on whether you’re creating an intricate design or filled candies. For intricate designs, piping in the chocolate may be best If you don’t have a squeeze bottle, you can use an icing bag or even ziplock back with a small section of the corner cut off.
If you’re using a bag, push in the tip in between uses so the chocolate doesn’t harden. Also, store the bag in a plastic bowl or other surface that won’t get cold in between uses. If the chocolate hardens, you can take an hair dryer and head up the tip or put the entire bag in the microwave for two seconds (any more than that and you may burn the chocolate).
For chocolates with filling, dripping in the chocolate from a measuring cup, ladle or spoon is suitable. This is messier than a piping bag, but still effective. You’ll need to scrape off the extra with an offset spatula and then hold the mold over a bowl or other receptacle and let the extra chocolate drip out, leaving a shell of chocolate to harden.
Gently tap down the mold on the table to take out the air bubbles. The process also helps to shows you where you may need to pour in more chocolate. When there are several detailed images set in one mold, you may need to tap after each filling or the chocolate will harden before the confection fills in curves and ridges.
Scraping the Excess
Try not to over fill the compartments too much. If you need, you can use a palette knife to scrape off the excess. Also smooth out the bottom of the chocolate and tighten the edges by removing excess chocolate.
If you’re making chocolates with filling, tap out the air bubbles and then pour out excess chocolate so only a shell is left clinging to the mold
Freeze the chocolate for about 10 minutes in the freezer or 15 to 20 in the refrigerator.
For silicon molds, stretch the mold slightly around the image so the chocolate is released. You can also push the chocolate out from the back of the mold. If the chocolates don’t come out neatly (which can be a particular problem when the mold is new), take a small brush and coat the design in the mold with a thin layer of oil.
Making Chocolate with Fillings
If you’re making chocolate with a filling, leave the top shell in the mold and then you’ll pipe in a filling, such as caramel, and top the filling (what will wind up being the bottom of the chocolate, with a layer of chocolate. Once again, you’ll need to scrape down the chocolate so the bottoms are flat and edges smooth. Sometimes you’ll need to fill in holes created by scraping with a little extra chocolate. Put in the fridge or freezer to harden and then unmold when the bottoms are ready.
Alternate Uses for Molds
If you ever want to break from just working with chocolate, you can also use fondant icing in chocolate molds, juice and other confections.
Storing the Chocolates
Once the chocolates are decorated, it's time to store them. This can be done by placing them in an airtight container and storing them in a cool, dark place. Alternatively, you could wrap them individually in cellophane or wax paper.
If you're planning on giving the chocolates as a gift, then you'll need to take extra care when packing them. Be sure to use a sturdy box and cushioned material, such as bubble wrap, to prevent the chocolates from breaking.