Since my off work acquaintances get all the test product I make up (there is a limit to how much I can eat) sometimes I want to make up something totally different, this past Christmas was one of those occasions. These acquaintances are used to some really different things, stuffed berries, chocolate covered gummy worms, things totally out of season like Berries for Valentines pictures in October. This year I wanted to do a 3-d mold…
Work and play are done totally separate, I did this at my house, without any of the special equipment/machines at work , if I did it, so can you.
Professional molds are really expensive, they are meant to be used thousands of times, are really heavy duty and way more than I needed for this project. Hobby level molds are made from the same plastic as soda bottles, they are cheap, lightweight and readily available. I wanted to make a hollow 3-d Christmas tree and found a mold for under $4.
Where to get molds?
There are lots of places that deal with hobby level molds, two companies that I’ve dealt with are Candy land Crafts (https://www.candylandcrafts.com/) and Country Kitchen Sweetart, (http://www.countrykitchensa.com/), both have a wide selection of molds and sell real chocolate to the public at less than you’d pay at Whole Foods.
Some molds are made for 3d use, they are indexed so the two pieces line up with little bumps, the discount mold I chose was not indexed. It was one sheet of plastic that had both halves of the tree.
I had to cut the sheet and some of the extra plastic so I could clip the two halves together. All I used was a good set of scissors. The mold is clear at this point (pictures would be fuzzy), but you are going to want to leave enough flat area around both halves to use to clip/clamp them togeather. The excess on both sides do not have to be exactly the same size, but they should be close.
Test the fit of the two pieces, make sure you can clip them together, since the mold is not indexed you can mark it with a sharpie, knife or hole punch.
Get your chocolate or coating ready, if you need to know how to temper chocolate we tell you how here (Tempering Chocolate).
If you wanted to paint or highlight your mold now is the time, with some of the trees I wiped some green coating into the mold for highlighting (you see that in the pictures later).
Filling the mold
Of course different moulds require different fill amounts, in this case it worked best when one side was filled to about 75% to 80% full, then the molds were clipped together .
Once the molds are firmly clipped together you are going to want to rotate it around all axis and corners of the mold to spread the chocolate. The pros have machines to do this, they spin and rotate the mold at the same time, that gets the chocolate evenly spread out. (you can also pre-paint the inside of the mold to prevent bubbles). If you do see a big bubble you might be able to get it out by tapping the mold on a counter top.
Once you have the mold fully coated you still need to rotate it as it cools or all the still liquid chocolate will pool on one side, eventually you can do slower rotations, leaning it up against something solid when it has to stand on edge. I wanted to be able to cut through the bottom so I made sure not to overdo the number of times I rotated in that direction.
After 10 or 20 minutes the chocolate has started to set up and you can put it in the fridge to speed things along and shrink a bit (chocolate shrinks just a tiny bit when it hardens, otherwise getting things out of molds would be rough).
Unlike Jello molds you do not want to use hot water to make it release, use more cold instead, if your chocolate was not in temper it’s going to be rough and you might need to put it in the freezer for a bit.
Hint: if you get one side free put it back in place and turn it all upside down, that way you don’t end up handling the chocolate directly, it it’s still sticking you can put a little pressure in the center of the mold.
Hint #2: If you can’t get the two halves to separate you can slide a knife between the two pieces.. you don’t need to cut.. just use it for leverage, you may need to do it in several places.. no need to rush. The lightweight molds will flex if needed.
As I said before I wanted this to be hollow so I could fill it with something, the more you handle the piece the greater the chance something will go wrong. So I placed the tree upside down in a coffee cup.
Then I use a steak knife to cut a hole in the bottom.. slow pressure works. Once you have the hole cut you can shake it to get the piece out.
I wanted to fill it with tiny Jelly Beans, so I put them in a zip lock bag and cut the corner of the bag. I left it in the coffee cup to make it easier. (Hint: remember to seal the top of the bag or they will all roll out when you put the bag down)
Now the tree is filled but it still has a hole in the bottom. To fix this I put come red confectioners coating in a zip lock bag and melting it, (Hint: re-seal the zip lock bag after the melting, they have a nasty habit of opening). Once it’s melted I tore off a piece of wax paper larger than the base of the tree. Since I wanted the red to show when the tree was standing, and I wanted it to stand straight, I piped the red around the bottom base and put more red on the wax paper ( a spot larger than the whole in the bottom of the tree ). I then placed the wax paper against the bottom of the tree. You will need to work fast, as it can set up quickly.
You can then place the whole thing right side up on your work surface to create a level bottom. I was going to drizzle and decorate the tree so I just placed it in the bowl I had prepped for that.
Big hint: a big sheet of wax paper (bigger than the bowl) will keep the decorations from bouncing/ rolling away.
Re-heat the confectioners coating if needed. You’ll need to work quickly if the coating is setting up fast.
I tried both mimicking the path of Christmas lights and vertical lines, it really didn’t make much difference.. but you need to work very fast (If you want it perfect: work in sections, I was after speed since I had to make a bunch of them). After the red is in place I used some candy coated mini chips to simulate the lights. I just sprinkled them over the sides from the top and just knocked them off if there got to be too many in one place.
The same methods used here can be used on any 3D mold, (like a Rabbit for Easter.. or Turkeys for Thanksgiving).
If I did it, you can to.