Chocolate Slabs – The Perfect Christmas Gift

DSC_6905

Here it is.  I’ve had this idea now since last year and it has finally made it to fruition.  A few years ago when I saw these type of chocolate slabs in Hotel Chocolat I was immediately drawn to them on the sheer scale of chocolate they contain…greedy guts…you don’t need to tell me…but they look so impressive.  It’s like having a year’s supply of chocolate in one bar, ok I exaggerate…a month’s supply. The possibilities too of combinations and the decorations to use, you can let your imagination take hold and do what crazy ideas comes to mind.  The whole point of these chocolate slabs and why I made a mould for them as appose to let the melted chocolate spread out freely is the thickness of the wedge of chocolate.  Your big greedy chocolate eye looks at that thick wodge of chocolate and just goes wow look at that.

I’ve kept these very simple but if I was to say make one for my oldest daughter I would add rice crispies and crushed biscuit.  There’s the obvious nuts & dried fruit variations you can make.  Why not popping candy?  I searched for a while to buy freeze dried strawberries as I thought the red would look very pretty against a white chocolate background.  Also what came to mind are those little sugared violet flowers you buy in cake decorating shops, they would look different.  Now tell me, who wouldn’t want to receive a m&m’s heart this Christmas?  I think anyone you make one of these for…will have to love you forever…and ever and ever.

The idea that’s at the top of my list and will be making it for Christmas, a present to self, is swirling in some dulce de leche (carnations brand do a very good inexpensive one) adding a little Maldon sea salt to make Salted Caramel then swirl it into the very best chocolate which for me happens to be dark.  I can picture it so vividly in my mind right now I’ve just gone to chocolate heaven….and just maybe throw in some toasted almonds…Spanish ones if I had the choice.

Yes I think that will be my boxing day treat.  After all the hard work on Christmas day I need a reward.  Boxing day for me is kids occuping themselves with their gifts…afterall that’s why you spent so much money on them…and me sitting down reading a cookery book with cup of coffee in hand served in my mug and a piece of this Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Slabwould round it off nicely.  That’s Christmas sorted.

There is no recipe for this as all you are doing is melting chocolate of your choice and then pouring into the moulds you have made.  I will give you the tips and pitfalls of my experiences and roughly the sizes and amount of chocolate I used.

The Most Important Thing of All
You can not make this with sub-standard chocolate, absolutely not.  For that you might as well throw it in the bin afterwards.  There is no butter, no sugar or cream added to this, yes you may add nuts, dried fruit, rice crispies but none of those are going to make up for the quality of chocolate you use here.  You are eating chocolate in the pure form you bought it, you’re adding bits  and for that reason you have to enjoy eating it as is.

Cooking Chocolate – Eating Chocolate
If you already cook with chocolate or read chocolate recipes you’ll know normally they suggest good quality chocolate for the recipe and sometimes the only place you can guarantee a good quality slab is in the baking section of the supermarket where the cocoa content is high and the slab is full of cocoa butter and not other rubbish like vegetable fat.  We’re lucky now in the UK as even in petrol stations I see good quality eating chocolate brands like Green&Blacks or Lindt or Divine and others.

My advice here is to tell you to choose the chocolate bars you enjoy eating raw for the same reasons above.  Yes you can buy excellent quality chocolate for cooking but if you wouldn’t eat that bar straight out of the packet then don’t put it in here.  It’s very much personal choice, if you’re a dark chocolate lover you’ll already know which is your favourite bar.  As a rough guide for milk chocolate you want something containing 30% and higher of cocoa solids and for white 25% or more of cocoa solids, most packs here will have that breakdown on the back.  If money is short make a small one like the round star below.

Moulds
If I’m working with chocolate say making patterns and decorative pieces and need a mould or pattern I will choose foil over the usual baking paper because foil stays in place and is easier to manipulate and it’s also cold so the chocolate cools down quickly. I made the shape Hotel Chocolat uses for their slabs, a heart and a small round disk but let your imagination take place and choose something you fancy bearing in mind the limitations of the foil mould.

There is no reason you can’t use a cake or tart ring (ones without a bottom) but then you have to think about removing it once the chocolate is set.  If you have a little cooking blow torch you can put it on minimum and for literally 2 seconds blow on the outside of the ring.  But if you don’t get it right you run the danger of melting the chocolate around the edges too much and distorting the shape.

Making a Mould
Choose something flat, chopping board or baking sheet and cover it with foil.  Take a piece of foil and fold them into strips, folding it over itself two or three times maybe more depending on the thickness of your foil to create a strip thick enough to stand up once it’s joined but not too stiff you can’t mould it.  Make 2 strips like this.

Once the strips are joined with sellotape place it on top of your prepared surface.  Shape as you wish.  Use a few strips of sellotape on the outside to keep it in place but also to pull the mould down to the surface to close as much of the gap as you can.  You may be left with one or two tiny gaps here and there but that will be fine if  most of the mould is quite firm in place and the weight of the chocolate can’t lift it upwards and keep running outwards from underneath.

Don’t forget you can make these moulds days in advance if you want to make a few for presents and it will breakdown the workload.

Think about chocolate you’re going to use and how much you’re going to need roughly.  Very importantly how you’re doing to decorate it.

For Hotel Chocolat slab:
9 x 7″ (23 x 18cm), roughly 300g  milk chocolate, 200g dark chocolate, 150g white choclate

For m&m’s Heart:
9 x 7″ (23 x 18cm), roughly 300g milk chocolate.

For the Round Star
5″ (12cm) across, 150g dark chocolate, 50g white chocolate

White chocolate buttons, white chocolate maltesers and little chocolate eggs.

These came from one of those old fashioned sweet shops, there’s popping candy in the middle, different flavour and colour sherbet and little pearls of sweets.  These I will be using for my presents for Christmas.

Avoid cutting yourself on the foil as no one will want bits of your blood in their chocolate slab..no matter how much they love you.

With the slab below I melted all three chocolates.  Pour in the milk chocolate first leaving some room for the dark.  Pour the dark chocolate to meet the milk one (see photo above) and then poured the white chocolate on top of the join of the other two.  If you do this while all of the chocolate is melted the white will blend in nicely by itself.

Take a skewer or anything of that shape and feather the edges.  Remember to stick whatever decorations while the chocolate is still liquid so they set.

When you’re melting large amounts of chocolate the over-melting mistake easily happens especially with white chocolate I find.  Whether you melt it over a bain marie or in the microwave you’ll have spots of chocolate melting before other parts do, you should stir it to spread the heat.  Bear in mind stirring chocolate (which I do) will also create little tiny air bubbles here and there, but to be honest no one is going to care…and if they do take the chocolate slab back, they don’t deserve it.

The other thing to point out here is having the chocolate like I do in a cold garage this time of year doesn’t help when it comes to melting it.  Best if you bring back to room temperature, it will melt quicker and you’ll have less trouble, unlike me below where the chocolate separated and once you’re at that point there’s no return.

This is how to melt white chocolate, Azelia!

For the white chocolate design in the m&m’s heart and the round dark slab with the star I used a cookie cutter to make the design but you can make them with a small strip of foil.  If using a cookie cutter just realise once the outer chocolate is set the cookie cutter is stuck and you can’t get it out unless you have a little blow torch to heat the cookie cutter for a second.  Obviously the beauty of using the foil strip is you can peel away with ease.

I weighed down the cookie cutter because of the large amount of milk chocolate I was pouring in I was concerned it would move it out of place.

If I point out below the tiny little mistakes.  You’ll notice on the milk chocolate section the texture of the surface has the ripples from when I poured the chocolate in.  When pouring in it starts to cool down and thickens and if you keep on adding it slowly the last bit left in the bowl won’t pour so well leaving marks on the surface.  You can also see on the right hand side of the milk chocolate tiny little dots from tiny air bubbles created while stirring.

Do I care?  No.  It’s home made with love…no will notice because their greedy chocolate eyes will be thinking about eating it.  Besides if you worry about that kind of thing just add nuts, dried fruit or rice crispies that way it’s suppose to be a funny texture.