Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Week 12: Chocolate Bonbon Recipe & Tutorial

You sure are in for a sweet treat today! I'm going to show you how to make moulded chocolates with flavoured fillings.

You'll need:
  • chocolate moulding wafers
  • chocolate moulds
  • double-boiler
  • small paintbrush
  • small spoon
  • light corn syrup
  • margarine
  • vanilla or other extracts
  • food colouring
  • salt
  • icing sugar
Step 1: Choose your chocolate

  • I usually use moulding wafers, but I was in at the Duchess Bake Shop this week and sampled some amazing dark Valrhona chocolate and decided to splurge.
  • If you are a beginner, I highly recommend moulding wafers as they are much easier to work with and don't require tempering. Wilton's Candy Melts are a great choice.
Step 2: Select your moulds
  • I've been collecting moulds for a few years now and find that some of the simpler ones really are the best.
  • You can find moulds at Bulk Barn, Michaels and certain kitchen supply stores.
  • Make sure your moulds are deep enough for fillings -many are designed purely for moulding melted chocolate.
  • Select one mould for each flavour you are making so that you can tell your different flavours apart!
Step 3: Make your filling

  • Mix the ingredients above until you have a dough-like ball. A pastry blender is handy to begin mixing, but don't be afraid to use your hands!
  • If you are making several different flavours, then divide your filling into separate bowls. I made three: strawberry, peppermint and an experimental flavour, maple pecan.
  • Add your extract flavour of choice and a drop or two of food colouring. Mix until your ball of filling is all the same colour.
Step 4: Melt your chocolate

  • Melt your chocolate wafers in a double-boiler -I usually use a cereal bowl that rests nicely inside a small pot of water. Heat at medium-low heat and turn it down to low once the water is nice and hot. Be careful that no water or steam sneaks into your bowl of chocolate. Water and chocolate do not mix well! Once it is fully melted, remove from heat.
  • Alternatively you may start the melting process in the microwave, but I prefer the double-boiler method. It gives you more control and if you keep it in the pot of warm water, it is slower to harden and you can work with it longer without re-heating.
Step 5: Mould your chocolate

  • Using a small spoon (a baby spoon works great), scoop a small amount of chocolate into your mould.
  • Using your paintbrush, brush the sides and bottom of your mould in a nice thick layer. It seems tedious but it goes much faster after you've done it a few times!
  • Once all sides of your mould are covered, tap your mould gently on the table. This will help fill in the gaps, but will also release any air bubbles you may have.
  • You can wait until your chocolate hardens, but it's a long enough process already, so pop your tray into the freezer for about a minute.
  • When you take your mould out of the freezer, hold it up to the light and look through the bottom. If there are any spots where the light shines through your chocolate, then fill in those areas with your paintbrush. Then pop it back in the freezer to harden.
Step 6: Add your filling
  • Take a small spoon of filling and place it inside your chocolate-lined moulds. Use the spoon or your finger to gently push the filling down.
  • Leave about 1/8" of room at the top of your moulds for the chocolate.
Step 7: Top it off 
  • Spoon a small amount of chocolate into your moulds, on top of your filling. This will be the bottom of your chocolate when you're all done.
  • Alternate between gently tapping your mould and using your paintbrush until the chocolate fully covers your filling and looks smooth.
  • Don't worry if it spills over the edge a little bit as it can easily be cut off after you take them out of the moulds, but avoid over-filling.
  • Pop your tray of moulds into the freezer for 1-2 minutes, until the chocolate is fully hardened.
Step 8: Remove your chocolates from the moulds

  • Once the chocolates are set, turn your mould upside-down onto a flat surface lined with parchment paper and tap gently.
  • Be careful becuase if you are too rough, you may crack some of your chocolates.
  • The chocolates should slide out nicely, but if you have trouble, try returning them to the freezer for another minute. 
  • Admire your beautifully moulded chocolate!
(Optional) Step 9: Decorate!

  • For the peppermint ones, I melted some white chocolate and used the end of my paintbrush to embellish with polka-dots.
  • For the maple pecan ones, I brushed a bit of extra chocolate on top (as a glue of sorts) and sprinkled some crushed pecans on top.
  • I wanted to buy edible glitter for the strawberry ones, but had a hard time finding it. Instead, I purchased Wilton's shimmer dust. I just dabbed a little bit on the top of each chocolate. It's not as sparkly as I was hoping, but it did add a bit of colour. 
  • I tried to add the above embellishments first, by placing them in my mould before my chocolate, but the results were not effective at all. Add them after!
  • You can also drizzle a bit of white chocolate over your chocolates to make them look extra pretty, or get really fancy and try drawing or writing something on top of your chocolates.
Step 10: Package your chocolates

  • Handmade chocolates go very nicely in a handmade box.
  • For these, I found some great metallic cardstock on sale and created my own boxes. I tried a few testers with scrap paper to make my own unique box, but there are lots of downloadable box patterns on the internet that might interest you more. Like the one you'll find here.
  • I typically line my boxes with parchment paper before I place the chocolates in, but this time I created my own candy wrapper cups using a gold-spotted vellum paper. You can also buy candy wrapper cups (they look like mini-mini-muffin papers), but I find the colour options very sad.
Storing Chocolates
  • Contrary to popular belief, chocolates do not need to be stored in the fridge or freezer. In fact, storing them in the fridge or freezer exposes them to things chocolate does not like: moisture and odours. Moisture will make your chocolates lose their beautiful glossy look and chocolate can adopt any flavours/smells that it is exposed to, so be careful!
  • The best place for your chocolates is in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. 
  • The only time when the fridge/freezer is your friend is if you have a filling that will spoil. I usually make truffle fillings, which are cream-based and sadly, they went bad on me one Christmas. Oops!
What I enjoyed the most: I love making chocolates! But I really did enjoy the decorative touches I added this time. I was that much more proud of my final product. Also, I really enjoyed sharing this process with YOU! Awww....

Next time I would... Learn to properly temper chocolate. I had never really done it before and did my own version of the 'seeding' method and did it without a thermometer. I'm sure professional chocolatiers around the world are shaking their heads at me right now.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Week 12: Make a candy box and fill it

Why I want to make this: Back when I was in high school, a dear older lady from my church offered to teach me how to make chocolates. She had been making moulded chocolates with various fillings for 40-50 years. She would make them at Christmas time and everyone would receive a handmade treat from Mrs. H, right down to the mailman. I've tried to keep the tradition and lost art alive by making chocolate each year for my own friends and family.

Ideas & Inspirations: With the chaos of Christmas time, I usually am too focused on producing a large quantity, that it doesn't allow for much time to experiment with presentation. These chocolates taste amazing, but I'm hoping to have them look just as good. And to create a wonderful handmade box.

What I intend to do with said project: This is tough. I'm just doing a small batch! But I'm trying to make healthier food decisions. Who will I give them to!?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Travel Treasures to Inspire

One last post about my travels. This time with just a few inspirations I found along the way.

As I was strolling through Brooklyn, I stumbled upon some graffiti that caused me to stop and take a picture. It was so simple and yet so eye catching. I like you.

I think this would be a great image to centre some craft projects on! Any ideas?
When I was in Nova Scotia, after walking down a very foggy Lawrencetown Beach, my friend and I stopped by the seaside vintage store Fancy Lucky. Lots of precious vintage clothing and accessories in there, but this is what captured me.

I aspire to this!
Turns out that this little unsigned gem was made by the girl working the shop that day. She was charging a whole $1 for this hand drawn piece. She does these 'just for fun' but she did admit she hadn't had time recently to create more. Needless to say, I encouraged her to raise her prices! So to that shy artist in Nova Scotia: I hope you keep creating art and loving what you do! Who knows, maybe someday I can link this post to your site!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fabric Finds From New York City

The first full day I was in NYC, I hit the fabric shops. In the garment district, there is an entire city block (both sides of the street) of fabric and sewing shops. So much to see and buy! There were also a few others scattered around the city that I had read about and made sure to stop by.

My favorite fabric and sewing stores I visited in New York were: Mood FabricsDiana FabricsThe City Quilter and Tender Buttons.

I was pleasantly surprised by the prices of the fabrics (or at least the fabrics I was interested in). The most I paid for anything was $12/m, and many of the shop workers were willing to negotiate. I wish it was that way in more Canadian fabric stores. Here is what I found:

Coral-patterned silk with coordinating silk lining. I was hoping to whip this into a dress to wear to my friend's wedding but that has since passed.

Teal and coral floral rayon, likely to be sewn into a top.

Ivory coloured floral lace to play and experiment with.

Large geometric print cotton for a dress or top, or maybe both!

Brown leather remnant for a wristlet and orange leather for a new purse.

I started planning my newest quilt project at the City Quilter and this is what I have so far. I'll have to add another fabric or two to make it a tad more balanced.

I bought more fabric that I thought I would. I'm getting better at not buying fabric unless I have a specific project in the works. But one thing I was hoping to find in NYC was cute and happy sewing notions (e.g. clipper scissors, unique rulers, pins, etc.) but all I found was a needle case!

Handmade marbled Fimo needle case by Off the Grid Designs

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New York Trip Highlights

Finally getting around to posting about my trip to New York City, 2 months later. Where to start? I could tell you about the awesome hotel we stayed at, or the coffee shop nearby that we visited everyday (sometimes twice a day!). Or I could bore you with details of the usual tourist traps: Staten Island, Top of the Rock, Broadway, Yankees Stadium, etc. Instead, I'll just inspire you with a few highlights.

Brooklyn Art Library

When looking up things online to see in New York City, I learned that I needed to visit the Brooklyn Art Library and that I would love it, but I didn't quite yet understand why. The Brooklyn Art Library houses the Sketchbook Project, which is a collection of sketchbooks from all over the world. You may 'sign out' sketchbooks to view while visiting the library, but they also take smaller collections on tours around the US and sometimes even Canada. The Sketchbook Project should come to Edmonton, AB!!! ;)

After looking through a couple of sketchbooks, I was feeling inspired and decided to join the project by purchasing my own sketchbook to fill. This will be a huge creative challenge for me as painting/drawing is not my strong suit. Once my book is complete, I need to mail it back before the January 2014 deadline for it to be added to the collection. I'll let you know when it is complete because I'm sure you'll be dying to go visit it in Brooklyn, right? OR... My book will be digitized and available for viewing online early in 2014. I'll keep you posted!

Chelsea Market

It wasn't on our to-do list, but after TWO native New Yorkers recommended it, we took at trip to the Chelsea Market. This place is full of unique restaurants and shops, but lucky for me, it also hosted the I Artist & Fleas Pop-Up Shop that week. The room was packed with NYC/BK artists and designers and I easily could have spent my full travel budget in there. Highlights for me were:

  • Brooklyn Charms -They had a variety of charms, chains and other treasures to create your own custom jewelry on the spot.
  • Shara Porter Designs -Little wallets and bags with adorable designs screened on them.
  • Black Lamb -Where silkscreening and embroidery collide!

Fabric Shopping

This occupied much of my time and deserves it's own post. Check back tomorrow to see my sweet fabric finds!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Week 11: An Heirloom Quilt

77 unique scrap fabrics,  672 - 2 1/2" squares sewn into 42 blocks, joined together with 71 - 8 1/2" x 3 1/2" rectangles and 30 - 3 1/2" squares of sashing, makes this heirloom quilt complete.

The entire time I was piecing my blocks together, I imagined having a light-coloured sashing to tie all my blocks together. When I went to the fabric store with a few of my blocks, it ended up being the navy polkadots that best complemented the wild array of fabrics.

What I enjoyed the most: Normally when I quilt, I am extremely particular with how and where I place the different fabrics in the quilt for a perfect balance of colour and pattern. With this quilt, I quickly realized that strategy had no benefit! There were too many different colours and patterns that it didn't matter where they went. I liked not having to think about it as I sewed and not having to hum and ha over the perfect layout for days on end.

Next time I would... Make sure I sourced enough fabric from my Gramma! I wasn't really sure how much fabric I was going to need until long after I had visited, so I ended up adding some scraps from my own stash. But in the end, I suppose it became a quilt composed of 3 generations of fabric scraps!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Funday: Ironing Boards

I've been working hard on piecing my quilt together, which means lots and lots of ironing! I just couldn't help but think of Brian Regan. Because of him, I will never take airports, emergency rooms, or ironing boards so seriously again.