As promised, here are the modeling chocolate recipes I am using (from B. Keith Ryder):
6 lb. good quality white chocolate couverture, chopped*
2 2/3 c. light corn syrup
Dark Modeling Chocolate
5 lb. good quality dark chocolate couverture, chopped*
2 2/3 c. light corn syrup
*Do not use chips as they have been formulated differently to retain the chip shape during shipping and storage. I used Ghirardeli chocoalte bars because that’s what they sell at my grocery store.
If you’re like me, you don’t have 6 lbs of chocolate lying around so smaller batches may be helpful:
1 lb. good quality white chocolate couverture, chopped
7 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Small-Batch Dark Modeling Chocolate
1 lb. good quality dark chocolate couverture, chopped
10 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Gently melt the chocolate in a plastic bowl in the microwave, heating for only a few seconds at a time to avoid burning. Stir to melt remaining lumps.
Warm corn syrup so that it’s approximately the same temperature as the chocolate. Pour the corn syrup into the chocolate (Use the high-tech finger test here: stick a finger in the corn syrup and then in the chocolate. If you don’t notice a change in temperature between the two, you’re ready to combine them). With a rubber spatula, stir quickly until the mixture is well-combined. It will thicken considerably as it cools.
Pour mixture onto 2 layers of plastic wrap and wrap it airtight. Let set 1 day at room temperature or a couple of hours in the refrigerator before using.
When you’re ready to use the modeling chocolate, break off a workable amount and knead it in your hands. As the chocolate warms, it will be come malleable and soft. If you cannot knead the chocolate, heat it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
To color the chocolate, you can use many different types of color. If you’d like to use oil-based candy or chocolate coloring, add it to the melted chocolate before the corn syrup is added. If you use powdered color or gel/paste colors, you can knead it in after the chocolate has set up. Liquid colors are not recommended! I have added both paste and powdered colors to my chocolate. The powdered colors are more subtle and will require more powder to be added to reach a vivid shade. The chocolate picks up the colors from the pastes quickly so a little bit of color goes a long way. However, I have found that kneading color into chocolate is much more messy than kneading it into fondant or gum paste. The color does not seem to readily absorb into the chocolate so it gets all over my hands as I knead it. If you don’t like your hands and fingernails to be dyed different colors, consider wearing food-safe gloves.
Working with modeling chocolate is also messier than working with gum paste or fondant. As you work the chocolate, it will get softer and stickier. The rate at which this occurs is dependent on the temperature of your hands. Luckily, I have rather cold hands so that gives me more time to work with my chocolate. If you notice the chocolate has become extremely soft and sticky, set it down and walk away. You can put it in the refrigerator if you’re in a hurry.
Most decorators use shortening, powdered sugar, cornstarch, or a combination of all of those to keep fondant and gum paste from sticking to their hands. With chocolate, the best thing to use is water! When water touches chocolate, it seizes so that’s the perfect thing to use when you don’t want the chocolate sticking to your hands!
One of my favorite things about working with modeling chocolate is that you can blend all seams! When I make figures, I first shape the body & legs, then add shoes/feet, arms, the head, etc. Because everything is added in steps, you’d have lots of little seams if you were using fondant or gum paste. Sure, you can work these seams out, but that takes a lot of time (for me, at least). With modeling chocolate, just use the back of your dresden tool (definitely the #1 modeling chocolate tool) to blend the seams! It’s so easy!
Another thing I love about modeling chocolate is its strength! If you’ve ever created a gum paste figure, you know you can’t make the whole body at one time. The figure sags under all that weight. In the past, I have had to make the legs and let them dry, then add the torso and let it dry, and then add the head! That’s a lot of waiting, and I just don’t have the time! Modeling chocolate will set up hard in a matter of a few minutes so you can continue building. In fact, by the time you’ve cleaned your seams and perfected the body form, it’s firm enough for you to add other details like arms, hands, etc. And, there are no internal supports required for small figures! No need to stick toothpicks or dowels down the middle of the body to hold it up – the chocolate can stand on its on. Of course, if I were doing a large figure, I would definitely use a strong support system.
Your chocolate figures will be stable for weeks, months, and perhaps even years if stored properly. Mike McCarey recommends wrapping the chocolate in plastic wrap, then putting it in a zip-top bag, and storing it in the refrigerator. The chocolate can become weakened with moisture in the air so this is particularly important if you live in a humid environment. Having said that, I live in Florida. I made this chocolate rat 1 week before the cake was due and it sat on the countertop all week with no problem. For longer storage, I definitely would have taken the precautions Mike reccommends.
So what else can you do with modeling chocolate besides figures? Oh, where do I begin?! Here are some fun things Mike showed us in his ICES 2009 demo:
Ok, let’s take this piece by piece: On the bottom right is an example of marbelizing that you can do with modeling chocolate. It works the same as fondant or gum paste – and isn’t it pretty? On the top right is a piece Mike embossed with a hyroglyphics pattern (pattern is seen on the bottom left) and then painted with brown food coloring. The coloring seeps into the lines of the pattern and you can leave it like it is, or gently wipe away the brown on top of the pattern – either way is impressive! This would also be fabulous for a brick design! On the top of the picture is a green piece of scrapbooking paper that looks like reptile skin. Mike gently pressed this into the white modeling chocolate on the top of the picture. I know it’s hard to see, but trust me that it looked really nice! The last 2 pieces to talk about are the blue and green thing with purple dots and the white thing with green leaves. On both of those, Mike cut pieces of colored modeling chocolate and laid them on top of the sheet of rolled-out modeling chocolate. Then, he rolled them together. The pieces laying on top seemlessly press into the rolled-out sheet and you can’t even tell that they were 2 pieces to begin with!
This is a dragon Mike made out of modeling chocolate. Notice the water splashes (also modeling chocolate) coming up around the dragon body. Modeling chocolate stands upright immediately! No need to support it with tissue paper or other strange objects like we’re used to doing with fondant and gum paste! The bottom blue border is a collar that sits about 1 inch away from the base of the cake. Yes, it’s standing upright all by iteslf. What you can’t see is that there is a 1-inch strip of modeling chocolate laying around the base of the cake that this collar is attached to.
Many of us are accustomed to putting fondant ribbons around the base of a cake tier. We roll the fondant to an even thickness, trim the ribbon so that it is of even width all the way down, and then gently attach it to the cake. More often the not, the ribbon stretches (and changes shape) when we try to transfer it to the cake. What a pain! Modeling chocoolate will solve that! Just roll the modeling chocolate and thin it like before. However, when you life the modeling chocolate, it will not stretch! Just dab a little water on the back of the ribbon, and it will stick to the cake with no problem!
So, as you can see, modeling chocolate is my new love. I’m thrilled to find a medium with so much versatility! I hope you try it out for yourself – after all, isn’t that the best way to learn something new?!