Valentine’s Day is coming, so TV and print media are full of things to buy for your loved ones.
If you prefer to make rather than buy your gifts, here’s a way to make your own chocolate candy. The basic ingredients come in a box from Verve, Inc., in Providence, RI, under the brand name of Glee Gum.
This brand has nothing to do with the current TV show. Verve had the name first. Make your own Chocolate Kit is one of three “make your own” kits created by Verve (chocolate, gum, and gummies).
I first saw the Make your own Chocolate Kit on the chocolate table in the gift shop at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
The centrally located table occupied the space always dedicated to the topic of the day’s event – in this case, the Chocolate Festival.
That table is a good place to look for something new. I try to visit this table each time I go to Fairchild, even if it means a special trip to the gift shop. After looking at the books on display, my eye caught the Make your own Chocolate Kit, a box with shades of brown with the name, a picture of an ancient Aztec holding a bowl with fire, and a structure that looks a lot like the Temple at Tenochtitlan.
Make your own Chocolate Kit is sold locally at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables; the Fruit and Spice Park in Homestead, and in Broward County at Wacky Wild Science Adventures in Pembroke Pines and Simply Natural in Sunrise. Call these sites before you visit to make sure they have the kit in stock.
Make your own Chocolate Kit also can be purchased online directly from Glee Gum.
The Chocolate Kit.
Before you read the instructions in the box, please view this online video.
Make Your Own Chocolate from Scratch Kit, an on line video.
If I had watched this video first, I would have done some things differently. I would have purchased a candy thermometer like what was used in the video instead of depending exclusively on the strip provided which was attached to the side of my very old double boiler. The boxes don’t mention a thermometer.
Every stove’s heat varies, so watch the chocolate mixture carefully.
Instructions direct from Glee
Before you start, read through all of the instructions and take a quick look in your kit to find the following ingredients:
Cocoa butter (it's yellowish and hard)
Confectioner’s sugar (it's white)
Paper candy liners (they're paper)
Temperature indicator (it's black)
Cocoa powder (the most finely ground particles)
Starter crystals (medium ground particles)
Whole cacao beans (biggest particles)
You’ll also need: a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and a quarter-teaspoon of real vanilla.
Melt the cocoa butter in a one- or two-quart microwave-safe, glass, NOT PLASTIC, bowl or a double boiler.
I elected to use a double boiler to get a better view of the process.
1. MELT - If you're using a microwave: Put the cocoa butter into the microwaveable bowl and heat it in the microwave until it is completely melted. This will take at least three minutes and perhaps a few minutes longer if your microwave is of low wattage. Be careful, the bowl will be hot when you take it out! If you're using a double boiler: put the cocoa butter into the top pan of the double boiler, and melt it completely over hot water.
2. COMBINE - Now, remove from either the microwave or the stove, and empty the cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar into the bowl with the melted cocoa butter. Stir very vigorously about 50 times, until all the lumps have disappeared.
3. HEAT - Microwave: Put the mixture back into the microwave and heat it at 100% power for 40 seconds, but no longer! Double boiler: Put the mixture back over the boiling water and heat for six minutes, stirring frequently. When you take it out, stir the mixture again, five times vigorously.
Note: As you know, oil and water don't mix well, and by all of this vigorous stirring, what you're trying to do is to help get rid of some of the moisture in the chocolate. That way, the chocolate is smoother and better. You really can't stir too much!
4. COOL - Remove the backing from the black temperature indicator, and stick it on the outside of the pan or bowl, near the bottom, so that it will measure the temperature of the chocolate. (You could also attach the temperature indicator to one of your knives and keep dipping it into the chocolate to take its temperature.) Wait about 10-15 minutes, stirring for about 20 seconds every 2-3 minutes to ensure that the chocolate all stays more or less the same temperature as it cools.
Note: Making chocolate is really easy, but you do need to pay attention to the chocolate's temperature as you work. This recipe may look a bit like a scientific experiment, and in a way it is. Chocolate needs to be “tempered,” which means that it is treated with heat so that it forms regular crystals. Tempering is what makes candy bars “crack” when you break them in half, and what makes them have shiny surfaces. The starter crystals included in this Kit are powdered chocolate bars, and since they're already crystallized, they “start” the rest of your chocolate crystallizing, when it hits 94° Fahrenheit. However, if it is too warm when you add them, they'll melt, and lose their tempering ability, and if it's too cold, your chocolate will already have begun to harden, without crystallizing regularly. So, watch the temperature indicator to make the best chocolate! And, by the way, if it doesn't seem like your chocolate tempered properly, don't worry, it should still taste great!
5. WHILE YOU'RE WAITING, find the cacao beans; rub them between your fingers to remove the shells. Then, taste some. Chocolate is just finely ground beans, along with some sugar. We've just made it a little easier for you to make your own by having the grinding and separating done in advance.
6. STARTER CRYSTALS - When the temperature indicator illuminates “94°F” with a green background, add the starter crystals. Mix well with the spatula, pressing any lumps against the side of the mixing bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla for extra flavor (if you want) and pour or stir it into the little candy paper liners. Note: this is the point where you can be really creative- experiment with adding things, like nuts or marshmallows to your chocolate!
Leposky note: The temperature indicator did not work for me. Next time I will use a thermometer. I made some candies with walnuts and other candies with candied red cherries.
7. REFRIGERATE - For about 15 minutes until the candy is cold. (Note: If the mixture somehow got too thick to spoon out, you can place the bowl in a pan of warm water until it is workable, and then spoon it out. Be careful, however. Don't heat it too much, or you will lose the “temper,” and then, you might lose your temper, too!)
Leposky comment: They really mean this. We left our chocolate too long in the refrigerator and it became very hard.
8. EAT!!! Enjoy your very own home-made chocolate! Share with your friends.
In Latin, the name of the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao, which means "food of the gods." It really is, isn't it?
Now that you know how easy it is to Make your own Chocolate from scratch, we know that you're going to want to make more!
According to Glee children eight years and older can make this candy with close adult supervision. My adult daughter and I made our candy.
Glee also provides online lesson plans for teachers using its Chocolate Kit.
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