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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Simple Christmas Gift: Chocolates!




I've been sharing a lot lately about clutter-free gifts and today I'm talking about a long-standing tradition in our family... chocolates!

These are easy to make and everyone loves them!  We give them to neighbours, friends, and family every year. 

I initially made these with my parents when I lived at home, and I've made them every year since then {which totals up to over 30 years of making these chocolates!}. 

To make these chocolates, you need to wafers like these.


They also come in milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and coloured chocolate.  We also usually buy some red and green for Christmas chocolates. 

You also need plastic molds like these, these, or these.  I still have a few molds from back when I made these chocolates with my parents.  They are very durable, especially since we only use them once a year.  I've also expanded our collection of chocolate molds through the years and added sucker molds (the kids love those!).




Here's how you make these chocolates:

1.  Melt the chocolate wafers.  We do it in the microwave on 50% power and stir every minute (or 30 seconds when the wafers are nearly melted).  You can also do it in a double boiler, but I find the microwave easier.  The last couple of years my son has been in charge of the melting.  He loves it because he doesn't usually use the microwave.  He is very careful to stop the microwave every minute to stir so the chocolate doesn't burn.  



2.  Pour the melted chocolate into the molds.  You can use a spoon if you don't have a lot of chocolate.  Or you can use a chocolate funnel like this one if you have a lot.  I use a spoon for the coloured chocolates and use the funnel for the milk chocolate and sometimes the white chocolate or dark chocolate since I do a lot of those.

3.  Tap the tray a bit to get any bubbles out of the chocolate and to level the surface of the chocolate.  My daughter's been helping with this part the last few years.  She also helps move the molds around, depending on what colour I'm pouring.  She likes to make all the Santa's with red, Christmas trees with green, snowmen with white, etc.




4.  When you've filled your tray, put it in the freezer for a few minutes to harden the chocolate.  It can be done in the fridge too - it just takes a little longer.  The chocolate also hardens just sitting at room temperature, but it doesn't come out of the molds as easy and the finish is often less shiny.  

5.  Take the molds out of the freezer and tap them upside down on waxed paper.  Be careful not to touch the chocolates with warm fingers because they will melt a bit.  I try to touch them as little as possible to keep the finish nice and shiny.  

And that's it!





You can make these chocolates any time during the holiday season because they keep well.  I often try to make them several weeks ahead so I can focus our time closer to Christmas on the last-minute baking or food preparation {didn't happen this year because the kids have been sick and I didn't want to infect the people we gave our chocolates to!}.

It's best to keep these at room temperature or in a slightly cool place.  You don't want them to melt, or get too cold (the chocolate can turn a bit white if it's cold).

We put the chocolate suckers in treat bags and tie them up with seasonal curling ribbon.  Then we give them to their cousins as stocking stuffers or attach them to their gifts instead of a bow.

Here's my daughter (last year) tying up the bags.  {Yep that's chocolate smeared on her face and sleeve!}




We also attach suckers to Christmas cards and give them to kids in our neighbourhood.





We often make "turtles" with milk chocolate and chopped pecans (or walnuts).




I haven't figured out how to incorporate the caramel, so they're not as good as the actual ones, but they're pretty cute :)  We often put some in a bag for another cute gift.





For family gatherings, we bring along trays of these chocolates for dessert or just munching.  This one has a variety of molded chocolates around the outside and some of our white chocolate candy cane bark in the middle.




Here's another tray we made with similar chocolates and a few pieces of bark scattered throughout the tray.





You can also box these up for people as gifts for colleagues or take a tray to the office.  I have one mold for chocolate cups and I usually add either crushed candy cane or nuts to these cups.  The finished cups can be placed in pretty paper cups, just like the fancy chocolates you buy.





People appreciate the effort you put in to this "homemade" gift and these chocolates taste delicious!

You can be as fancy as you want or keep it very simple.  You can "paint" the molds with various colours if you'd like.  For example, I used to put little red berries on the holly or green wreaths in front of the word "joy" on some molds.  It looks really pretty, but it's extra work.

I keep it pretty simple these days, since the kids are helping me.  I use different coloured chocolate wafers but stick to one colour per mold. Just watch for sales or coupons for the wafers in the months leading up to Christmas to save a bit of money.

Chocolate making isn't limited to Christmas either.  We made our wedding favours with chocolate molds, as well as chocolate golf balls as part of the thank you gifts to the guys in our wedding party.  I've also done chocolates for baby showers and birthday parties.  We have a few other seasonal molds too.




Before kids, making chocolates took a good part of the day.  I made them on my own for years when I was single, and once we got married my hubby helped too.   We only had a few molds so there was a bit of wait time between "rounds". 

Now, the process is quicker because we have more molds, and I've got "helpers" to melt the chocolate.  My son was actually melting chocolate faster than I could keep up with the pouring yesterday!  This year it only took us a little over an hour to make most of the chocolates.  I finished up a few special trays after the kids got tired.

Sometimes they fight while helping.  One wants to switch jobs but the other doesn't.  One bumps the other or says something annoying or makes a face the other doesn't like.  You know... brother and sister home on vacation stuff.

And of course it's messier with them helping.  There were chocolate finger prints all over the microwave and drips on the floor and table. 

But it's so worth it!  We had a lot of fun and it's a great shared memory-making experience!

The kids started singing songs while we made chocolates yesterday.  It makes it harder for me to concentrate sometimes, but I wouldn't trade it for the world :)

This year they're having a blast singing silly stuff like combining 3 different versions of the 12 Days of Christmas.  They have a cute book called A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, which is a Canadian version of the 12 Days of Christmas and has lyrics like 10 Leafs a-leaping, 8 Mounties munching, 5 Stanley Cups, 3 beaver tails, etc.

We also introduced them to the Bob and Doug McKenzie version this year... it's hilarious and they laugh all the way through.  If you haven't heard it, or just want a laugh to break up your last-minute Christmas prep, here it is!





My kids like the Muppets version of the 12 Days song too... especially the "bah dum bum bum" part after the 5 golden rings.

So they combine all 3 version together and it's a different version every time they sing it!  I had a headache by the end of our chocolate making session yesterday, but it was so fun to hear their creativity.

I know there will be years they won't want to participate in this tradition, so I'll take the headache and the spilled chocolate while I can :)





I love that this is a tradition that has lasted so many years.  It has morphed over the years but it hasn't really changed.  And I love that my kids enjoy it now too and were asking to help again this year!  Oh, and of course, we love sampling the fruits of our labour at the end :)




So if you're looking for another clutter-free gift to give {maybe for next year}, that's yummy and well-received, make some chocolates!  Just be prepared to make extra because your family isn't going to want you to give them all away :)

If you missed any of the Christmas posts I've shared this month, here are links to all of them.



You can find more Christmas organizing ideas on my Christmas Organizing board on Pinterest. 





You can also find lots of clutter-free gift ideas on my Great Gift Ideas board on Pinterest.





What simple gifts do you give?  What are your favourite homemade edible gifts to give for Christmas?

Happy organizing!



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