Friday, February 12, 2010
Chocolate making is uncontrollably messy and sometimes painful, but isn't that what love is all about? The instantaneous delight which ricochets around the room after opening a box of personalized chocolates is well worth the stained table cloths and sticky-melty-chocolate burns you will potentially endure. If your snugbuddy has spent whole shopping trips sorting through the chocolate aisle trying to find a safe dairy free and gluten free chocolate with a delectable filling with no luck - well you can just go ahead and clear your calendar because there's going to be some love a plenty.
I'm not going to rehash my thoughts on Valentine's Day. Suffice it to say, I think these chocolates would mean a whole lot more on any given Wednesday rather than on an obligatory Hallmarked lust-fest. But that's just me! And who am I to withhold yummy chocolately ideas from some young lovelies looking for a last minute V-Day treat? Make way for the chocolates!
Homemade Gluten Free Dairy Free Chocolates
The first step to homemade chocolates is selecting chocolate molds of your choice. A few years ago Alex and I both bought several sets of chocolate molds for each other for Christmas. Great minds think alike, I suppose? Now we have a plethora of shapes to choose from like traditional Hershey Kiss, round and square, animals and, of course, frog. If you want to fill your chocolates with something I suggest the frog mold which leaves plenty of room for filling as well as the round and square molds. Anyway, you can purchase these on Amazon for about $2.30 or, if you're in a time crunch, you can pick up chocolate molds from Michael's, Jo-Anne Fabric and potentially Target or WalMart.
Once you have selected your molds you need to choose the type of chocolate you're going to use. I need to be dairy free as well as gluten free so I got two bags of Whole Food's 365 brand Vegan Chocolate Chips (the one in the green bag). You could choose to get a darker or lighter chocolate depending on the preference of your sweetums. Chocolate chips melt really quickly and easily so I suggest you use them, for reference: from a bag and a half I was able to make 1 tray of peanut butter filled chocolate frogs, 1 tray of berry filled chocolate squares and 1 tray of chocolate kisses.
Items You Will Need
2 bags (or more) Chocolate Chips
Large Glass Bowl
Normal Cereal Spoon
A wooden skewer, toothpick or otherwise pointy stick-like object
Jelly of choice
Melting and Forming the Chocolate
Start with 1 bag of chips, pour into a microwave safe bowl and nuke for 30 to 45 seconds. Take the bowl out, stir chips with a plastic utensil and return to microwave. Continue this 30 second microwave / stirring alternation until you can stir the chocolate chips into smooth, completely melted chocolate.
*If you do not have a microwave (buy one) you can fill a large pot with about 2 to 3 inches of water - enough to simmer, do not bring to a boil. Pour chocolate chips into a heat safe glass bowl and perch the bowl inside the pot. The bottom of the bowl should NOT touch the water. Steam should ideally not come out of the pot. Stir the chocolate chips until they have melted. Do not ever add water to chocolate you are trying to melt - it will cause the chocolate to seize up.
To distribute chocolate into the molds - I have found the best method to include scooping up some melted chocolate in a spoon and using a wooden skewer to slide the chocolate into the individual molds, using the skewer to prod and spread the chocolate into the corners of the mold indentations. The messy/pain part of this process occurred when I tried to use a pastry bag to pipe the chocolate into each indentation. The bag separated from the nozzle, oozing chocolate out everywhere, spilling out the top and on to everything but into the mold. And it was a bitch to clean. I am told they make special chocolate piping bags - if so, live it up. I personally feel the spoon/skewer method worked much better than a stupid bag that spewed everywhere and was cemented together internally by chocolate making it impossible to clean. No, I'm not bitter.
If you want straight up chocolates, fill each mold fully to the top and place the tray in your refrigerator. They firm up quickly and should be ready within the hour, and you're done. If you want to add filling simply spoon in a layer to coat the bottom of the chocolate mold, about 1/3 filled. If you are using a strangely shaped mold (like frog) use the skewer to spread the chocolate around to coat the whole bottom with chocolate. Place these coated trays into the freezer while you mix up your fillings. It should take about 15 minutes, you can check them very easily to see if they've hardened.
Easy Gluten Free Dairy Free Chocolate Fillings
Peanut Butter Filling
So simple it's not even a recipe. Put two large spoonfuls of peanut butter in a bowl. Grab a fist of brown sugar and throw it in with the peanut butter. Whip them together with a spoon.
Berry Glaze Filling
Put a fry pan / sautee pan / wok - on medium high heat. Choose a jelly or jam you like - I used a Forest Berry medley. For one tray of square filled chocolates I used 4 spoonfuls of jelly. Allow your jelly to heat up to a simmer in the pan, the jelly will bubble up inside and shimmer. Add in a spoon of brown sugar and stir vigorously with a plastic spoon. Shake in some Tapioca Starch, stir. Allow the mixture to continue bubbling for maybe 3 minutes or so - it will thicken up a little.
Take your 1/3 filled chocolate molds out of the fridge and use our spoon/skewer method to dole out the fillings. The Berry filling will harden slightly and become more sticky toffee-like in consistency. After you have filled to your heart's desire, use the remainder of your chocolate to fill each mold up to the top. You may need to melt more chocolate. Filling slightly beyond the top will aid considerably in getting the chocolates out of the mold. Allow your filled molds to sit in the fridge for maybe an hour, you can easily check for firmness.
These are homemade chocolates, meaning they haven't been mixed with anti-melting ingredients and whatnot, so they will melt in your hands and should not be kept out of the refrigerator. I have found that it is much easier to free them from the mold after they have been out of the fridge for about 5 minutes. Eating them is a messy and wonderful affair.