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Molding Chocolate Figures With Your Antique Metal Chocolate Mold
So you have a wonderful old antique chocolate mold, and you want to use it to make a chocolate treat as a gift for someone special. How do you do it? It’s not hard, but there are a few things you need to know. Let’s start at the beginning and see what you can do.
First, you need to make sure the mold will release the chocolate. What does that really mean? The reason chocolate molds are originally shiny is because the chocolate, when hardened, does not let go of the steel the mold is made from. To get the chocolate to let go, the mold makers coat the steel with other metals, usually tin or nickel. Without getting into a metallurgy discussion, the steel has very tiny pores that grip the chocolate. Tin or nickel does not have these pores and the hard chocolate will let go of the mold. Also, the coating protects the steel in the mold from rusting. To release the chocolate, this shiny coating needs to be intact, or nearly so. How do you tell if the mold will release chocolate? Look at the inside of the mold. If the shiny coating covers the entire interior surface of the mold, it will release just fine. Don’t be concerned about the flanges of the mold—the interior of the figure is what we’re concentrating on. What if there are small areas of the interior that are not shiny any more? If the damaged areas are small in comparison with the size of the mold, they will stick, but the chocolate covering the nearby areas will often pull the chocolate off the damaged areas without trouble. If the damaged areas are too large, the figure will break when you take it out. Try it out to see!
You also need to make sure the mold fits together well enough to hold the melted chocolate until it solidifies. With the mold assembled, look into the interior while holding it up to a light source and you will see light coming through the flanges. These are the places the mold will leak chocolate. No mold will fit perfectly—they all will leak a little. Don’t worry about a slight leak. We’ll talk more about this later. You need to make sure there are no major leakages. If the mold is badly fitting, there may not be anything you can do, and the mold will not work. Often, by using addition clips in the areas lots of light comes through will close the mold enough to prevent major leaks. Again, try it and find out!
Now that you want to try out your mold, you need to make sure it’s clean. You can wash the mold by hand with any dishwashing soap, or you can use the dishwasher. Turn the heat cycle off, so you don’t damage the mold, and place all the pieces on the top rack with the interior down. With either method you absolutely must dry the mold immediately after washing it so it doesn’t rust. ( We use an air compressor, but a blow dryer for hair works great.)
Now that the mold is clean and dry, assemble the mold with the clips. Add additional clips from other molds you have to close the areas you think may cause major leaks. (If you need additional clips for your molds, Dad’s Follies [dadsfollies.com] sells spring-type clips.) For small to medium molds, get a bowl of dried beans, rice, marbles, or similar small hard objects, and jam the mold into the bowl, open side up to hold it inverted as you mold the chocolate. We recommend Rice Krispies instead, but more on that later. Large mold will require a huge bowl and lots of rice, or a specially constructed jig to hold the mold inverted. Either way, we’re now ready to go.
Now to the important part—the chocolate!!! Melting chocolate chips or baking chocolate is not the way to go. This will not work. Your chocolate must be “tempered” in order to mold and release from the mold. Bakers and most chefs know how to temper chocolate. It’s a temperature-specific but fairly simple process that we have actually never done. If you learn how to temper your own chocolate or have access to tempered chocolate, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you must get “molding chocolate,’ sometime called “modeling chocolate.” They are available at craft stores or at some supermarkets around the holidays, and are generally shaped as small disks. Some molding chocolate has an unappealing “waxy” taste, but the best tasting molding chocolate we’ve found is Merckens Chocolate. You can find it on the Internet if you can’t locate it in your area.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler on the stove. Yes, you can use a microwave, but the double boiler is safer and happens slower so you can control the melting. It’s better to have too much melted chocolate than not enough! When the chocolate is melted, pour it into the inverted mold until it’s full, and wait. That’s all there is to it! Once the chocolate mold is cool to the touch, take the mold out of the rice, take the clips off, and GENTLY take the mold parts off the chocolate figure. I didn’t tell you to take the figure out of the mold—taking the mold off the figure will work much better, particularly if there are small damaged areas to the interior shiny surface. Hopefully, the chocolate figure will be perfect. If not, melt the figure again, and try again! (But don’t clean the mold, you’ve just seasoned it for the next try!)
I promised we’d talk about the leaks in the mold again. All mold leak. If the leak is small, the cold metal flanges cool the melted chocolate quickly, sealing the leaks with chocolate. The leaks stop and the figure is good to go, once you trim the excess chocolate. And the reason we recommend Rice Krispies instead of dried beans or rice is because chocolate doesn’t go with beans or rice. If you use Rice Krispies and the chocolate leaks out, you can get a spoon and a glass of milk and reward yourself as you admire your finished chocolate figure! Give it a try and have fun!