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For Valentine's Day this year, I won't be handing my money over to Hallmark or Hershey's or even Jacques Torres. Instead, I've invested in a gift for myself that will keep on giving to others for years to come: an acrylic bonbon mold and some high-quality, couverture dark chocolate. With these items, I can create chocolate bonbons custom-made to suit my sweetheart's (or my own) tastes.
The great thing about making your own bonbons is that, with a little practice, you can get a finished product that looks absolutely stunning. Properly tempered chocolate, poured into a prepared mold will always yield pieces that are smooth and shiny, like the ones in the glass cases at chocolate shops. But unlike at a chocolate shop, when you make your own bonbons, you have complete control of the flavors and textures within.
Which brings me to the fun part; when you dream in bonbon fillings, the only limit is your own imagination. You can choose buttercream flavored any way you'd like. Or white, milk, or dark chocolate ganache made with cream that's been steeped in herbs, spices, or zest. Nougat, marshmallow, jam... the mind boggles with all the possibilities. My personal favorite is caramel, which can be flavored in a variety of ways (vanilla bean, salt, zest, extracts) and runs a little bit when you bite into it. You can add a little chunk of something as well: a sprinkle of sea salt, a nut, or a bit if candied peel or crispy rice.
When making bonbons, be sure to:
- Use couverture chocolate, which contains a higher quantity of cocoa butter, and gives molded chocolate a great shine and snap
- Temper the chocolate properly to avoid getting streaky white marks on the bonbons
- Gently warm the molds before pouring the chocolate to avoid having cracks or air pockets on the bonbons
- Always store chocolate in a cool dry place
- Getting even a drop of water in the chocolate you are tempering.
- Piping the filling to the top of the bonbon shells; it will make them difficult to seal.
- Leaving the molds in the fridge for more than a few minutes at a time.
Nothing says love like custom candy, made with love. For more details, click through the slideshow to learn how to make bonbons for your sweetheart... or yourself.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthalhas logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.