From working teapots to intricate lizard sculptures, who knew you could make so many quirky items out of chocolate?
From bars and slabs to truffles and Easter eggs, there are many delicious forms chocolate can take. But did you know that, as well as making tasty chocolate treats, the mighty cacao bean has a few more tricks up its sleeve? From savoury delights to impressive sculptures, here are a few unusual ways chocolatiers have taken their chocolate-making skills to a new level.
How easy is chocolate to mould?
Chocolate is a surprisingly versatile material. However, getting used to its changing textures and keeping an eye on its temperature to get a gloriously glossy, melt-in-the-mouth finish can take some practice. Expert chocolatiers must experiment with their chocolate-making and explore new techniques to come up with innovative new designs and flavour combinations.
To produce any beautiful cocoa creations, tempering is a key part of the chocolate-making journey. Melting chocolate will give you a smooth liquid to work with, but without cooling it to a specific temperature, the results will likely be matte and crumbly. When chocolate melts and sets, the cocoa butter particles change shape and can crystallise. Tempering involves slowly cooling the melted chocolate (usually on a marble block) so that the particles don’t crystallise. Instead, you get a shiny layer of malleable chocolate you can mould, sculpt, or set.
Moulding vs sculpting chocolate
Once the chocolate has been perfectly tempered, it’s time for the chocolatier to flex their creativity.
One traditional way of forming elegant chocolates is to use moulds. Another crucial part of the chocolate-making toolbox, chocolate moulds make it quick and easy to produce consistent designs. Whether for fun seasonal shapes, like our Wooliam the Sheep, or for decadent filled chocolates, brimming with praline or boozy liqueur, moulding chocolate can create intricate details. We like to think our Chocolate Bunnies combine the best of both worlds: cute, characterful little rabbits with a gooey caramel centre.
Most chocolate moulds are made from plastic or silicone to stop the chocolate from sticking to the inside. Tempered chocolate can be piped directly into the moulds then left to set. At Hotel Chocolat, all our moulds — including our 75% Dark Chocolate Old Fossil shape — are hand-designed.
Sculpting is an alternative way of using chocolate to create striking pieces of artwork. Chocolate artists, like our very own Hotel Chocolat Sculptress, Rhona MacFadyen, have the magic touch to build, carve, and shape designs using chocolate as if it were clay. Take a look at Rhona’s incredible ‘Iggy Choc’ sculpture on display at the Rabot 1745 restaurant.
What other unusual forms can chocolate take?
1. Chocolate teapot
You might have heard of the phrase “as useful as a chocolate teapot” to describe something ridiculously useless. After all, boiling water and chocolate are not known to be best friends. Indeed, the fact that chocolate melts at just over body temperature is what gives it such a satisfying texture in the mouth.
Over the years, chocolatiers have used teapot-shaped moulds to create cute looking sculptures. Though they might look great, they probably aren’t too great for brewing up a cuppa, and you’re more likely to end up with a warm chocolate puddle than a refreshing drink.
But did you know that in 2014, chocolatiers in York used a silicone mould to craft a 65% dark chocolate teapot that held hot water long enough to pour a cup of tea! Filling the mould over and over to create a thick shape that wouldn’t melt through seems to have been the trick.
2. Chocolate spoons
Why create extra washing up? Forget scraping hot chocolate powder from the inner crevices of your favourite mug.
Chocolate spoons and stirrers are made from delicious solid chocolate that gently melts as you stir it into a mug of hot, steamed milk. Watch as the chocolate swirls into the cup, leaving behind a creamy, decadent hot drink with no teaspoon to clean.
You can make your own chocolate spoons and add marshmallows, pieces of ginger, or other tasty nibbles. But if you prefer a more classic beverage, you could try the Velvetiser. Simply pour your grated hot chocolate of choice into the machine and let it do the stirring for you. Et voila, insatiably smooth results, and still no extra teaspoons!
3. Chocolate pasta
Who says chocolate is only for those with a sweet tooth? The beauty of cacao is that its rich flavours can enhance all kinds of dishes, including savoury. With its clear yet mellow chocolate notes, Cocoa Powder can add depth to dishes such as chilli con carne and can even add the piece-de-resistance to pasta.
Unsweetened cocoa gives our Chocolate Pasta a delicious moreish flavour that pairs perfectly with a rich tomato sauce. Plus, cocoa is surprisingly full of immune-boosting antioxidants. Why not give it a go next time you fancy adding a twist to your pasta bake?
4. Chocolate sprouts
Whether you’re an avid sprout fan all year round or reluctantly pile a few on your plate at Christmas dinner, why not shake things up with a chocolate alternative? From hollow Santas to solid snowflake lollies, we Brits love bringing a touch of festivity to our chocolate shapes.
And chocolate Brussels sprouts show just how versatile white chocolate can be. You might not be able to tell the chocolate versions from the real leafy greens until you bite through the crisp shell into a decadent truffle centre.
White chocolate’s high cocoa butter content and pale appearance make it ideal for experimenting with eye-catching colours — from bright bursts of violet in our Blueberry and White Chocolate Selector to the gentle pink of the Eton Mess Slab.
5. Chocolate pizza
Sweet disguised as savoury might seem confusing for the taste buds. Still, a novelty pizza-shaped chocolate could, in fact, be the ideal gift for a cocoa-loving takeaway fiend. Chocolate pizzas are simple discs of solid chocolate you can decorate with a variety of candy toppings and shavings of white chocolate ‘cheese’.
6. Chocolate leaves
Looking for a bit of rustic autumn decoration for your cakes or desserts? Gently brushing melted chocolate over washed and dried leaves then leaving it to set can give you stunning results. The chocolate will pick up on the delicate intricacies of the leaves’ natural patterns.
7. Chocolate portraits
For a truly special piece of chocolate artwork, did you know you can make your own chocolate portraits? Whether a photo of your significant other or a cocoa translation of your child’s drawings, you can use melted chocolate to create an edible painting. All you need is a printed image of the design you want to recreate, a piece of baking parchment for tracing, and some high-quality chocolate to melt. Pop the melted chocolate in a piping bag (remembering to temper if you want a crisp, shiny texture) and trace away.
A combination of white, milk, and dark chocolate (try 85% Dark Chocolate for real contrast) will give you the perfect variety of tones to create a portrait with light and shade.
8. Our hand-sketched chocolate shapes
As well as piping more complex chocolate portraits, you can also create fantastic hand-sketched chocolate shapes. They can add the finishing touch to cakes and desserts or use up leftover melted chocolate.
Whether you follow a pattern or go freestyle, making your own chocolate shapes gives you unique and personalised delights.
Who knew the world of chocolate-making was so broad? From the classic slabs we so know and love to experimental sculptures, we can’t wait to see what our talented chocolatiers will add to the Hotel Chocolat collection next.