Growing up, each December we’d make chocolate candies for Christmas. Mom would buy a bunch of chocolate discs (apparently from a party supply store) and we’d melt it down and mix it with caramels, raisins, Rice Krispies, and mint. We’d make turtles with pecans and caramel, and pour some of it into molds. All in all, it was a lot of fun and of course eating it for a few weeks afterward was great.

So I decided it would be cool to do the same thing this year. I went to the grocery store and bought something called “candy coating chocolate” and made some tests in my Han Solo mold. They were terrible. The chocolate tasted like wax– I found out later that there’s actually a lot of vegetable oil added to it so it’s easier to work with, but apparently it’s only for a thin coating on stuff, not a solid chocolate bar. Scratch that idea.

I was chatting about it with some people at church, and my friend Kat overheard me. It turns out that she’s a semi-professional chocolatier and every year she spends a lot of time creating handmade chocolates for her family. She explained to me that you have to use a certain kind of chocolate, and it has to be “tempered”, and it has to melt at a certain temperature and be re-seeded with pre-tempered pieces so the crystal structure does such-and-such, and on and on. She’s a Ph.D. in neurobiology, so it sounded pretty impressive.

She assured me it wasn’t too hard with the right equipment, so Laralee and I made arrangements to get some of this magical chocolate from a mutual friend who happened to be traveling to Utah that week to buy it. She came back with a ten-pound block for us. That alone was pretty fun, because it was essentially an enormous candy bar:

That’s only about 7.5 pounds of it. We’d already carved off a chunk.

Anyway, we went to Kat’s house and spent an afternoon learning the art of chocolate-making. It involves a special machine that costs about $500 and heats the chocolate to the right temperature so it melts and then recrystallizes and blah blah. Whatever the science, the fact is it works.

We poured some of it into the Han Solo molds but it turns out that Han is pretty hard to cast in chocolate. Tiny air bubbles tend to collect on his face and hands, making it look like he’s either been shot in the head by a blaster, or his hands were cut off by a lightsaber. So it was disappointing. But we dipped some caramels and mixed in some raisins, only to find that once the chocolate is out of The Machine it cools very quickly and leaves kind of a mess. The resulting chocolate-covered raisin clumps were immediately nicknamed “scat” by Laralee.

Yep, they definitely looked like scat. On the other hand, they tasted pretty darn good.

With all of this experience under our belts, we decided to take an evening last week to make a bunch of chocolates for our neighbors. We borrowed The Machine and went to work.

The results weren’t bad. We coated caramels and then mixed in almonds, pecans, Rice Krispies, and raisins.

The kitchen, and we, were pretty much covered in chocolate when we finished. It’s surprisingly messy to work with melted chocolate for two hours. Alex took advantage of it a little.

We divided everything and put it on little red plates and took them to our neighbors, who were thrilled. Fortunately there was a little left over for us, and we’ve been enjoying chocolate-covered stuff ever since.