Making Chocolate Candy

(I was disappointed because I wasn’t going to get this post up until after Valentine’s Day, but then I thought that this would still be helpful since Easter is not too far off:-).)

When I was in middle school we used to make chocolate candy using plastic molds all the time. As a matter of fact, I remember there was an entire store in our little mall that was devoted to chocolate candy making. They had walls full of the plastic molds and bins full of the chocolate wafers. We made little chocolate treats for all the holidays and my mom would pack them up in cute little paper boxes for presents.

Then we stopped. I guess the chocolate molding phase ended. Was it a phase like cupcakes or french macarons have been all the rage the past few years? I’m not sure, but I do know that my mom’s molds got tucked away somewhere. We were talking about it the other day and she was going to see if she could find them.

Fast forward 20 some years (okay, maybe a few more) and my daughters and I are walking through AC Moore buying felt to make some little pillows. We walk past the section with all the chocolate wafers and I thought (out loud) – “Let’s make chocolate!!!” The girls looked at me like I was crazy, but as I started scooping up bags of what they could clearly see was chocolate they just went along with this fun little adventure. I mean, when would my children ever question me for buying them candy?

So, to start this post out, let’s talk about chocolate. Here are the two main things that are important to remember when you start working with chocolate.

  • Chocolate and water are not a good match (chocolate is oil based.)
  • Too much heat is not chocolate’s friend, either. Chocolate melts at about 98 degrees (which is why it melts in your hands) – therefore you don’t want to over heat your chocolate.


Candy Lollipop

Since this was our first time molding chocolate we kept it simple. We did a bit of painting with a different color, but for the most part we used milk chocolate wafers.  (See if you can make out the closing in her letter…can we say sibling rivalry??)

This is what we bought:

  • 3 bags of wafers 1 lb each. (2 milk chocolate and one vanilla/pink)
  • 3 different chocolate molds – hearts/lollipops, bite sized assorted molds, dogs and cats/lollipops
  • 1 package of lollipop sticks
  • 1 package of clear bags
  • 2 spools of ribbon
  • 2 squeeze bottles (you can find this in the chocolate making section)

Now here is what to do with everything you just bought!

  1. To start out, fill 1 of the squeeze bottles about 2/3 full with wafers. Heat this with the cap off the bottle for about 2 minutes in the microwave @ 50 percent power (DO NOT HEAT AT FULL POWER OR YOU RISK BURNING YOUR CHOCOLATE.) Give it a good stir and then give it another 1 minute and another good stir. Repeat this process until your chocolate is nice and smooth and all the wafers are completely melted. Place the cap on the squeeze bottle and give it a good squeeze to get the chocolate flowing. I found that it helped to have a toothpick to keep the opening clear on the cap.
  2. Now, pick a mold that you want to use and make your desired outlines on the mold. You can see in my heart lollipops that we traced the eyes and smile. I found that you will want to give it a nice thick line or the outline will look transparent. Do this at a good pace and then put the mold in the freezer for about 30 seconds.
  3. Next take some of your milk chocolate (Or whatever chocolate you are using to fill up your molds) and place it in a microwave safe bowl. Follow the same procedure for melting the chocolate as you did with the squeeze bottle, but start out with 3 minutes @ 50 percent power. Then give it a good stir and then heat it in one minute increments until fully melted, stirring in between.
  4. Use a spoon to carefully fill the molds to the top. I used the tip of the spoon to evenly distribute the chocolate making sure that it gets filled in everywhere. Once all the molds are filled, give a gentle tap on the table to get rid of any air pockets. Place the mold in the freezer and give it 5-10 minutes to set (depending on how large your mold is.)NOTE: If you are using sticks for lollipops, roll them in the chocolate so the backs are coated. This will help the chocolate to adhere nicely to the stick.
  5. When the molds are completely set (it really won’t take very long) gently tap them on the table upside down and they should come right out.
  6. Place chocolate in plastic bags and secure with your choice of ribbon.


Just a couple more notes that I thought would be helpful to share…

  • Some people use a double boiler to melt the chocolate (I think that is how my mom did it.) I like the idea of melting it in the microwave because it was just easier and I wanted to make sure no water got close to my chocolate. Plus, my girls are learning to use the microwave so they could help a bit easier.
  • The squeeze bottle seemed to be the best option for getting good lines while we were decorating, but I kept running into an issue with the chocolate hardening in the cap. We also used a paintbrush and a toothpick with some success. While all three methods worked, I am not sold on one now as the best option. We will keep experimenting and if I find a better way to apply the color I will let you know.
  • We just used the chocolate that they sell in the bags at AC Moore. Quality-wise I think it’s pretty good. It would be fun, however, to buy some higher quality chocolate – maybe for Easter I will look for something else.
  • My mom would sometimes add extracts to the chocolate (mint mainly) or fill the chocolate with a filling (peanut butter, maybe?) That is also something I might try at Easter and if I do I will write another post with that update.
  • The freezer is the best method for cooling/setting your chocolate. The quick freeze helps to set your chocolate better in the mold and gives it a shiny appearance.
  • This is really a pretty easy activity and although I was most productive doing it by myself, my girls really enjoyed helping me out. It is definitely something that they can manage. As a matter of fact, one day when I was upstairs working, Ella made three lollipops for some of her friends. She even wrapped them with the ribbons! I was a bit nervous about the microwave, but she even remembered to use the power @ 50 percent. Not bad for an 8-year-old!

Enjoy!

Country Momma Cooks

Healthy things my kids love – homemade applesauce and Camelbaks

When there are healthy things that my girls really love, I tend to love them too.  Applesauce is something that my mother always made us growing up and now she makes it for the grandkids.  If you have never had homemade applesauce you are really missing out.  It’s nothing like the stuff you buy in a jar at the store.  Nothing.   It’s also easy peasy to make – which is why I love it even more.  The most tedious part of making it is running it through the food mill (or a strainer if you don’t have a food mill.)  Still, that’s not even very hard.

Here is another great secret about making applesauce.  Does your grocery store have marked down produce sitting off by it’s lonesome in shame in a dark corner?  Do you ever look at it?  Sometimes I’m like – Huh?  It usually looks perfectly good to me – and it usually is still fine.  It might not be at it’s peak, but if you slow cook it, roast it or grill it, very often you will never know the difference – cross my heart. Plus, it’s usually at least half the price of the regular priced fruit and veggies… So, when I want to make applesauce I head straight for this rack and grab several of the packs of fruit.  I will usually get more than just apples, too.  I am pretty sure you can  throw in any fruit that you can get your hands on.   The sauce in the picture actually has bananas (that were a bit overripe), pears and a peach.  The pear might give it a hint of grittiness, but the banana makes it a bit creamy. You could also add strawberries or even some mango – yum.

Another thing that my kids love are their Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E.’s  We like to go on hikes and ride bikes and we find that if we  keep the kids hydrated and fed throughout the trip they can pretty much keep up.  Jim always carries his own Camelbak and they love drinking out of it.  So, as they got a bit older we decided we would get them each their own.   It was actually a great present for Grammy and Grandpa to get them for the holidays.

Now when we go on hikes or bike rides they can get a drink when they would like and it’s easy for them to grab their own little snack.  They feel like explorers with them strapped to their backs and they each have their own cool colors (pink for Taylor and blue for Ella.)  They are a lot smaller than a regular backpack so you can’t store tons of stuff in it, but things like a snack, sunglasses and maybe a hat can all fit in there perfectly fine.  Plus, as most Camelbak products, they are made really well.  Now our hikes and rides last a lot longer and are much happier:-)

This is my oldest daughter, Ella with her Camelback.  We are at Duke Gardens and this is my birthday weekend.  I always choose to go here for my birthday:-)  It’s one of my favorite places.  Oh, by the way, don’t you love Ella’s color blocking??

So, back to this applesauce.  I should also tell you there is no need to add any sugar to it.  I might add some cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, but other than that, its pure fruit.  If you have never made it at home – I urge you to try it.  Honestly, it just couldn’t be  easier to make and your kids will eat it like ice cream – I promise!

Crock-pot Applesauce

6-8 Apples – any variety you have

Cut and core the apples, leaving the skin on and throw into the Crock-pot

Add any additional fruits you want to try (pears, banana, peaches), but I usually have at least 50 percent apples

Cook on low for 6 hours

Let cool and run through a food mill or a mesh strainer to get rid of the skins.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice to taste.

Enjoy!

Note- the opinions on the Camelbak’s are my own.  This is not a sponsored or paid post by the maker’s of Camelbak.