Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home made vegan chocolates

Part 2 of my posts on home made christmas presents will be a little longer than the first. This was a lot more time consuming than the white christmas and had to be done in stages. Like with the white christmas, I made everything gluten free and vegan as I was also giving some of the chocolates to K and Toby from In the Mood for Noodles.

I got started making chocolates when I was really young. Mum found it was cheaper (and more fun) each easter to buy chocolate melts and make her own eggs each easter rather than buy the stupidly over priced foil wrapped store eggs. She would colour white chocolate in a variety of pastel colours with powdered food dye and paint her hand rolled hollow easter eggs them with beautiful designs. 
She soon expanded into making her own chocolates and has a little book she has put together over the years of her signature fillings. She was so good at it that she ended up turning it into a source of revenue and also went to the local primary school each year to help the little prep grade students make their very own painted coloured chocolate easter egg to take home. The kids at school thought I had the coolest mother ever and they were of course right :-)

To start making shaped chocolates at home, you will need to get a couple of things first.

  • Chocolate moulds - You can get some great chocolate moulds from a cake supply shop in port phillip arcade in the city, called Cake Deco. This is just across the road from Flinders street station and the have HEAPS of food crafting supplies. Spotlight and Matchbox also have a good range. If you have never made chocolates before try to get clear plastic chocolate moulds rather than silicon as it is easier to judge whether the chocolate is thick enough.
  • Food paint brushes - If you are planning on painting different coloured chocolates into the mould or onto the chocolates as decoration it is much easier to use a fine food grade paint brush. These can be purchased at the same place as the moulds.
  • A candy thermometer. If you want to make caramel fillings you will need this to check when the caramel gets to soft ball or soft crack stage.

You will also need to decide what to fill your chocolates with. You can make solid moulded chocolates of course, but filled chocolates are so much more interesting and impressive.

I made 3 simple fillings this time - Peanut butter, Agave Caramel and Strawberry Cream Cheez.

Peanut butter filling:
This filling is really really simple. It also works with any other nut butter like macadamia or ABC spread, etc. If you are making gluten free chocolates, best to go buy a fresh jar of peanut butter. You don't want to use peanut butter that someone has wheat contaminated when they have double dipped the knife when spreading their toast...
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup of pure icing sugar
  1. Mix the peanut butter and icing sugar together to form a paste.
  2. Store in the fridge till you are ready to use.

Strawberry Cream Cheez filling:
Like with the peanut butter, buy a fresh tofutti tub that no one has contaminated with bread...

  • 20g freeze dried strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 1/4 of a cup of hot water
  • 100g tofutti cream cheese
  1. Chop the strawberries into small pieces.
  2. Dissolve the sugar into the hot water in a bowl. Add the strawberries and leave to soak for 30 minutes. 
  3. Spoon the strawberry pieces and 2 tbsp of the liquid into the tofutti and blend thoroughly.
  4. Store the mix in an airtight container in the fridge till you are ready to use this. The mix should be used within a week and any chocolates made with it kept in the fridge.

Agave caramel
There are 2 methods I use with this caramel depending how thick I want it. Using agave syrup will give a honey flavoured caramel. Again, I started with a fresh tub of nuttalex.

  • 3 tbsp nuttalex
  • 3/4 cup of caster sugar
  • 1/4 plus 1/4 cup of agave syrup
  • 1/4 plus 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tspn vanilla essence
For a thicker slightly chewy caramel
  1. In a heavy saucepan combine the nuttalex, sugar, all the agave syrup, all the water, and vanilla essence. Stir this over the heat till combined.
  2. Using a candy thermometer, boil the mix till it reaches soft ball stage (115C). The thermometer should have a marker on it to show how much of it needs to be immersed in the caramel for an accurate reading. You can also tell if it has reached soft ball stage by dropping a little of the caramel into a glass of ice cold water. If the caramel forms a soft flexible little ball.
  3. Once the sauce hits soft ball, remove it from the heat immediately. Transfer to a heat proof storage container or bowl.
  4. Store in an air tight container in the fridge till ready for use.
For a runnier caramel

  1. In a heavy saucepan combine the nuttalex, sugar, 1/4 cup of the agave syrup, 1/4 cup of the water, and vanilla essence. Stir this over the heat till combined.
  2. Using a candy thermometer, boil the mix till it reaches soft ball stage (115C). The thermometer should have a marker on it to show how much of it needs to be immersed in the caramel for an accurate reading. You can also tell if it has reached soft ball stage by dropping a little of the caramel into a glass of ice cold water. If the caramel forms a soft flexible little ball.
  3. Once the sauce hits soft ball, remove it from the heat immediately. Allow the caramel to cool a little bit and stir in the remaining agave and water. (If you stir this in when the caramel is still at 115C then the water may react violently and you may get burnt by caramel splash and that really hurts)
  4. Transfer to a heat proof storage container or bowl.
  5. Store in an air tight container in the fridge till ready for use.

I made the fillings a day ahead of making the chocolate and stored the fillings in the fridge. The fillings should be cold when you put them into the chocolate shells so as not to melt the chocolate.

With the fillings made it is now time to start making the chocolates. There a couple of things to note about melting chocolate.
  • It does not like water. Get water in your chocolate and it will seize (go thick, solid and gluggy). Make sure your moulds are completely dry before you use them. Any water and your chocolates will look dull and furry anywhere there was water.
  • It does not like direct heat. If you melt chocolate in a saucepan over direct heat it will likely seize and probably burn.
  • If you do have an accident and some of the chocolate does start to seize you can save it by mixing in a little bit of copha. The copha will help the chocolate go back to a liquid and you can still use it, but it will not taste quite the same.
  • You can also add a very small amount (just a couple of small shavings) of copha to any chocolate you are trying to use to decorate with if you are finding it is too thick or gluggy to paint into fine details on your mould. The copha will thin it out a little and make it easier to paint with.
  • You can re-melt chocolate if it sets while you are working with it, by putting it back over a pan of boiled water.
To make the chocolates you will need:
  • 1/2 a block of white chocolate to decorate (I used sweet william)
  • Milk or dark chocolate. How much will depend on the number of chocolates you want to make and the size of the moulds in the tray. I find it usually takes 100g of chocolate per tray. For the volume of chocolates I made this year, I used 600g of sweet william milk chocolate, plus 170g Noble choice dark chocolate.
  1. Boil a small saucepan of water. Turn the heat off after the water has reached boiling point.
  2. Chop the white chocolate and place it a heat proof bowl. Place the bowl over the pan of boiled water and leave the chocolate to melt. Once most of the chocolate has melted, stir gently till the last little pieces melt away.
  3. For moulds with detail - Using a food paint brush, paint white chocolate into the design on your mould in the areas you want some detail. Once all the moulds in the tray are painted with the design you want, put the trays in the fridge to set.
  4. For shaped moulds where you want a marble effect - Roughly paint some white chocolate into the bottom of the mould. Once all the moulds in the tray are painted, put the tray in the fridge to set.
  5. In a new heat proof bowl, melt the milk or dark chocolate using the same method as used to melt the white chocolate.
  6. When the chocolate is melted, use a teaspoon to put a little chocolate into each mould in the tray. As a rule of thumb a mould will need to be about 1/3 filled with chocolate to have enough to give a good coating.
  7. Using a food paint brush, paint the chocolate up the sides of the mould, making sure there is a good coating all over the whole of the shape. This is where having clear moulds is easier - if you hold the tray up to the light, you can see where the chocolate is not thick enough because light will show through. Anywhere the chocolate is too thin, paint a little more chocolate in.
  8. If you are making chocolates with a marble design, gently swirl the chocolate around in the bottom of the mould. This should melt the white chocolate and start to marble the white and dark together.
  9. If you have too much chocolate in the moulds don't worry. Just turn the tray upside down and pour any excess chocolate back into the bowl.
  10. Put the tray in the fridge to set.
  11. Once set, check each shape to make sure there are no thin spots where you can see the mould through the chocolate, or can see light coming through. Corners or any design edges will be the most likely place. Paint some more chocolate into any thin spots and return to the fridge to set.
  12. Once you are happy the chocolate shells in your moulds are thick enough it is time to put your filling in. Use a small spoon to transfer a little filling into each mould. How much you will need will depend on the size of the mould you have chosen. My moulds needed about half a teaspoon. Press the filling in and get it as flat as possible. Leave a millimeter or 2 of space in the mould for a seal of chocolate to go in on top.
  13. To seal the chocolate, spoon a little chocolate into the space left in each mould in the tray. For really soft fillings, start from the edges - if you pour from the middle of the chocolate your filling will ooze over the edge. Return the tray to the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
  14. Once set, remove the tray from the fridge and gently turn the tray upside down over a plate. For plastic trays gently press on each chocolate till they fall out of their mould. For silicon trays, pull the sides of the mould around each chocolate till they fall out.
  15. You're done! Try to resist the temptation to eat all your chocolate handy work at once.
Below are some pictures of the chocolates I made with samples of cut chocolates so you can see what they look like inside.

Little peanut butter men. I call them Meesa's Pieces

Runny agave caramels with marble design

Strawberry cream cheez hearts and roses. White detail on hearts was painted on after un-moulding the chocolates

I had some chocolate left over so I decided to attempt to use the brain mould tray again. This time I made the chocolate shell much thicker so they would not break when popping them out of their mould like they did last time. This mould is actually an ice cube tray and the chocolate needs to be pretty thick so as not to break when the mould is being peeled off. I filled them again with caramel and some dandies vegan marshmallows. They are sickly sweet with 2 teaspoons of caramel and 3 marshmallows in side each brains thick chocolate shell, but they worked this time!
Caramel marshmallow brains to give your brain a sugar overload!
And there you have it. With the right equipment and a little patience, anyone can make filled chocolates at home and they make great home made gifts for christmas time.

Damn that was a long post... I hope it all made sense.


  1. so so so so so AWESOME!!!

    Thanks again.

  2. They are incredible - well done! The marshmallow-packed zombie brains are especially cool. :-)

  3. wow you have an impressive heritage when it comes to chocolate making - my mum got us making chocolates one year at christmas and we soon just got tired of doing it - I love the sound of your mum's little chocolate making book!

  4. Ahhhh! Amazing! And so much wanting... slightly frustrated that I've done all my holiday baking and have no one to make these for.

    Except myself. Wait, that's not frustrating at all! Peanut butter, here I come :)

  5. Thanks everyone :-)

    One day I am going to have to borrow mums little book and copy out some of her recipes. I'm sure she won't mind me blogging them either :-)