How to make your own hand dipped chocolates

By Nancy Leek and adapted by Jean Leek Ping.

Here you will find directions for making and dipping your own chocolates--a skill that very few people possess. I learned it from my mother, who has been dipping chocolates every winter for over 20 years, and who wrote these instructions.

It takes a really long time to get good at this; I did it for years before I really got happy with the appearance of my chocolates as compared with my mom's. But if you're willing to invest the time and energy, I guarantee that everyone will be really impressed and will not even realize that you think the candy isn't perfect. You will probably be the only person in town who knows how to do this. Candy makes great holiday gifts for almost everyone you know; hardly anyone is unhappy to get a box of hand-dipped chocolates!

Making the candy

Cream fondant
1 cup whipping creamCandy thermometer
½ cup milkHeavy copper or aluminum pan
¼ - 1/3 cup white Karo syrup
4 ½ cups white sugar
¼ tsp. Salt(1/2 to 1 cup marshmallow cream)

Water fondant-best for peppermints
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup white Karo
½ cube butter or margarine (1/4 cup)
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. Salt
4 cups white sugar

First, make sure your candy thermometer is accurate by testing it in a pan of boiling water. It should register 212 degrees. If it is a few degrees off, adjust the recipe accordingly. For example, if it boils at 210, subtract two degrees from the temperature to which you cook the candy.

Place the liquids in a heavy 46 quart pan, then add the sugar, stirring cook to a softball stage (236 -- 238 degrees Fahrenheit). The more rapidly you cook it, the whiter the fondant will be. You may stir the candy while is cooking, but do not stir it when it stops cooking and do not scrape out the pan when you pour out the candy. Pour the candy into a large flat glass or aluminum pan and set to cool in the freezer or refrigerator. Take it out when it feels lukewarm on the bottom. If you let cool too much it will be hard to stir. If it gets too cold reheat it slightly in a warm oven.

When it is ready to stir you may add the marshmallow cream (optional). Marshmallow cream is not necessary, but it makes the candy lighter. Stir the fondant slowly with a wooden or metal spoon or paddle, scraping the sides and turning the candy over. I prefer to add flavoring and any color at this stage, but my mom does it later on (see below). It will take 20-40 minutes to set up. Just keep stirring. (It helps if you know someone with a strong arm who wants the job.) When the candy crystallizes it will lose its gloss and hold its shape.

Turn it on to a clean table or tray. Butter your hands and knead the candy. Add flavoring. You may wish to divide it into two or three portions and flavor each differently before shaping the centers. Try vanilla, peppermint, orange, raspberry, or pineapple. You can also add nuts or coconut. Roll the fondant into small balls or shape into patties with your buttered hands. Place the centers on trays covered with waxed paper.
You will want to use real butter and the best ingredients you can to make the candy. The better the ingredients, the better the candy.

To flavor the candy, it's best to use flavoring oils. Just a couple of drops is fine; get someone else to help you test taste the candy to see if it's strong enough. The flavors will get up your nose and you won't be able to judge it properly at all. For raspberry and orange centers, you can add a little bit of food coloring to give it a slight pink or peach color.

1 ½ pounds of chocolate
½ stick of butter (1/4 cup)
2/3 cup evaporated milk

Melt these together in a glass casserole dish or bowl in the oven on the "warm" setting, as low as you can get it. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat, divide into 2-4 portions, and add flavoring -1/2 tsp. vanilla, or a few drops of mint, orange or raspberry. Stir thoroughly and cool in a foil line pan in the refrigerator until ready to cut and dip. Nuts may be added. Cut into small squares for dipping.

English toffee

Take a piece of aluminum foil and make a foil pan about 5"x8" by bending the sides and shaping the corners. Have this ready to pour the candy into. Cook the candy in a heavy cooking pan, or small iron frying pan. Teflon pans work well.

1 cube (1/2 cup) butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. Water
1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts

Place the ingredients in the pan and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until candy foams, thickens, and turns tan. It will be done when it turns the color of a tan paper sack and starts to smoke. It will also get thinner. Add chopped nuts. Pour immediately into foil pan. Before it cools, mark it into squares. Allow to cool thoroughly, and then break into pieces and dip.

Some popular flavors and centers

Cherry cordials: Maraschino cherries, drained and dried, and wrapped with a layer of fondant, flavored with almond or rum flavoring. You may want to roll these in powdered sugar or put them in the freezer before dipping them; they get very squishy.  You should dip them as soon as you can, and make sure the room is cold and dry.  Wait a few days; the fondant will liquefy from the cherry juice, and presto! Everyone wonders how you did it.

Peppermint patties: cream or water fondant flavored with oil of peppermint. Water fondant seems to work best.

Coconut: add coconut to fondant that is flavored with coconut or vanilla flavoring. I have also heard of lemon flavored coconut candy--I think they're called "receptions."

Orange or raspberry soft centers: fondant flavored with oil of orange or raspberry. Experiment with other flavors.

Vanilla nut: mix coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans to fondant flavored with vanilla or black walnut.

Caramels: make or buy caramels and dip. Add nuts if you like. A pecan on top is good.

Almonds: dip almonds in clusters of three or four.

Marshmallows: same as almonds. You may also mix the two together for Rocky Road.

Dipping the candy

What you will need for dipping:
Electric frying pan (plugged in but not turned on)
glass casserole dish (to melt chocolate in)
trays or cookie sheets
waxed paper
a cool room
paper bon-bon cups to place candies in
Be sure to arrange the frying pan in a comfortable height for working. You may need to raise it on a box.

First, a few words about chocolate. For the best results, use fine quality pure dipping chocolate. This can be harder to obtain, but it is worth the trouble. I don't care for the kind of chocolate coating usually sold for candy making, and I don't know how to use it. The flavor isn't as good. You can also try using baking chocolate or chocolate chips.

The brand of chocolate I use is called Guittard's. It is sold in 10 pound bars and costs around three dollars a pound. The milk chocolate is called " Old Dutch Milk" and the dark is called "French Vanilla." I mix the two half in half for my coating. You may prefer more milk chocolate in the mix, but pure milk chocolate is too bland and needs some dark to give it strength and distinction. Chocolate may be stored in a cool dry place for several months. Or it can be broken up, wrapped in foil and plastic, and frozen. Just be sure to let it thaw thoroughly before on wrapping and using. If it is not thawed then water will condense on it, and water will ruin the quality of the chocolate. Now, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat, or in the oven in a glass casserole dish at the lowest temperature setting (about 150 degrees). Do not let it get too hot and do not let any water get in it. If it gets too hot, it will feel grainy. Break up the chocolate into small pieces to melt. Use a hammer. Remove from heat while it is still lumpy and stir until smooth. Do not melt in microwave oven.

You must do your dipping in a cool room, about 60 degrees is right. Turn off the heat, open the back door, and let the room cool off. Late evening is always a good time to dip candy. I dip my chocolates in an old electric frying pan. Plug in the pan but do not turn it on. You will be adding chocolate to the pan to dip the candy, and whenever it gets too stiff if you can turn on the pan for a few seconds to warm the chocolate up slightly. Set up your work table with the pan in the middle, centers to dip on one trays to one side and empty trays covered with waxed paper on the other.

Place about one cup of melted chocolate in the frying pan with the heat off. Stir it with your right hand until it is cool and almost ready to set up (unless you're left-handed). Keep your left hand clean and out of the chocolate. Try to keep your right hand reasonably chocolate free; just put in your fingertips.  You don't want it all over your hand. You can test to see if the chocolate is ready by placing a fingerful on waxed paper. If it doesn't set up in a minute or so, keep stirring and cooling. This may take quite awhile but it is important to have it the right temperature. If it is not, the chocolate will slide off the center, and it will have a dull instead of a glossy finish.

Now you're ready to dip. Take a center in your clean left-hand, and drop it in the chocolate. Turn and coat it with your right hand. Pick it up, letting the excess chocolate drip off. Place the candy on waxed paper to harden. You can try to make a swirl or dot or other design on top identify different centers. Sprinkling chocolate jimmies or chopped nuts on top is good too.

Once the chocolates have set up and you're done for the evening, pick up the candies and do a little patching on the ones that spring leaks; this is especially important for cherries.

What I'm through with centers I usually dip some almond or marshmallows. The latter are good for cleaning up the last of the chocolate out of the pan. At the very end, you can also pour a lot of rice crispies into the pan to make a big lump of crispy chocolate. If you're going to dip for more than one evening you don't have to clean the pan still you're all done. Just re-melt the chocolate every night.

You can pack the candies, in bon-bon cups, into flat plastic bins or department-store shirt boxes with waxed paper. You can put two layers of candy in each box. Then store the boxes in the closet or under the bed -- somewhere nice and cool. When you pack the candy into small boxes to give away, a nice sticker or seal will look nice.

Don't worry about candies that don't come out perfectly. Experiment. Your family and friends will be happy to take care of any "failures" or "mistakes."

Where to get supplies

Guittard's chocolate cannot be bought retail from the manufacturer. You will have to look for someone who is willing to supply it to you--call local candy shops and ask! It doesn't have to be Guittard's; there are other good chocolates.  $3 a pound is currently about the best price you can get.

Flavoring oils, bon-bon cups, and candy boxes can be bought from candy suppliers, usually by mail order unless you live in a big city.  We currently order from Sugarcraft. Visit their website and see what you like. Be sure to get small and larger cups; the big ones are good for cherries and toffee. Get quarter pound, half pound, and pound boxes for the candy, and hand them out to your friends!


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