I’ve had a lot of requests from you lovely pastry fiends to do a post on using cocoa butter. Equally, I’ve had a bunch of you looking to learn about molded chocolate candies. If only there was a way I could incorporate the two topics into one post…
Yup, we’re going to make some bonbons, and we’re going to color them real pretty!
The palet d’or or “golden puck” is a truly classic chocolate candy. It’s a straightforward ganache – no additional flavoring or spices – just a rich and creamy blend of chocolate and butter. It’s traditionally made in a round disk, which is where the puck name comes in, and often decorated with a bit of gold leaf. I thought we might make a variation of the classic today, so we’re going to make my palet d’or ganache, but we’ll cast the filling in a dome sprayed with copper cocoa butter. I’m calling it (bare with me) a courbe de cuivre, or “copper curve.’’ I know, it’s a stretch but I don’t care. I like it.
Before we get into any details, it’s important that you feel comfortable tempering chocolate before you attempt molded bonbons. If you aren’t feeling like your best tempering self, check out my post on tempering chocolate and give it some practice first.
molds and tools
I’m going to use a demi-sphere (half sphere) mold for my candies, mostly because I love the minimalist look but also because it’s a great, simple shape to use when you’re getting the hang of making chocolate candy shells. If you have a shape you’d prefer to use, get after it!
If you’re going to invest some time and effort into making molded bonbons, make sure to get a high quality mold. I wouldn’t use anything less than an injection molded polycarbonate mold. They are sturdy and durable and truly are the industry standard. The cheaper option is a clear, flimsy plastic variety (the kind you find in craft stores) but take my word for it, you will have a hell of a time getting a good product out of one, it will break before too long and in the end you’ll get the nicer mold anyway.
Wash the mold with warm water and a mild soap. Never use an abrasive pad or sponge on the mold cavities! This will dull the shine (and so dull the chocolate candies made in them since chocolate will reflect the shine of what it is cast on) and at worst can scratch the cavity. Scratches, even small ones, will hold onto the chocolate and prevent it from releasing from the mold after it is set. I just remove chocolate from the mold with my hands in warm soapy water, then rinse it clean and dry it with a microfiber towel. No scratches!!
Other than the mold, you’ll need the basic chocolate tempering tools plus a wide, stainless steel scraper. That scraper isn’t 100% necessary but will be really useful to scrape off your mold in one pass.
If you’d rather not add any color to your chocolate shells, that’s totally fine, it’s your world. For those of you that do, we’re going to use cocoa butter based color. You can use/create the color in one of two ways. The first way is to use pure cocoa butter and add fat based powder pigment to it. The second way is to use pre-mixed colors. I prefer pre-mixed, and I really like the line of cocoa butter colors that a company called Chef Rubber carries. They are bright, vibrant and coat very well. Plus they have a ton of colors.
Whichever method of color you decide, it’s important to use the cocoa butter at the right temperature or it will never fully crystallize properly and may stick to the mold instead of your shells. Apply the color no hotter than 91F/33C (just like if you were tempering chocolate). Unlike chocolate, you don’t have to go through the actual process of tempering the cocoa butter, you simply have to cool it down – even by letting it sit out on the counter – until you reach the right temp.
We have the mold, we have the color, but how to apply it? Again, lots of options here, and all of them will have a different effect. Most simply you can dab a little bit of color on the tip of your finger and swipe it on the inside of each cavity of the mold.
You could also use a paintbrush to apply the color, by brushing (or flicking it to get a speckled effect) it as you want. If you use your finger or a brush, just be sure not to apply the color too thickly or it may not set well and can create a bulky layer that has a bad texture when you eat the candy and can even prevent the cocoa butter from releasing from the mold.
Lastly, you can spray the color into the mold using an airbrush or spray gun. I like the spray option because it quickly applies a thin, even coat of color, and the act of passing the cocoa butter through the gun and atomizing it (breaking it down into small particles with a blast of cold air) will help to cool and temper it so it sets quickly on contact with the mold. I really like Paasche airbrushes, and for this bonbon I’m using their Talon airbrush.
courbe de cuivre (aka palet d’or)
Before getting started, buff out the cavities of your mold with a cotton ball. A good buffing will help create super shiny chocolate shells.
Bonbon shells with an accent stripe is all the rage in the pro pastry world right now, so I’m going to show you how to do that!. Start by using masking or blue artist’s tape. This tape will have enough adhesive to stick securely to the mold without transferring any residue when you peel it off.
Cut the tape to whatever width you’d like for your stripe, then into lengths that will allow you to place it into full contact with the cavity with enough strip left over for tabs on either edge (to allow you to remove the strip easily after spraying). I wear latex gloves during this process – creepy black gloves to be precise – so my fingertips don’t smudge the mold I carefully polished.
Warm/cool your cocoa butter to the appropriate color and then spray your molds thoroughly. I covered a cutting board in plastic wrap as an easy spraying surface. Once I’m finished spraying the mold, I can remove and toss out the plastic wrap without having to wipe anything down. If you’re spraying at home, I suggest doing this step under an oven exhaust vent or even out in a garage or something because this spray can get over everything pretty quickly. To get a full, even coat, spray several light coats rather than trying to get full coverage in one pass. Doing it in one go can cause cocoa butter to build up and create drips.
Turn the mold over onto a paper towel. With firm pressure, pull the mold over the paper towel several times to remove the cocoa butter on the surface of the mold.
Let the cocoa butter fully crystallize in a cool, dark place. Ideally I like to let these molds set up overnight, but in a cool room you’ll likely be fine with a few hours of crystallizing time. If you don’t give the cocoa butter time to crystallize, it won’t properly transfer to your chocolate shells. Once set, remove the tape from your molds.
Temper your chocolate to fill your shells. I like to transfer the tempered chocolate to a piping bag because it’s so much faster, cleaner and easier to fill the mold cavities that way as opposed to pouring it from a bowl or using a ladle.
Fill the cavities and give the mold a series of gentle taps with the butt of a spatula or scraper (avoid using the blade against the mold because it can chip or scratch it). The tapping will eliminate any trapped air created during casting. After tapping, take a wide scraper and remove excess chocolate with one smooth, quick motion. I pull the chocolate off right onto the cutting board wrapped in plastic wrap. Once the chocolate sets, you’ll be able to pull the chocolate right off of the plastic wrap.
The next step is a bit of a “feel it through” moment. You want to allow your chocolate to stand in the mold long enough to create a thin shell. In a cool room, pouring chocolate into the molds and almost immediately emptying the mold will be enough to create a shell. In a warm room, you may need to let the cavities sit – filled – for a min or two in order to build up a thin shell.
Holding the end of the mold firmly, invert the mold in one quick, smooth motion so that it is upside down and parallel with your work surface. Allow the excess chocolate to drain from the mold (again, right onto the wrapped cutting board), giving a gentle tap with the butt of your spatula or scraper if necessary. I hold the mold upside down until it stops dripping aggressively.
Using my wide scraper and still holding the mold upside down, I scrape the excess chocolate from the surface from the mold, then turn the mold right side up.
In a cool room you can leave your mold to sit facing up and the shells will set quickly before it pools in the bottom of the cavity. In a warm room, you may have to set the mold on its edge and rotate it from one edge to the next every 30 seconds to minute or so until the chocolate begins to set.
While the shells set, you can make your ganache.
palet d’or ganache
Combine the chocolates in a bowl and reserve to use.
Combine the heavy cream, glucose, and salt and bring it to a simmer. Pour the liquid over the chocolate and let stand for 3-5min.
Stir the chocolate with a spatula, careful not to incorporate too much air, until the ganache comes together. Let the ganache cool to below 104F/40C before adding the butter. I like to use an ice bath and rapid stirring to quickly cool the ganache.
Add the butter to the ganache and hand blend until fully emulsified. The ganache will be ready to use in the bonbon shells when it is cool to the touch but still in a fluid state.
Transfer the ganache to a piping bag and fill the cavities of the bonbons. Don’t fill the cavities flush to the top, instead allow for a thin space between the surface of the filling and the top of the mold. This gap will later be filled with tempered chocolate and become what’s known as the “foot.” Also keep in mind that there is some surface tension in the ganache which can make the cavity appear less filled than it is once the ganache settles. My advice is to err on the side of underfilling your cavities.
Allow the ganache to set firmly enough that it can support chocolate over it without moving. This can take a few hours up to overnight depending on the temperature of the room you store them in (and the recipe of ganache).
Once ready, temper chocolate once more and transfer it to a piping bag. An important step is to gently heat the surface of the bonbons, both the filling and edge of the exposed shell, so that it will adhere to the foot of chocolate. I use a hair dryer to do this. Don’t be too aggressive with this step! Overheating the chocolate at this point will prevent it from setting again and the foot will separate from the bonbon once it’s unmolded. Pass the hair dryer over the chocolate just until you see it take on a slight glossy shine.
Pipe a small amount of chocolate over each cavity and then give the mold a series of gentle taps to allow the chocolate to settle into each cavity.
With a single firm but quick motion, pass the wide scraper over the mold to remove excess chocolate and create a flush foot.
Let the bonbons fully set, and then place them in the cooler for 5-10min. before umolding.
Turn the mold over in one smooth motion low to the table to allow the bonbons to release. If the bonbons don’t release, place them back in the cooler for a few more minutes. Before trying to release them again, grip the mold from opposite corners and give a slight, gentle twist.
If the bonbons won’t release from the mold after plenty of cooling, twisting, tapping and cursing, it’s likely the cocoa butter or chocolate was cast into the cavity too warm. If that’s the case, try placing the mold in the freezer for a few minutes to help them release. At worst you may need to simply scoop them out as best you can and clean the rest out with hot water. Hey, I’ve been there, that’s why it’s called practice.
But with any luck you’ll follow the steps I laid out careful and have your very own bonbons in no time at all! Beautiful!
Cheers – Chef Scott