Making Chocolate Leaves

The finished product, with copper and silver luster

Betsy Miller brought aluminum-colored chocolate leaves to the launch party, and Brian Fies said, “Marion, take these to every book event. They are your secret weapon.”

Betsy showed me how to make them, and lent me the chocolate mold and the brushes with which to brush on the edible luster dust. In the meantime, I ordered a mold online. These candies are about 2/3 the size of Betsy’s.

Since I want to bring some to the Petaluma Copperfield’s event, I have made a couple of practice batches. I’ve used these opportunities to experiment with different types of chocolate.

The easiest and most foolproof kind to use is called melting chocolate or covering chocolate. I found it at two places: The Baker’s Boutique on Farmer’s Lane, and at Nancy’s Fancy’s on Industrial Drive, both in Santa Rosa. I don’t know, call it a hunch or a feeling, but I bet you would find it on the internet.

For this batch I experimented with “gourmet” chocolate chips.

I’m a big fan of dark chocolate so that’s what I used.

The easiest, and again, most foolproof way to melt chocolate is in a microwave; the 30-seconds-and-stir, 30-seconds-and-stir method. Take it out and stir it even if the disks or chips haven’t lost their shape, because the chocolate will have softened. The 30-second intervals keep you from over-cooking the chocolate. Cooked too long, chocolate “breaks,” which means the solids separate out, leaving you with a dull, chalky texture.

I used a classic heating tool, the bain-marie, which is French for “I don’t have a microwave.” A bain-marie is a double boiler.

The helpful proprietor at Baker’s Boutique gave me some tips and some warnings about how to use one:

  • in a pot, heat water to a boil
  • remove from heat
  • set a heatproof bowl over the pot.
  • make sure the bowl fits tight; steam will affect your chocolate
  • make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
This is 2/3 of a cup of chips
Bain-marie in action

Neither the melting chocolate disks nor chocolate chips require tempering. Tempering is a process that makes chocolate creamier and more shiny. It is laborious and precise; you heat the chocolate to Temperature Point A, let it cool to Temperature Point B, reheat to no hotter than Temperature Point A, let it cool to Point B… for a few more iterations. Imagine a fine sword maker heating up their steel blade, sticking it into water (Steam! Hiss! Crackle!), heating it up again, plunging in into water again,and so on. If they fail, a blade is destroyed. If you fail, you have ruined chocolate. I think we all know which of those is the true catastrophe.

I skipped that step.

Untempered yet shiny. Those tools are: one chopstick and a fancy cavier spoon.

With the chocolate ready I filled the mold.

As you can see, I am pretty sloppy when it comes to filling the mold.

I am not good, yet, at filling each mold. I alternated between the fancy caviar spoon (which has never, to my knowledge, touched cavair) and the chopstick. It isn’t a huge deal; once the chocolate has set and hardened, you can cut off any rough edges with a small sharp knife. Periodically, I tapped the mold firmly against the counter to get the molten chocolate to settle evenly into the mold.

Silver luster and copper luster. For scale, the length of the brush head is the diameter of a dime.

I put the filled mold in the freeze for 3 minutes to flash chill, then into the refrigerator for one hour. That was probably longer than they needed.

As in life, a little luster goes a long way. I popped the candies out of the mold onto a white plate. (They mostly pop out easily. There were a couple of stubborn ones.) The luster dust will fall off the brush, but you can sweep it back up off the plate. Betsy used silver to get the aluminum quality, which was perfect, and she was unable to locate copper. Nancy’s Fancy’s had copper, and I experimented with both.

Spouse taste-tested them. To be thorough, he ate several. He said they were good, but I had to test for bias, for so I took a plateful to my across-the-street neighbor. She ate three while we were visiting, so I decided that was a positive review. Her suggestion (since they’re small) “Just put it in your mouth and let it melt.” I pass that along.

While I like the flavor of the fancy chocolate chips, the texture did seem softer and more melty than that the “melting chocolate.” It’s late summer, temps in the high 80’s, and I’m transporting, so that is a real consideration. I also have not experimented with other flavorings, like vanilla, maple or mint, yet. I want to go cautiously, and will probably stick to the tried-and-true for Saturday.

I plan to make a three batches today. I store them in an airtight jar in the refrigerator, with waxed paper between each layer.

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