Have you ever wondered how a chocolate candy with soft filling is made? How does the gooey caramel or silky curd get inside the chocolate shell? A filled chocolate confection, made well, will look seamless—as if the candy filling got inside the chocolate shell by magic.
Here’s how the magic works.
Filled chocolates are typically made using molds. Once made of metal, molds are now mostly found in plastic. They come in a wide range of quality, from the thin single-use variety to the sturdy polycarbonate kind. Personally, I love the Martellato molds from Italy. They’re a little pricy, but they’re solidly built and will probably last me a lifetime. Before each use, I’ll polish the mold with a soft cotton cloth, paying extra attention to the inside surfaces of each cell. The point is to get rid of whatever water spots may be on the mold since its last wash. Any residue left behind will show up on the finished product.
Melted, tempered chocolate is then poured over the mold, filling each individual cell to the top. Since there’s usually tiny air bubbles within the chocolate, the mold is vibrated vigorously. Vibrating tables made specifically for this purpose will literally shake the bubbles out of a tray of chocolate. Lacking one of these, I just lift the mold tray slightly and bring it down sharply against the countertop a few times. This usually does the trick.
While the chocolate is still runny, the mold is inverted to drain away the chocolate so that only a thin lining remains on the inside of each cell. Excess chocolate is scraped off with a fine-edged utensil. An offset spatula used for icing cakes works well. I like to use a bench scraper because I can get better leverage with it than with an offset spatula. Scraping the surface clean gives the chocolate shell nice sharp edges, which allow the final cap of chocolate to seal neatly. This gives the finished chocolate shell its seamlessness.
Once the chocolate lining has set, soft candy filling is deposited into each cell. I use a pastry bag for this step, but squeezable plastic bottles also do the job. The hard part is getting just the right amount of filling into each cell. Too much and there won’t be enough room to seal off the cell with chocolate. Too little and the layer of chocolate that goes on last will be too thick, making for a chunky heavy shell to have to bite through later on. I aim for a 1/8 inch gap between the top of the filling and the top of the tray. This allows me to cap off each cavity with just the right thickness of chocolate.
Finally, each cavity is sealed with melted, tempered chocolate. This is commonly done by ladling chocolate all over the surface of the tray and allowing it to spill into each cavity. I prefer to pipe chocolate over the tops of the cells one by one with a pastry bag. It’s a lot cleaner this way. I have this intense dislike of getting chocolate all over my hands, which is weird considering I work with the stuff regularly. All I can say is the pastry bag is my best friend. Once each cavity is capped off with chocolate, the excess is once again scraped clean so that every cap of chocolate lies flush with the tray. The tray is then left alone to allow the chocolate to set. This is usually the time when I go do my dishes.
To unmold the confections, the tray is held close above the countertop, chocolate side down. If the chocolate was improperly tempered earlier, the candies will cling to the mold and no amount of tapping, rapping, banging, cursing, or crying will dislodge them. Not in one piece, anyway.
On the other hand, if the chocolate was properly tempered, the individual candies will release from the mold without too much coaxing. This is because tempered chocolate contracts slightly when it sets, causing the chocolate shells to shrink and pull away from the mold. The more stubborn ones might need a sharp tap or two against the back of the tray, but they shouldn’t require much more than this.
Once all the chocolates are unmolded, the last step is a private little victory dance followed by lots of picture taking. Of course, expert chocolatiers probably don’t bother with this step, having pulled off the feat many times in their sleep. For the rest of us, a chocolate that holds candy filling within its glassy but windowless shell will always be a thing of wonder and good reason to celebrate.