Chocolate décor should be shiny and have a snap; it should be thin but not see-through thin. Thin décor shows finesse and craftsmanship; it shows that he or she who made it has a hand and a way with chocolate, which is acquired only through much practice and proper instruction. Those thick pieces of décor you see here and there were either made by someone who is not quite adept or, highly likely, purchased from a manufacturer. These pieces are on the thick side because they are made to withstand transportation and also because they are made by machines; machines cannot replicate a finely crafted piece of chocolate.
You should not forget that chocolate décor is partially intended for decoration purposes, which means that it is part of embellishing a dessert, but it should also make sense with the dessert. It should be a part of the dessert and lend a supporting role; it is not the dessert in and of itself. The flavor profile needs to be there. Often, décor is used in excess, as an easy way to make a dessert look nice while completely disregarding flavor profile. The elements of your dessert need to make sense with each other, and visual appearance will not work as the guiding creative force if you cannot make the flavors play well together.
The Method for Making Chocolate Décor is as Follows:
Prepare your work area. Typically, to make shiny pieces of décor, the chocolate should be spread on plastic (acetate) sheets, because it is a flexible material that is shiny, and tempered chocolate reflects the surface it sets on. Anchor the sheet down to a flat surface, which does not necessarily have to be marble. Because marble holds temperatures longer than most materials, a flat sheet of Plexiglas or even wood can work to your advantage. If the shop is on the cold side, then the chocolate may set almost on contact with the marble. To anchor the acetate, use a mister to spray water on the work surface, and then place the sheet of acetate on top. Flatten it down with a paper towel to prevent smudging the surface and to eliminate any bubbles that may be under the sheet. You can also use nonstick oil spray, but it is more complicated to clean up. If you will be making many chocolate décor pieces, you may need to prepare many work surfaces. You may also be working on individual pieces of décor, so make sure you have your pieces of acetate cut and ready to go.
You will need an offset spatula, a ruler (depending on what you are cutting), and a cutting instrument (paring knife, ring cutter).
Pour the chocolate on the surface of the acetate. Try to drizzle it on the entire surface instead of letting it puddle in the center of the sheet, because the latter makes it harder to spread it out evenly. The quantity is something you will have to work on getting right through trial and error. How much is enough to cover the surface of an entire sheet of acetate in a thin layer? You could weigh it for consistency, but this could be a waste of time considering that your chocolate is tempered.
Spread the chocolate using an offset spatula at a 45-degree angle. Try to get the chocolate in an even layer from one side of the acetate to the other. This will determine an even layer of chocolate without bumps. It’s fine if some chocolate spills over the side of your sheet.
Let the chocolate set halfway. If you try to cut it before that, you will have a mess on your hands. If you are cutting straight shapes, using a ruler and the back of a paring knife, make notches where you need to cut, then make your cuts. If you are using a shaped cutter, simply make the cuts.
The chocolate should still be malleable at this point. If you are going to shape it, do it at this moment; it is crucial to work quickly to keep the chocolate from setting.
Let the chocolate set completely. If you are not using the décor right away, it is a good idea to let the pieces stay on the acetate as long as possible. This helps protect their integrity.