Thursday, November 27, 2008

Handmade Christmas presents - chocolate!

Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like chocolate! And it's the perfect gift for Christmas! It's easy, it's fun, and if you make a mistake, eat it!

MELTING THE CHOCOLATE
Choose the chocolate wafers from somewhere like Superstore or Price-Smart - get a lot, you're going to need it. Do not use a regular chocolate bar. The melting wafers contain more cocoa butter to help them melt easier. Get or create a double boiler and put the chocolate into the pot. With chocolate, you want to melt it slowly and cool it quickly to avoid getting crystals. Always put your chocolate in the fridge to cool -- it creates that nice, shiny outside we love so much.

COLOURING CHOCOLATE
You can't use just any colourants for chocolate -- you need powdered. Because chocolate is oil based, adding food colouring to it will curdle the chocolate and make a horrible mess.

FLAVOURING CHOCOLATE
Why the heck would you want to flavour chocolate? It's chocolate flavoured, the best flavour in the world. Ah, but sometimes we want that little bit extra, that oomph that screams "I'm awesome, eat me!" For this you want flavour oils -- again, water based extracts will make it curdle and be disgusting -- so I'm going to suggest the flavour oils by Lorann Oils. They're not expensive, and you can use them for lip balms if you have some left over. (Susan's personal favourites - lime, cheesecake, pralines & cream, and cotton candy!) Use about 1 tsp (5 ml) for 1 lb (454 grams of chocolate). As you're unlikely to use 454 grams of one flavour of chocolate at once, I'd suggest using about 1 ml for every 100 grams or so. Pour in the oil, mix, try it, and if you want a little more, add a little more.

MOLDING CHOCOLATE
This is the easiest of the various chocolate-y treats. Just melt some chocolate, add your colour and flavour (optional), then pour into the mold of your choice. Bang the mold on the kitchen counter to get out all the air bubbles, and place into the fridge. Wait (yeah, this is the hardest part, I admit). Remove from the fridge when done and pop them out. (Press on the mold until the chocolate pops out. If it doesn't pop out, it's not ready!)

For molds you can use the candy or chocolate molds from the craft store, but you can use various things, like mini cupcake pans, silicone ice cube trays, and other plastic ware that looks interesting.

CHOCOLATE LOLLIPOPS
This is just a variation on molding chocolate -- use a mold that will allow you to insert a stick. Pour the chocolate into the mold, then roll the lollipop stick into the chocolate ensuring it is fully covered. Then give the mold a bang on the counter and put into the fridge. Remove but DO NOT REMOVE IT BY THE STICK or you will break it and cry.

CHOCOLATE BARK
Chocolate bark is traditionally white with almonds in it, but we don't stand on tradition around here! This is an easy, fun, excellent project for gift giving! You can put them into a circular mold, for instance, or just spread it out on a baking sheet covered in wax paper.

NUT BARK
For almond bark, you'll want about 9 almonds for 20 grams of chocolate, but you can add what you like.

CANDY CANE BARK
Crush up a candy cane. Add it to about 30 grams of chocolate. Mix. Spread on a piece of wax paper and put into the fridge. When it's set, break it up and put it into a cute bag.

CANDY HEARTS BARK (Valentine's day)
Buy some candy hearts. Add then to about 30 grams of chocolate. You know the rest...

TIGER BUTTER
Mix about 30 grams of melted white chocolate with 1 tbsp peanut butter. (The more you add, the more "fudge-y" it will be. So feel free to reduce or increase the peanut butter.) If you put the peanut butter on a spoon then pour the chocolate on top of it, the peanut butter will melt nicely. Spread on a piece of wax paper and put into the fridge. If you want to get all fancy, you can drizzle some melted milk or dark chocolate on top of it in a pattern.

PANTHER BUTTER: Same as above, only use milk or dark chocolate.

LAYERED CHOCOLATES
Mix about 30 grams of melted chocolate -- your choice of colour and flavour -- and spread on a plastic plate or baking sheet. Put into the fridge. Melt another 30 grams of chocolate -- may I suggest you change the flavour and/or colour so they're very pretty -- and pour that on top of the first layer. Put into the fridge. Finally, melt another 30 grams of chocolate and pour that on top of the first two layers. There. Done.

PACKAGING CHOCOLATES
Ah, you're going to have to wait until Saturday for this!

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