Making chocolates is a many step process and it’s a relief to have someone I can rely on. When I said that I holler at Spousal Unit to take over the chocolate until I’m done being brilliant, I didn’t mean to imply that I do all the work when the chocolate shoppe is in session. Spousal Unit is my equal partner in making chocolate. A typical season is split like so:
- research on ingredients and merchant pricing
- makes the itinerary for which flavours will be done on what days, blocks off the calendar
- carving the blocks of chocolate up
- measuring out the chocolate for amounts to be tempered, amount to hold as seed
- polishing chocolate moulds (SO BORING)
- maker of ganache for the cream fillings
- maker of the caramel (because somebody has to do it)
- primary chocolate filler once the moulds are set, putting flavours into each chocolate
- official cartographer of the chocolate map
- assembling new equipment
- washing and drying the containers and moulds to hold the chocolate (BONE DRY)
- taster of ganache (this is harder than it sounds, after a few tastes it gets hard to discern flavours)
- Chief Tempering Officer, he tempers more of the chocolate than I do now
- secondary chocolate filler once moulds are set
- smasher of candy canes when bark is on the menu
- assembler of the boxes (they’re shipped flat)
We do it together:
- inventory checkers
- shopping for ingredients
- pouring the chocolate into moulds, have to work fast!
- placing the finished chocolates into the boxes (so easy to get this wrong!)
- putting maps, paper liner, and lids on
- adding ribbon
- boxing up for shipping
- clean up (urgh, the clean up is the WORST)
A lot of chocolate work is waiting. You’re waiting for the chocolate to reach optimal temperature, you’re waiting for the ganache to set, you’re waiting for the moulds to set, you’re waiting, waiting, waiting.
So what do we do with all this downtime between the work?
Play video games and eat take out. It’s difficult to use the kitchen for cooking since any heat or steam will affect the chocolate, and the tempering equipment takes up a lot of room so we’re pretty much eating sandwiches and take out for days. 😉
How long does this take?
Now that we have all the equipment we need, it’s a lot less time, but I still allocate 4 weekends. You never know when bloom might strike. The major hold-up in the past was not having enough moulds; having to pour, wait, wash and dry, and repeat. Now we can pour 60 of each shape and be done with it. Hallelujah!
We do an inventory check in October, and will place our order for chocolate by Halloween if we’re short. Pro-tip: you don’t want to be ordering Belgian chocolate in November unless delays don’t stress you out.
The bulk of the actual work is done in November on weekends, it’s easiest to assign one weekend to working with one type of chocolate and we always do the milk chocolates first because fillings have a shelf life. (Solid milk chocolates and the almonds will be fine for months.) Next up are the caramels. Depending how this goes, it may take an extra weekend.
The cream fillings are tricky and take the longest. I will make the ganache the night before and divide it by 5, adding each flavouring agent and let it chill overnight. If all goes well and it firmed up, we start pouring the chocolate the next morning. This takes at least 2 days since a lot of chocolate is needed. At this point there is practically no room in the fridge.
Once all the semi-sweet chocolates are made, we finish with the dark chocolate and the white chocolate and the Toblerones (ensuring the Toblerones are fresh). Now the fridge is at max capacity and we are dying to ship them and get some space back.
This year I will be shipping them earlier since Via Rail no longer accepts parcels, and Canada Post can be unreliable at best, so you will definitely be enjoying your Christmas chocolates before Christmas.