Ricart chocolates. Photo: Mkrigsman, Flickr.
Every wonder how those famous chocolatiers get those fabulous edible patterns on their fancy schmancy chocolates?
It’s actually the result of a very simple process using Chocolate Transfer Sheets. Chocolate Transfer Sheets consist of a sheet of thin acetate that is embossed with an edible ink comprised of cocoa butter and powdered food coloring ~ that’s all. The sheets are available in hundreds of patterns: from animal prints and floral designs, to mod geometrics and celebratory text like “Happy New Year”. Transfer sheets can be cut down to fit any chocolate dipped confection, or can be cut and coated with chocolate to wrap around a cake.
Here are some of my favorite sources for Chocolate Transfer Sheets:
Always store in a cool dark place. They’re made from cocoa butter, which melts easily.
Work in a cool room. Not cozy? Put on a sweater.
When working with transfer sheets, avoid touching the imprinted side with your hands.
To apply a transfer sheet, your chocolate must be melted. The pattern will not properly adhere if applied to chocolate that has begun to harden.
After transfer has been applied, give your chocolates some time in the refrigerator (approx. 30 minutes) before removing the acetate.
When purchasing Chocolate Transfer Sheets (aka Cocoa Butter Transfer Sheets), bear in mind that light patterns show up well on dark and milk chocolate, while dark patterns (like the popular marbled pattern) are best reserved for white chocolate.
Now, let’s talk chocolate...
The origins of chocolate, which is derived from the Theobroma cacao tree, stretch back at least 4000 years. The Maya created what we now know as chocolate by fermenting, drying and roasting the beans and then grinding the kernels to produce cocoa mass (chocolate liquor and cocoa butter). The type of chocolate is determined by the various amounts of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor the chocolate contains, as well the amount of sugar and any other ingredients added to the mixture.
Although chocolate is often referred to as belonging to one of three categories -- milk, dark, and white – there are in fact an infinite number of types of chocolate due to the fact that no two chocolate recipes are alike. Nor is a cocoa bean grown in Ecuador exactly like a cocoa bean grown in Hawaii.
Chocolate professionals use a type of chocolate called Couverture. This chocolate contains a very high percent of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor. This high ratio makes it expensive, but also means that the resulting product will be smooth, shiny, and have great flavor. If you wish to experiment with Couverture Chocolate you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the process of Tempering. You can often find one pound boxes of Guittard Semisweet Couverture wafers at Whole Foods and Cost Plus for around $10/pound.
What I recommended for the kids in my class and for the home candy-maker is Molding Chocolate (also called Chocolate-flavored candy coating). This candy product is flavored like chocolate, but has vegetable or palm oils instead of cocoa butter. It has good flavor, is easy to work with and has consistently good results. Candy coating is sold at cake decorating and craft stores. I prefer to work with the Wilton brand Candy Melts. If you’d like to see some phenomenal candy creations made with Candy Melts, visit our friend Bakerella! You’ll be inspired for sure.
To see more incredible Bakerella creations, plus free tutorials, visit HERE
I’m often asked if you can use chocolate chips for candy making. I do not recommend it. Unlike Couverture and Molding Chocolate that melt easily, chocolate chips are made to hold their shape when baked. Chocolate chips have hardly any cocoa butter and that is why they do keep their shape.
A few chocolate tips:
Always store you chocolate in a cool, dark place (but not in the fridge)
When working with chocolate, avoid humidity and heat. A cold room is preferable.
Do not attempt to color your chocolate using conventional food coloring. This will cause the chocolate to seize.
Do not add milk, water, butter or oil to your chocolate. It will be unusable for candy coating.
You can melt Molding Chocolate in the microwave on medium-low heat, or on the stovetop in the double-boiler. The key is "low" and "slow'. Do not overheat your chocolate.