Spent a good four hours yesterday (in between making another three batches of fudge) trying to get my silkscreened chocolate transfer sheets to work. I discovered that it’s really really hard to pull off. Cocoa butter has a very sharp melting point (which is one of the things that makes it so appetizing), and the difference between “too warm to use” and “too cold to use” is less than five minutes. After about an hour of trying, I switched from cocoa butter to white chocolate, which worked somewhat better. After about 80 tries, I finally managed to get about six or seven somewhat blurry, but readable, transfers.
What are chocolate transfer sheets, you ask? Essentially they’re sheets of acetate that are printed in colored cocoa butter. You lay a transfer sheet on top of some melted chocolate, the cocoa butter melts into the chocolate, and when you remove the acetate the image remains on the chocolate. (It’s essentially an iron-on transfer, except with chocolate, and without the ironing.)
I arrived at this transfer sheet business by the simple steps below:
- Make eight models of what you’re after, and cast a custom chocolate mold out of silicone.
- Create the image you want to transfer, and print it out on transparencies.
- Prepare a photo-sensitive silkscreen, put the transparencies on top, and expose the silkscreen to UV light (I used 90 seconds of sunlight). Wash out screen. Let dry.
- Melt chocolate or cocoa butter, and let cool until thick.
- Silkscreen onto acetate transfer sheets. The screen will clog with hardened cocoa butter after approximately three attempts. Use a hairdryer to reheat the screen, and make sure to clean up both sides because the melted cocoa butter will spread over the screen and produce a blurry picture.
- Temper chocolate, pour into molds. Lay acetate sheets on top.
If you understand that it took me two hours to create the mold, five hours to create the artwork, three tries to get the silkscreen properly exposed, and four hours of attempting to silkscreen the cocoa butter on, you will get some idea of the effort that went into this process.
Bottom line: it doesn’t work. At least, I’m having trouble getting the chocolate to transfer correctly, and I don’t think those problems are solvable for the moment. If I had another sixteen hours of working time to tinker with it, I think I could get it “down”, but right now I don’t. So I will put this away for now, and maybe come back to it next year, maybe not. Still, it was a lot of effort getting here and I’m kind of miffed that I couldn’t get it working in time. Next year, I start on my experiments earlier.
On the other hand, when trying a new technique, you can reasonably expect poor results the first couple times out. So I have not given up on the idea entirely, yet. If at first you don’t succeed, figure out why and then try again. Or hire someone to do the parts you can’t do (yet).
At any rate, I did manage to make three fudges yesterday – the lemon lavender vanilla one came out very nicely, and the mocha cinnamon fudge is absolutely divine. The coconut came out okay, a very trifling bit grainy, but by the time I finish dipping it in chocolate and putting the almond on top the texture issues shouldn’t be noticeable. I hope, anyway.
Today I am making English toffee, making the coconut tequila lime fudge, cutting and dipping the lavender caramels, finishing off the brandied cherry cordials, and (hopefully) casting the chocolate shells for some of the bonbons. I will also pack everything into storage boxes, which is considerably more time-consuming than it sounds. At that point I will be finished with the nonperishables, and moving on into the bonbons. Not a second too soon, either; I have a colossal amount of work ahead of me and will have to work quickly. But it’s always like that, this time of year.