Aspirations to become a chocolatier? Here’s what you’ll need to make some of your favourite chocolates at home.
At Hotel Chocolat, we’re so proud of our talented chocolatiers and the innovative creations they come up with for our chocolate collection.
Whilst crafting these delectable chocolates takes creativity, it also requires a few special tools. Let’s take a peek inside their toolbox to see what each piece of chocolatier’s equipment does. You can also check out our Behind the Scenes video to see our chocolatiers in action.
The first indispensable piece of chocolatier’s equipment is the palette knife. The flat, rounded blade helps the chocolatier smooth out melted chocolate onto a flat surface (usually marble) to cool it to the optimum temperature.
Known as ‘tempering,’ this process is critical for getting silky-smooth results. If incorrectly managed, the cocoa butter can crystalise unevenly, causing the chocolate to appear matte and develop white ‘chocolate bloom’ patches. Crystallisation can also lead to a granular texture and chocolate that crumbles rather than offering a satisfying snap.
You may notice that our Chocolate Selectors have shiny outer shells that break neatly to reveal contrasting centres. If it wasn’t for tempering, these treats wouldn’t be half so crisp and glossy.
A spatula is a handy tool in most culinary practices. When it comes to chocolate-making, it’s the go-to instrument for stirring deliciously thick melted chocolate. Silicone spatulas not only help the chocolatier stir and smooth the melted chocolate for tempering, but they are also easy to clean.
Once tempered, it’s time to pour the glorious chocolate mixture into moulds. A firm tap ensures any air bubbles in the chocolate disperse for the smoothest tasting experience.
From classic squares to intricate patterns and designs, there’s a chocolate mould for every occasion. Plastic and silicone moulds are the most popular as they’re easy to clean with a dry cloth. Keeping water at bay is a must for chocolate mould care — even a hint of water can affect the way chocolate sets.
Our chocolatiers use the signature Hotel Chocolat slab mould to create an array of subtle yet distinctive chocolate selectors. From the intensely satisfying 85% Dark Chocolate Slab Selector to the generously-garnished Cookies and Cream Chocolate Selector, we’d like to think a cocoa connoisseur can spot our slabs a mile off.
Piping bags and nozzles
Filling chocolate moulds with a spoon can get a little messy. A piping bag with a nozzle is a piece of chocolatier’s equipment that gives the chocolatier more control over where the melted mixture flows. They’re also ideal for hand drawing designs and adding fine details to all kinds of chocolate desserts.
The chocolatier can load up a regular icing bag with melted chocolate and gently squeeze to pipe the mixture into moulds or directly onto confectionery.
A piece of baking parchment shaped into a ‘cornet’ also serves brilliantly as a piping bag for making delicious chocolate shapes at home.
The thermometer goes hand-in-hand with the palette knife in the chocolatier’s equipment arsenal. As you can see, temperature accuracy is crucial when tempering chocolate.
As the chocolatier works the melted chocolate on the cooling surface, they’ll use a digital thermometer to check the temperature regularly. If the chocolate is too hot, they’ll continue tempering until it reaches the desired degree.
The ideal temperatures vary depending on the chocolate type. Dark chocolate, for example, should reach 28-29°C; milk chocolate is best heated and cooled to 27-28°C; and for best results with white chocolate, chocolatiers cool to 26-27°C.
Imagine a box of decadent truffles enrobed in a crisp shell of shining chocolate. How does a chocolatier get these round treats so evenly coated? Well, often, they use a dipping spiral.
Dipping wands have a spiral-shaped platform perfectly sized for a truffle to nestle upon. The chocolatier lowers the spiral into a pool of rich melted chocolate until the truffle is covered all over. The spiral shape not only allows the chocolate to cover the entirety of the round confectionery, but also means any excess chocolate can drip off.
Another handy piece of chocolatier’s equipment is a two-pronged fork which is great for dipping square chocolates and deliciously crunchy Luxury Biscuits.
A whisk is the perfect tool for creating velvety melt-in-the-mouth ganache. When chocolate and cream are whipped together, they form an irresistible texture ideal for topping cakes and filling truffles. A whisk helps the fat particles from the cream disperse evenly through the chocolate.
Some ganache recipes also include egg whites — a whisk ensures the ultimate light and fluffy finish.
Pestle and mortar
A pestle and mortar can come in handy for crushing nuts and other tasty chocolate toppings.
However, the dynamic duo is also perfect in the bean to bar transformation — for grinding hard cocoa beans into pure chocolate. Cocoa beans from different plantations (such as our Rabot Estate) and locations yield different flavours.
You’ll need a warmed pestle and mortar and a fair bit of arm power for this. It takes over half an hour of grinding before the beans release the aromatic cocoa butter.
After a while, the bowl will be filled with deliciously intense 100% chocolate — the perfect starting point for endless chocolate creations.
Not all chocolatiers are involved in the chocolate-making process, but our Hotel Chocolat team are proud to work collaboratively in the Inventing Room to produce new delights to add to our chocolate collection.