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Nov 11, 2008 03:05 PM

Help with holiday chocolate making

I am going attempt to temper, coat, and mold chocolates for the holidays. For the past few years, I tried the seeding method to temper and it was a failure (fortunately though, most are eating within 48 hours so they did not bloom/streak aggressively, but very much so in a week). So here are my questions:

1. Any recommendations in tempering chocolate methods? I read that someone tempered chocolate in his food processor. I have a marble counter; do I melt, pour 2/3 chocolate on the slab then scoop up, add to warm chocolate and rest on heating blanket? I am seriously scared about mis-tempering and wasting so much chocolate.
2. I don’t think my thermometer work well. Anyone has a “chocolate tempering thermometer”? Are these just thermometers with bigger increments?
3. I plan to make my flavor infused ganache a day head of dipping day and they will set in the fridge. Do I dip the centers cold or wait for room temp to dip?
4. I got a mold for a filling this year. Any pointers? I have some gold powder that I want to “paint” on the mold candies. At what stage should I do that? What do I mix the powder with?
5. Can I “recycle” tempered chocolate into ganache for rolled truffles? Is this wrong?
6. Book recommendations?

Thank you everyone for your input!

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  1. What problems do you have with seeding chocolate? That works well for me. I've watched tempering chocolate on marble and it seems more complicated. If you need to practice first, you can get decent chocolate from Trader Joe's in large quantities--their Big Block. I use a regular digital thermometer and keep the tempered chocolate on a heating pad. When I've used chocolate ganache balls out of the refrigerator, the problem I've had is maintaining the temperature of the chocolate and it can go too low. But, sometimes I will put some chocolate on the palm of one hand and roll the ganache in that. It's messy but I can a better control of how much chocolate goes on. In that case, out of the refrigerator works better because it doesn't melt in your hand.

    I haven't used molds in years but just did the regular: fill, empty, let cool, put in ganache, fill w/ chocolate, smooth and let cool. It was so much more work than doing the balls, though it looks nice. I've never used gold but it sounds pretty. I've also just bypassed the chocolate coating and dipped the ganache in powdered sugar, cocoa, nuts, etc.

    I don't have books to recommend. I took a class on truffle making years ago but have learned more online and from Chowhounds than I did in the class.

    3 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      It seems like the more complicated, the more room there is for error. I am going to try the seeding method again this weekend with some biscotti. I didn't have a heating pad when i made them last year, i wonder if the chocolate just cooled off too fast.

      in anycase, i need to get a new thermometer; the one i have is too cheap. i am going get one that is listed as "tempering thermometer" in amazon. we'll see if this makes a difference.

      also i read that couverture chocolate is for coating since it have a greater percentage of cocoa butter. The box of guittard specifically states that they are couverture but the S.berger or Valhrona do not specify this. does it really make a difference?

      I this case, i feel that it is sac-religious when i use one type of chocolate for the ganache and coating... =) what do you think?

      1. re: jeniyo

        According to Nick Malgieri, in hi snew book "The Modern Baker", most high quality chocolate these days contains enough cocoa butter for good coating ability, even if the box/wrapper doesn't specifically state this.

        Book recommendations:

        "Making Artisan Chocolates" by Andrew Garrison Shotts

        "Chocolate and Confections" by Peter Greweling/CIA (this book is very in-depth and pretty expensive, but it's absolutely gorgeous and worth every penny in terms of both the production quality and the amount of knowledge that is contained within it's pages.)

        1. re: jeniyo

          If you do try out the tempering thermometer, I'd love to hear how it works. I don't temper often enough that I've missed it but if it makes it that much more convenient (I have to stop, hold it in and wait), it might be worth considering.

          As couverture chocolate goes, I'm sure there are many chowhounds who know more about it than I do. I go with what I like but also price is a big consideration, so I use what is the best for what I can afford. Couverture is higher in cocoa butter and is easier to work with, and easier to get a thinner coat. You can also add cocoa butter to non-couverture chocolate to get a similar result (but not the same). You can get Valrhona and Scharffen Berger couverture blocks but I don't know if they make the disks that Guittard makes.

          After all these years, I've also realized few people appreciate tempered chocolate and most don't notice the difference between strawberries dipped in chocolate when others bring them, and strawberries dipped in tempered chocolate. I still do it because I love how shiny and pretty it is, and like the crunch. So, yes, I use the same chocolate in ganache and coating. If I were going to make a small batch, just for a few people who like it, I'd probably go all out; and if I went to a chocolatier, I'd expect that, too. But, for every day purposes, price makes a big difference for me.

      2. I took a chocolate class a while back at a chocolate shop, and oddly enough we used tempered chocolate coating for molded chocolate. Because the shell is thin, the taste is really not that noticiable, and very user friendly. Taste your chocolate coating chips, some taste better than others. I previously used Guittard coating apeals, but found that a brand sold at the hobby shop tasted better. Use a good quality chocolate for the filling though. Usint the chocolate coating apeals prevents the blooming and issues with keeping the chocolate at the perfect temperature.

        1. I use the seed method and it am happy with it. Practice, practice, and get to know your chocolate.

          I used to have a chocolate thermometer, until I dropped it and the goo inside got a bubble. They go from around 70 to 130 degrees, the range that chocolate work is done in. Now I use a digital thermometer.

          Keep your ganache at room temperature. If it is formulated right, it will be stiff enough for dipping. You may also want to do a bottom pre-coat (if you are making a slab and cutting squares as opposed to spherical truffles), as it helps the chocolates slide off the fork better. If you can find one of the current crop of chocolate books, they will explain it. (Schotts, Greweling, or Recchiutti). Chilling your ganache will not only cool your tempered chocolate too much, but condensation can form between the ganache and the shell, encouraging mold. If you are not keeping them more than a week or two, mold is probably not a big concern, but possible. After cutting or rolling your ganache, let it sit in a cool place for an hour or two to 'crust' over - easier to handle and again the drier the ganache, the less chance of mold.

          I have brushed luster dust on molded chocolates after they were finished and out of the mold and that worked fine. There may be other ways. I've heard of mixing it with clear alcohol to brush on cookies, but don't know if that would apply to chocolate.

          Good chocolate is expensive, and recycling your scraps is essential! I save whatever leftovers to start the next batch of tempered chocolate. If it has fallen out of temper, no problem, just make sure to use new or in-temper chocolate for your 'seeds'. Or use it in truffles or any other recipe.

          Chocolates and Confections by Peter Greweling is an amazing book, a little technical and a little pricey, but everything you could ever hope to know about the title subjects.

          Making Artisan Chocolates by Andrew Schotts is much more affordable and has all of the basic information regarding tempering, dipping, and molding. I think that is the one that had a lengthy useless (to my mind) section on pairing beers and wine with chocolate, and there were a couple of other minor things about the book that bugged me.

          Chocolate Obsession by Michael Recchiutti is maybe a step up from the Schotts book. Both of them don't have a ton of recipes. Let's just say I bought all three of these books and sold Schotts and Recchiutti to my assistant, while Greweling is my chocolate bible that I keep on my desk. However, I am a pastry chef with chocolate shop dreams, so you may find a $20 book better for your needs than a $65 book.

          happy chocolate making

          20 Replies
          1. re: babette feasts

            Thanks everyone. You guys are so generous with your knowledge and i can't thank you enough. I don't know anyone else that cook, bake and have candy/pastry shop dreams but myself. This site is a awesome place to be.

            I am super excited about this year's candy making. I already got most of my stuff together and i can't wait.

            I have Rechitti's book and this is the book that got me started. I am going to check out the other books in Barnes and Noble tomorrow =)

            I am going to practice on the seeding method. I was almost considering getting a tempering machine - but i realized it is a learning process that i have to get through. This is by far the hardest thing i've ever tried in my kitchen!

            1. re: jeniyo

              1. Seeding method.
              2. any digital thermometer will work. Currently, I use the lesser expensive Taylor digital pocket thermometer. It works great.
              3. Ganache will last overnight at cool-ish room temp. If you do refrig them, bring them up to room temp for at least a couple of hours before enrobing.
              4. Use a clean, dry brush for the gold powder. Brush it on AFTER you take the truffles out of the mold.
              5. leftover chocolate from dipping can be saved for the ganache or the next time for dipping.
              6. +1 for the Greweling Book. If your attempt at seeding fails again, get this book. He has, I think, 4 different methods for tempering chocolate, including seeding.
              7. Valrhona and Scharffenberger are NOT couverture. Courverture will be so stated proudly on the label, inasmuchas it cost more than even gourmet chocolate.
              8. If you have both couverture and valrhona/etc, suggest you save the couverture exclusively for dipping, since it is somewhat easier to temper than gourmet or other chocolate. Use the varhona and scharffenberger for the ganache.

              1. re: jerry i h

                Valrhona does have some varieties formulated for enrobing, and even the ones that aren't seem less viscous than other manufacturer's equivalents. I have some Valrhona Equatorial Noir 55% that is 'special for enrobing' (silver bag of feves, 3kg), and even the Guanaja 70% and Ivoire that don't specify purpose are a nice consistency for molded shells. Guanaja was the first chocolate I learned to temper, and I have always found Valrhona to be easy to work with.

                Other manufacturers have codes to indicate recommended uses, like Callebaut uses the 'drop' system. 5 drops is very liquid, 3 drops medium, 1 drop more viscous. There is also information on both the Callebaut/Cacao Barry and Valrhona websites recommending uses for their various formulations.

                I tend to use cheaper chocolates for the centers, for example I would use a pretty basic Callebaut chocolate (say $4/lb wholesale) for the centers and save the Valrhona ($9/lb) for the shells. You want a neutral chocolate for your ganaches so the flavors you are adding are not overwhelmed. Of course, you can try to match fruit chocolates to fruity fillings and such, but that is getting a little more advanced (and expensive).

                1. re: jerry i h

                  I've never used it but have wondered if it's worth the price to pay for Valrhona's couverture. If I were making truffles for chocolate connoisseurs, I'd try it but I normally bringing it to functions where people just melt chocolate chips, or those chocolate imitation wafers, and coat.


              2. re: babette feasts

                Do you miss having your chocolate thermometer? Any advantages you don't get with the digital?

                1. re: chowser

                  No, not at all, digital is much more precise. I miss my digital probe that died, because the stick thermometer I have now needs to be taped to the edge of the bowl so it doesn't fall in. But that's what I get for buying the cheap one.

                  1. re: babette feasts

                    Y'know: there is a way to fix your thermometer, if it has a bulb on the top for excess red alcohol liquid. Get a pot of water at a simmer, and stick thermometer in. Watch carefully, and let the bulb start to get full of the red liquid; keep going until the bubble rises up into the top bulb part. The air bubble should float to the top and harmlessly pop. Take thermometer out of water, and let cool. The red-colored alcohol should suck back down into the tube, w/o bubble.

                    1. re: jerry i h

                      So i tempered some milk chocolate (testing last night) and have a hazelnut filling for the insides of each molded piece. The chocolate taste great- like a very glorified ferro-rocher...

                      HOWEVER- I had serious difficulties taking the products out of the mold. My husband ended up banging the polycarbonate mold on the counter very hard to get some of them out.. but almost all of them either shattered or broke at midpt. The ones that came out with cracks, are shiny and still good to look at. i applied a fleck of gold to top to distract ;)

                      i think perhaps my top coating is too thin? i was reading when i'm taping the molds and perhaps too much dripped away before i set it down?

                      or is it because my chocolate is not properly tempered. the heating blanket heated the chocolate bowl a 3 degrees higher than it should. the coating is shiny... does that count as "tempered"? i'm so tired i don't know if it taste different anymore.

                      i wanted to attach picture but i looks like a murder scene in the chocolate factory.

                      i'm doing this again tomorrow night. any help, at the mean time will help! HELP!


                      1. re: jeniyo

                        Are you making truffles? If so the chocolate you use for the ganache is what's important. As far as the "outside" coating - I use the A' peels - also known as melt and mold, you do not have to temper them. I took a class at Spun Sugar on tempering chocolate using the microwave. I melt the A'peels in the microwave - only use 50% power to avoid scorching. For the hand rolled truffles I stopped trying to dip - to much trouble. Using the melted A' peels (I usually bring them up to about 110 degrees) they will feel warm, let them cool a little, then instead of dipping I put a small amount in the palm of my hand and and roll the truffle in my hand - using both hands them carefully lay the coated truffle on wax paper - adding a little twist and the end for a finish. I also had bad luck with the polycarbonate molds, could not get them unmolded, instead I use the cheaper lighter plastic molds for my molded truffles, making sure the molds are deep enough to hold a nice dollop of ganache. Again I use the A' peels as coating because you do not have to temper them. I find the dark chocolate appeals have a more glossy finish than the milk chocolate. I believe the A' peels are made by Guittard, ~ 3.40 a pound (usually sold in 1lb. bags) After the molds are filled and capped I put them in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes - they usually unmold very easily.

                        1. re: Bigshadetree

                          I meant to add a photo of Christmas 2007 truffles

                          1. re: Bigshadetree

                            I used Guittard couverture chocolate for this batch. I tempered 1 lb of the chocolate for the coating. the inside is hazelnut butter and melted valhrona, tried to fill when it is approx 85 degrees. I followed instructions in the Rechitti book that instructed me to set the chocolates in the fridge for 20 min before filling up the bottoms of the chocolate. Idealistically, chocolate would shrink once it cools. so, if i have the chocolates ready in the mold (after everything is set for 1+ hour, ready for unmolding), do you think poppomg them in the freezer for 3 min would help get them out?

                            I figured i spent decent money on my fancy polycarbonate molds (they are nice looking) that it should work and worth giving another shot?

                            1. re: jeniyo

                              I never had any luck with the polycarbonate molds so do not know what to tell you. Also I only use the A'peels for the outside coating and the better chocolate for the inside. I guess I differ on that with some of the other posters but the chefs have always told me the inside ganache is where you want to use the better quality chocolate. After I fill my molds with coating and empty them out so they are only coated with chocolate, I let them set on the counter (table in the living room) and work on my ganache. I put the ganache in a piping bag and fill the molds, then cap them with a layer of the coating chocolate. Then pop them in the refrigerator - that's the only time I put them in the refrigerator. When I tried using the polycarbonate molds I was also using the A' Peel as the thin outside of the truffles. I was guessing that was the reason they woul not unmold that you maybe had to use a better quality chocolate that required tempering (?) just my guess. I never went back to trying them as I have had fairly good luck with the cheaper (about $1.75-$2.50 molds) Only problem I have had with those molds was on a few occasions the shells were blemished - not sure if possibly the mold was dirty or somehow there was condensation in the mold when I was filling them. It gets a little frustrating but the end product is worth it - I call this "hell week, because I have been washing molds and chopping chocolate - getting ready to make my Christmas chocolates starting tomorrow morning - doing 8 lbs this year - crazy!
                              Good luck - don't get get discouraged, it's like trying to make caramels for the first time - you have to have a few cream "boil overs" to get it right!

                              1. re: Bigshadetree

                                Sorry for being dumb on this one but what do you mean by "tempering" chocolates? How do you do it? I understand that there is a machine for that but can you do it manually? Will it help chocolate to melt faster? Sorry for the questions but im actually trying to melt and mold some of it but it doesnt have the consistency im looking for and they harded so fast.

                                1. re: Dark Wanderer

                                  Tempering chocolate is heating the chocolate to a certain temperature to melt it and then slowly lowering to a certain temperature (different temps for different types of chocolate but about 85-90 degrees) to get the right crystals. At this point, you coat, etc. and when it cools, you get that nice shiny sheen and the crisp bite. Few people bother to do it but I think it's worth the extra effort. There are different techniques on doing it. I usually do the seeding method.

                                  For more information:


                              2. re: jeniyo

                                These are good questions and I had to look them up out of curiosity because I haven't had the problem w/ sticking in my clear plastic molds (much less expensive). While they're pretty, I don't think it's worth the effort and usually stick to rolling. But, I found this discussion that was very informative. Don't put your chocolate in the freezer or it'll cool too quickly and take it out of temper.


                                1. re: chowser

                                  The first time I tried melting it, it did go to an almost liquid concsistency but after a few minutes, it changes back to almost clay like form. I tried to boil it for another 5 mins but it didn't melt again. I don't know if the coldness of the season is the one responsible for this.

                                  1. re: Dark Wanderer

                                    It sounds like your chocolate might have gotten a little water (it can take an imperceptible amount) and seized. It could harden, turn grainy, or streak, and any combination of those. You have to be very careful with a double boiler that steam doesn't drip into the melted chocolate. You could try melting in a microwave but check carefully and stir. That way, you won't have to worry about water getting in. It's not the cold weather.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Is there a way to fix that? Coz I did melt about a kilo of chocolate and I only molded few of them.

                                      1. re: Dark Wanderer

                                        You can melt it again if you add some fat to it (shortening or vegetable oil) but you can't temper it anymore and use it for dipping. You can add about 1 tbps of oil/shortening to every 6 oz of chocolate, over low heat, patiently (!) stirring. It usually melts the chocolate. You can use this in recipes that call for melted chocolate. I wouldn't use it for chocolate making because you won't get the nice sheen/feel of tempered chocolate. But, if your first few weren't tempered, it might not make a difference.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          Hey guys! All the dishes are done and all but 1 of the chocolates came out of the molds. I think I made the top of the initial batch too thin so that it had a hard time seizing and unmolding. We also tried to put the chocolates in the fridge for a few min before unmolding, it came out shiny and tempered (I think). The cool from the fridge helped the chocolates to seize/shrink a bit so that when I knocked on the mold, they came out! I can’t describe the excitement when they came out uncracked! I am keeping one of each for another few days to see if they bloom/ streak/ separate etc. I wonder if this is considered "tempered" or should i observe for a few more days? My friends and office people loved them.

                                          I do have some leftover ganache (coffee and hazelnut) left. I am hoping I can use them up tomorrow night by heating them up in the microwave to about 85 deg and mold them the same. I hope that’s okay. I used the good stuff so I’ll make use of every ounce…

                                          In case you are wondering what is causing all this madness, I made:

                                          Cardamom ganache with cardamom and coco nib praline – cut in squares and dipped, topped with acetate decoration paper
                                          Kona Coffee filled in dark chocolate – in tear drop molds
                                          Hazelnut butter molded in milk chocolate
                                          Fluer de sal caramel dipped in remaining dark chocolate

                                          Time to go to the gym!

                2. I think that the two best books that you can easily get on the subject, at the moment are the Grewelingbook Chcocolate Confections and the other is by Jean-Pierre Wybauw -Fine Chocolates Great Expectations .
                  1. If you mis-temper chocolate, as long as you didn't burn it, you can re-temper it. The easiest ways to temper chocolate is the microwave method, or the seed method. The marble way or the granite way you have to work pretty quickly.
                  2. Any thermometer will work though ones with big numbers such as digital are easier to work.
                  3. If the centers are too cold, the coating chocolate will harden too fast and can make a very thick coating.
                  4. You can either paint the mold before you put the chocolate in or afterwards. You don't have to mix the powder with anything.
                  5. Yes you can, and no it is not wrong.

                  You do not have to use courveture chocolate for enrobing though what happens is that you will then have a thick coating. Courveture chocolate, as someone pointed out, has higher cocoa butter % which enables a thin coating. It is also easier to temper.

                  If your chocolates are sticking in the mold either, it is "dirty", or wet or the chocolate has come out of temper in the mold, which can happen for various reasons. You can stick the molds in the fridge for a little while until chocolate starts to set. Properly tempered chocolate should contract and come out of the mold rather easily.

                  If there was a problem in tempering, bloom should appear very quickly. It can appear days after if the chocolate isn't stored properly.

                  1. Does anyone know where I can buy Guittard Apeels in West LA or the SFV in small batches (like 1 lb.?) So far, Merkens seems to me the only brand carried by the local candy-making shops I've found.

                    Just planning to make some simple nut clusters and dipped items for the holidays. Looking for a good balance between ease of use (bloom resistant) and quality/taste.

                    Is Merkens a good option if I can't find Guittard? Any other suggestions?

                    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: la la land

                      well, there is always wholefoods and i think places like surlatable has them too. i would just get a S.berger bar and cut it myself if apeels are hard to find.

                      1. re: la la land

                        You can order them from Spun Sugar in Berkeley in 1lb packages, and have them shipped.