Christmas chocolate bars

Karen Martini
Christmas chocolate bars make the ideal gift for someone special.
Christmas chocolate bars make the ideal gift for someone special. Photo: Marcel Aucar

This is a method for tempering chocolate that gives the finished bars a bright gloss and nice snap. The temperatures are important, so you'll want a digital probe thermometer. Make sure no liquid gets in the chocolate while you're tempering it or it will seize. Once you've got the technique, you can mould chocolate into any shape you like. You can use chocolate bar moulds or festive shapes.

Ingredients

600g dark chocolate 65-75 per cent cocoa

Dried fruit, nuts (or anything else you like)

Method

1. Finely chop the chocolate in a food processor and tip into a steel bowl (this helps heat transfer).

2. Using a saucepan that will snugly fit the bowl on top, bring about five centimetres of water to the simmer. Reduce the heat so that the water stays warm but isn't bubbling and place the bowl of chocolate on top. Wait until about 60 per cent of the chocolate has melted before stirring it with a spatula to evenly melt the remainder. The chocolate temperature should be about 50C (don't heat it more than this).

3. Remove the bowl and keep stirring the chocolate until it is smooth and shiny. On a clean bench, pour out two-thirds of the chocolate and set the remaining back over the simmer pot, off the heat, to keep it warm. Using a large palette knife, work the chocolate back and forth over itself continuously until it begins to thicken and the temperature drops to about 26C (it will be quite thick by now and you can pull it together into a pile to check the temperature).

4. Scrape the chocolate off the work surface and return to the bowl with the warm chocolate in it. Stir through until it reaches 30-32C and is smooth and shiny. You will need to briefly warm it over the warm water, but there is no room for error here - it must not go over 32C. Lift the bowl off a couple of degrees before 32C and stir and watch as the temperature continues to rise.

5. Pour the chocolate into moulds, tapping them gently on the bench to knock out any air pockets and top with anything you fancy: pistachios, dried cherries, dried rose petals, macadamia nuts, toasted almonds, gold leaf, dried cranberries, chunks of halva, sesame seeds. Leave to set at room temperature. Don't refrigerate.