For over twenty years, my mother, several sisters, and several friends of the family had a tradition of making hand dipped chocolates over the Thanksgiving weekend. In those four short days, we worked sometimes as many as twelve hours to produce eighty to a hundred and twenty one pound boxes of chocolates. My mother learned how to make hand dipped chocolates from a lady in her church who made them professionally for a number of candy shops. People who like good chocolate are always pleased by the freshness and quality of homemade chocolates, if you do the job right. In making our candies, we found a number of secrets about purchasing supplies, setup, working with fondant and other fillings, working with chocolate, and clean up that made the job easier.
Buy the best chocolate for the best price from a local chocolate company. Many of the big candy companies will give you a break on the price when you buy one or more twenty pound slabs. Even if you only intend to make a small quantity of chocolates, buying good chocolate insures there is no paraffin wax or other preservatives that affect taste. These companies sometimes sell you the boxes to package up your candies and the papers that separate each candy. Other miscellaneous supplies:
* Cookie supply aisles in your local supermarket will also sell the candy holder papers.
* A fancy adhesive seal will add panache to the otherwise boring white box.
* Buy several rolls of wax paper to used to separate layers of candy, to place rolled candy
fillings used in dipping, and to place freshly dipped candies out to dry.
* Saving or purchasing tins is a good alternative to paper boxes and can make an attractive
* Buy several colors of chocolate including powdered to better decorate your candies.
* When buying the ingredients for the fillings, buy fresh nuts and use oil based flavors.
Flavors need to be more intense when tasted in the filling alone because chocolate will
* Have a good supply of glass, crystal, or pottery bowls for dipping that are safe for use in
the oven. Alternatively, have several marble slabs to use for the same purpose.
* Have several 9x11 inch pans to hold slabs of chocolate for melting.
* Have metal and rubber spatulas on hand as well as large spoons for working with the
* Have many small flat trays to place the wet candies. Line these with wax paper, taping the
ends to help them stay put.
* Have pad of paper and pencil used to identify flavors.
Dipping chocolates requires a lot of table space. Have one large table to work on and a second to store drying candies at a minimum. We found that half of a ping-pong table worked well. Set out half of one table with single candy papers in a row, leave the other half empty.
Reduce the temperature in your house to about 60F. Candies that are dipped too hot will turn white and look like a fungus is growing over them. They look very unattractive. This problem is solved if you use wax, but then you lose one of the benefits of making your own chocolates.
Warm your oven to between 180F-200F or just enough to melt the chocolate. Be careful not to warm the oven so hot that the chocolate burns. Have the chocolate melted and ready to go before you start.
Be sure to pull your hair back and tie it. Be sure to work in a area without pets. Be sure to wash your hands.
Working with Fondant and other Fillings
Do your candy center preparation well before the day you intend to dip chocolates. Although alternative shapes can provide an interesting contrast in your candy boxes, they can also make the boxes hard to pack and take extra time to prepare and dip. Roll the filling into balls and set onto wax paper lined trays. Use a measuring spoon to help keep the balls similar in size. Compare your ball to the wrapper you purchased ensuring there is adequate space to add chocolate and still fit. Compare your ball to your box, ensuring there is adequate space to pack two layers.
Cream fondant requires strength to turn. Scrape the dumped caramel textured cream fondant onto a clean table and convince your husband or several friends to help you stir it. The cream turns as you fold and scrape the caramel when it reaches the proper temperature. If the cream has crystals, recook it. Prepare the fondant several days in advance and allow adequate time to work with it.
Truffles are made by whipping cream into chocolate and adding flavors. Set out blobs of truffles to cool, then roll them. Allow several hours for them to set up prior to dipping them.
Set aside fillings with nuts to dip last as they will end up in your dipping chocolate.
Be sure to buy enough chocolate for dipping to use as flavoring.
Working with Chocolate
Fill several bowls full of warmed chocolate and set out on the table to begin to cool. When the chocolate has cooled, begin to work the chocolate in the bowl to build up a hard edge on the side of the bowl. When the chocolate reaches this state, the chocolate may be cool enough to begin to dip. Dip one of the creamed centers by rolling it in your hand to cover lightly. Set it out on the wax paper covered tray. Watch to see how long it takes before the chocolate begins to set up. If it remains glossy, your chocolate is too hot. Wait several minutes and do another test. When the chocolate has a dull appearance soon after placing on the wax, the chocolate is at a perfect temperature.
At this point, you need to begin dipping quickly. If too much chocolate builds up on the side of your bowl or the chocolate gets hard pieces, or is so stiff it tears the cream, take the bowl and put it back into the oven and reheat it. Begin over with one of the other cooling bowls. If you use all the chocolate in your bowl, refill from one of the cooling bowls and refill them with hot chocolate. It helps to have a helper who does nothing but wait on you. You won't be able to do much because your hands are covered.
After setting a dipped candy, use your motion to direct a curl or lines to denote the type of candy it is. Decide what flourish you will use for each flavor before you begin. Contrasting chocolate colors as flourish should be added after the chocolate sets up. Cocoa powder should be used while the chocolate is slightly soft and added as a dash.
If you're using different types of chocolate, i.e. white or dark or milk, be sure that you don't mix the chocolates together.
Toss all used wax paper. If you're a beginner, you may have a lot of chocolate on the wax paper that will break off for reuse. It will help extend this expensive ingredient to make the most candies for your money.
Bowls used to dip should be reheated, and then scraped with a rubber spatula into the last bits of chocolate.
Keep a sink full of hot soapy water because you will use a lot of dishes.
Chocolate that gets on floors, cabinets, and tables can be scraped off with a metal spatula and swept up.
Packaging the Candies
Pull individual candies off the wax paper after they set up and place them into a candy paper cup. Once all candies are put into cups, take several of each variety and pack them into boxes.
Then all you have to do is enjoy the pleased looks of your guests, customers and family.