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How to Make Chocolate Curls

Chocolate Curls Add Flair to Any Dessert

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Have you seen desserts in restaurants topped by dramatic curls of chocolate? Did you know you can create the same effects at home? Here is a quick photo guide showing you how to transform a block of chocolate into a beautiful decoration.

To make chocolate curls, you will need a good-quality "molding" chocolate--note that regular chocolate will not produce the same results. I personally like Felchlin Ultra Gloss Dark Chocolate, but there are a number of options available. You will also need a cake or loaf pan, an oven, and a cheese slicer.

1. Prepare Your Chocolate

chocolate curls
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
You want your chocolate to be in a solid, smooth block for curling, so melt it carefully and pour it into a cake or loaf pan. You will probably need at least a pound of chocolate to make a sizable block. Allow the chocolate to cool and harden completely in a cool, dry place, preferably overnight. Run a knife around the edges, and it should be easy to invert and remove once it is completely solid. Place your block of chocolate on a piece of sturdy cardboard, make sure your cheese slicer is clean, and you're ready to go!

2. Use Less Pressure to Create a Chocolate "Fan"

chocolate curls
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
To create a chocolate piece that fans out in waves, first warm the chocolate slightly by placing it in a warm oven for 5-7 seconds. Remove the chocolate from the oven after five seconds and attempt to make a curl or wave. If it chips off in small pieces, return it to the oven to warm for another few seconds. Do not let it melt! You simply want your chocolate to be pliable.

Next, with light pressure, run the cheese slicer down the block of chocolate. You simply want to skim off a small layer, not cut into the chocolate.

3. Shape the Chocolate Fan

chocolate fan
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
As you are creating your fan shape, you can use your free hand to guide the strip of chocolate into gentle folds, waves, or a fan shape. If your hands are very warm and start melting the chocolate, use thin plastic gloves.

4. Decorate Pastries With Your Chocolate Fan

chocolate taco
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
In this example, a florentine shell has been used to encase chocolate mousse, decorated with large chocolate fans. Chocolate fans also look lovely on individual slices of cake, tart, or as plating decorations.

5. Use More Pressure to Create Chocolate Curls

chocolate curls
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Just like when you are making chocolate fans, the chocolate needs to be slightly warm and pliable to make chocolate curls. Warm it in the oven just until it is able to be molded, but not so much that it starts to melt around the edges. With a firm grip on the cheese slicer, and employing a steady amount of pressure, slowly draw the slicer in a straight line down the block of chocolate. You can use your free hand to help form the chocolate into a nice curl.

6. Make Curls of Different Sizes

chocolate curls
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Once your curl has reached the desired size, remove it with your other hand and place it on your pastry, or on a sheet of parchment to be used later. You will soon find that depending on the speed of your movement and the pressure you apply, you can easily make curls of various sizes. If you are making a large amount of curls at once, you may need to re-warm the chocolate briefly if it starts to chip or break apart.

7. Chocolate Curls Enliven Pastries

chocolate tart
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Chocolate curls can transform a simple cake or tart into a masterpiece. In this example, a chocolate-raspberry tart is encircled with chocolate "cigarette curls" (very slender, uniform curls) that enclose the mousse filling. The overall effect is easy to produce, but visually striking and absolutely delicious.

8. Make A Variety of Chocolate Decorations

chocolate curls
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
You can experiment with making a variety of curls, fans, swaths, and other shapes out of your molding chocolate. You will find that small differences in the movement and pressure of the slicer will produce big differences in your chocolate decorations. Play around and have fun!

9. Go Crazy With Chocolate Decorations

chocolate cake
(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
This flourless chocolate cake is decorated with a wide variety of chocolate curls, fans, and ribbons. When creating this effect, you want to have the cake nearby so you can pile it with the curls as soon as they are created--once they re-harden they might be too stiff to work into an integrated arrangement like the one pictured. If you are dissatisfied with some of your efforts, place them near the bottom of the cake so that later curls and ribbons can cover them up. Your guests will be amazed at the beautiful cake you created, and will never guess how easy it can be to make professional chocolate decorations!
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