Almost twenty years ago, a family friend, who was also my confirmation sponsor, invited me over to make chocolate houses with her during winter break. I had never heard of a chocolate house but soon discovered something yummier and stickier than the traditional gingerbread house - slabs of molded chocolate sealed together with molten chocolate, with candies attached with yet more liquid chocolate "glue." Building houses together before Christmas became a tradition, and when I got married, she gave us a gorgeously detailed cast-iron mold. Every few years I get my act together enough to make a chocolate house (generally to the delight of my father-in-law the chocoholic, who graciously volunteers to help dismantle it post-Christmas). This year I shared the tradition with two other families - the adults assembled the houses and the kids decorated them with all sorts of amazing candies I found at a local chocolate shop. Everybody had so much fun with it, and I'm hoping we can make it an annual (or nearly-annual) tradition.
Some tips for wannabe chocolate house architects:
♥ Stock up on plenty of melting chocolate. For the walls and roof of this house plus a tree (for which I use a plastic mold), it takes about 7 bags of confectioner's chocolate. You can find melt-and-pour chocolate at most craft stores. Search online for plastic molds or follow the link above to purchase a cast iron pan.
♥ Never pour chocolate into a cold metal mold. Ideally, you should mold chocolate in a warm room and the mold should be at or slightly above room temperature. A cold mold will cause the chocolate to start setting as soon as you pour it, making it very difficult if not impossible to remove in one piece. I discovered that I could quickly warm my iron mold on top of our gas range.
♥ Fastest way to set chocolate: pop the mold into the freezer for 5-15 minutes. Keep it level, of course.♥ Cardboard cake rounds make an excellent base if you don't have a platter to spare or if you want to host a building party or give a house as a gift.
♥ Spoon melted chocolate onto the pieces to use as "glue" to assemble the house. Fill any gaps with extra chocolate - you can cover anything unsightly with candies later.
♥ Plan to have extra candies, because chances are, you and your helpers won't be able to resist sampling them!
♥ Other materials you might want to use: cake/cookie sprinkles, icing, mini marshmallows (great for building snowmen), powdered sugar for a dusting of "snow", animal crackers...anything sweet and cute is fair game.
♥ Jumbo rolls of cellophane can be found at the craft store and are useful for wrapping houses that are bound for somebody else's home sweet home.