A few months ago I set off to the supermarket planning to buy a chocolate orange, and – to my horror – there weren’t any. They were completely out of stock of one of my favourite forms of chocolate! When I got back home, disappointed and bad tempered, I remembered a programme I’d seen on TV over Christmas, which had been about various different chocolate manufacturers, both big and small, and I remembered that they’d shown a small-scale chocolatier who’d made his own chocolate oranges using a mould shaped like a tray of orange segments.
I had a little browse on eBay, and soon learned that these very same segment-shaped moulds were readily available… A few days later I was back at the supermarket, but this time searching for a little bottle of orange essence and a good supply of cooking chocolate. I bought several white, milk and dark bars, just to be on the safe side, and then rushed back home to unwrap my newly-arrived segment-shaped mould. Two hours later and I had my very first, home-moulded chocolate orange sitting on the kitchen worktop in front of me. Well, when I say chocolate orange, I actually mean a pile of chocolate orange segments – sticking them together into a ball proved to be beyond me.
This got me interested in the whole world of chocolate moulding, and it wasn’t long before the segment-shaped mould had been joined by moulds shaped like leaves, pyramids, flowers and coffee beans. The coffee bean-shaped mould quickly became my favourite, and I soon discovered that the chocolates that came out of it were particularly delicious if I put a whole, decaffeinated coffee bean into the centre of each hole, before the chocolate had had time to set.
Soon I was making them not just for me and my family, but also to give to friends. But then I discovered a problem – although at home I could keep the moulded chocolate in the fridge until I wanted to eat it, when I took it out of the house to give it to someone else, it soon started to melt. I googled this and learned that if you want home-moulded chocolate to keep its shape when it was out of the fridge, you had to temper it. This involved yet more googling, followed by the purchase of a proper kitchen thermometer, as the process involved warming the chocolate to a very particular temperature (which varied, depending on whether it was white, milk or dark), then cooling it to another very particular temperature, and then warming it again before pouring it into the moulds. Apparently, this process would keep it solid at room temperature – which was what I wanted.
When I was moulding some chocolate the other day, it occurred to me that tempering chocolate is a bit like editing writing – you’re working at it; changing it and moving it about – all the time, trying to make it much less messy and a lot more snappy, until finally its strong enough to hold its shape, out in the real world.
The dog doesn’t necessarily approve of all this chocolate moulding, though. It’s poisonous to dogs so he never gets given any – even when he puts his head on one side and looks as cute as he can. I think he’d much prefer it if I decided to turn my hand to making home-made dog biscuits. Hmm. Maybe another time – for the moment, there’s still some cooking chocolate in the cupboard that needs using up…