Molded chocolates differ from hand-dipped chocolates in several ways. Molded chocolates are generally made using sturdy polycarbonate molds. Polycarbonate is a very shiny clear plastic that is almost impossible to deform. This is crucial since chocolate, when properly tempered, will reflect the surface of whatever surface it is crystallizing on. The shinier the surface, the better. You cannot really obtain very shiny chocolate when hand dipping, unless you place a sheet of acetate or other plastic over its surface just after dipping the piece in tempered chocolate and before the chocolate crystallizes. There are many possibilities with molded chocolates with regard to garnishing the mold, using techniques and methods that are not possible with hand-dipped chocolates. The method for hand-dipped chocolates is best suited for mass-quantity production utilizing an enrober, which is a very expensive piece of equipment.
THE METHOD FOR MOLDED CHOCOLATES IS AS FOLLOWS:
If it is the first time you are using a particular mold, wash it with hot water and soap, using a cloth towel to wash them, not a rough scrub pad.
Rinse the molds well and dry them quickly with a lint-free towel to prevent water marks on the surface.
Polish the molds using a lint-free cloth or cotton swabs. The squeaking sound you hear is a good thing.
Temper the chocolate and pour it into the mold. At this point, don’t fuss too much about what you are doing. New molds always need to be filled once before you start using them. What this does is a fine layer of cocoa butter on the mold, which will make the subsequent molded chocolates shinier. The first pass is a loss. Let the chocolate set, and then turn it out of the mold, tapping gently to release the chocolate. Polish it again.
Set up your mise en place using the following:
A wire rack to hold your molds upside down. It should be placed over a nonstick rubber mat or sheet of parchment paper to catch any dripping chocolate.
Two putty knives made of stainless steel. They should be wider than the chocolate molds.
A ladle, large enough to hold the chocolate you will pour into your molds. If possible, the ladles should be large enough to hold all the chocolate needed for a mold, so that you won’t have to pour the chocolate twice.
Enough sheet pans to hold the molds once they have been scraped, and once they have been filled and capped.
A source of heat to keep the chocolate in temper: a simmering water bath, microwave, or a bowl of hot chocolate.
An infrared thermometer (or other thermometer).
Paper towels for cleanup.
Moist towels for cleanup.
A blow dryer or propane torch to clean up chocolate on your work area when you are done. Ideally, you should clean it as you go, but you will not believe how quickly you can have a huge mess on your hands, literally.
If you are garnishing your mold, begin with this step (if you are not, skip to Step 7). In the picture, the mold is being coated with a thin layer of colored cocoa butter. To do this, simply melt the cocoa butter and airbrush it into the mold. It need not be tempered, since the cold air that expels it through the airbrush performs that task of cooling it down before it hits the mold. If you are hand-brushing the colored cocoa butter or if you are piping, drizzling, or brushing on a different colored or type of chocolate into the mold, it should be tempered. Tempering cocoa butter is similar in principle to tempering chocolate, but the process is not as strict and finicky. Simply melt the cocoa butter and cool it with some unmelted cocoa butter until it is cool to the touch. It will set quickly. If you have a mold with many details and nooks and crannies, hand-brush some tempered chocolate or cocoa butter in first. It can be the same type of chocolate you are using to cast the mold, but it doesn’t matter; what matters is preventing the formation of air pockets. Brushing chocolate in fills in any tight corners or spots.
Once the molds are prepared, you are ready to cast your molds. Dip the ladle into your tempered chocolate and pour it completely onto the molds. Use one hand to pour and the other to hold the mold. Put the ladle back in the bowl. Tap the side of the mold with your putty knife (this brings many air bubbles to the surface), then flip the mold over onto the bowl of tempered chocolate. Some pastry chefs do not subscribe to this method, since they claim it cools the tempered chocolate down, and therefore they turn the filled molds over onto another bowl, which has the sole purpose of collecting chocolate from the molds and is to be reused to fill other molds. It does in fact cool the chocolate down, but not too dramatically. This why you must check the temperature of the chocolate frequently and adjust it with a heat source (see Step 5). Turn the mold back up and tap it again. The smaller bubbles will have an easier time coming up through a smaller amount of chocolate than when the mold was full. At this point you can tap the mold on a flat surface to ensure the release of bubbles from inside the mold.
Turn the mold back over again and tap it with the putty knife. This will get the chocolate from the bottom of the mold to pour down the side of the mold and create an even layer of chocolate in your mold, which is a sign of a quality molded chocolate. When this is not done correctly, the chocolate tends to settle at the bottom of the mold, and this will give you a shell with thin walls and a thick top when the molded chocolate comes out of the mold. Excess chocolate will be dripping out of the mold. Scrape it off with the putty knife and clean your knife on the side of the tempered chocolate bowl.
Place the mold on top of the wire rack to set the chocolate. Clean your putty knife by scraping the excess off with your second putty knife. It is crucial to keep your tools and work area as clean as possible. Repeat the process with your other molds, checking the temperature of your chocolate frequently and making the temperature adjustments you need with your chosen heat source. After two or three molds, return to your first cast mold. It may have some chocolate dripping out of the mold, but at this point it will be semi-set; scrape that excess off with your putty knife. If it has hardened too far, it will damage the shell of the molded chocolate. Since it won’t come off easily, it will crack off. Try to prevent this from happening.
Once your shells are completely set, fill them with their respective fillings to just under the top. A quality molded chocolate has a thin bottom layer that is just as thin as the entire shell.
To cap the chocolate, temper the chocolate. You will need the same mise en place that you did to cast the molds (see Step 5), plus a hair dryer or mild heat source and enough sheets of acetate or textured acetate for all of your molds. The sheets should be the same size as the entire surface of the chocolate mold.
Before you cap a mold, apply warm air to the surface of the mold using a blow dryer set on the cool setting, which softens the shell just enough to allow the base and the shell to bind perfectly. Do not use the warm or hot settings, which will melt the chocolate. Without this step the base will have a cracked look and won’t be even and smooth.
Pour the chocolate onto the mold as soon as you have warmed it, making sure you get all the pieces covered. Put the ladle down and scrape the excess off with a putty knife, making sure it is flush with the mold so you get a clean scrape. Immediately after (and before the chocolate sets), place the sheet of acetate on top of the chocolate, and with a clean putty knife smooth out the surface so it is perfectly flat on the base of the chocolate mold.
Let the chocolate set completely. The molds can be placed in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to ensure a clean release. Longer times may create condensation on the surface of your chocolates and make the chocolate brittle to the point where it may crack when you turn them out of the mold.
On a clean surface, gently turn the mold over as close to the work surface as possible, since being higher up will damage your pieces as they fall out. If you did everything correctly, the pieces will slide out. They might need a little tap on the top of the mold, for which the putty knife can be useful, just a little nudge to let them slide out.
Handle your pieces with powder-free gloves or cotton gloves to avoid leaving smudges on the surface of the chocolate.
Keep the chocolates in a cool, dry place away from light, preferably in a closed environment where there will be little to no dust particles. The lifespan of a chocolate depends on what it is filled with.