So your nuptial budget's stretched to the max, but you're not ready to cross guest favors off your list? Then consider rolling up your sleeves and making chocolate treats to pass out to friends and family. Yes, even those of us for whom boiling water represents a major culinary adventure can create lovely little delicacies that'll leave guests with chocolate-smeared grins on their faces.
Minda Toyoshiba, the owner of Briar Rose Celebrations, in La Verne, CA, declares that when it comes to edible favors, almost anything goes. "Weddings and wedding favors should reflect the personality of the bride and groom," says Toyoshiba, who's created confection masterpieces for clients nationwide. "Anything from marbleized sea shells to carousel horses, to fire trucks and totally edible gold picture frames for use as place cards can be created. I've even done milk-chocolate gorillas holding bright-yellow bananas for a wedding at the Los Angeles Zoo."
If you'd like to make your own chocolate wedding favors, you'll need:
a microwave or double boiler
several bowls and spoons
candy molds (plastic or metal)
molding chocolate such as Merckens Chocolate or Wilton Candy Melts
small cellophane bags
small squeeze bottle
plastic gloves (rated for food handling)
Depending on what sorts of favors you're making, you might also want to have:
luster dust (a.k.a. pearl dust, a totally edible shimmery powder that adds a pretty opalescence to the favor)
small paintbrush (for applying the luster dust)
oil-based flavorings (LorAnn Oils is a popular brand)
Select a mold for your favors. "Molds come in both plastic and metal. Plastic molds are the most popular, are easily found in crafts shops and online, are less expensive than metal molds, and come in hundreds of styles. They can cost $1.50 to $3 each," Toyoshiba says. "Metal molds can cost upwards of $5 apiece."
Melting the Chocolate
Next, melt the chocolate. You can do this with a double boiler or a microwave. When Toyoshiba makes simple chocolate lollipop-type favors, she opts for the double-boiler method and melts two pounds of chocolate at a time. This is because she knows the molds are easy to fill, so she'll work the batch quickly. Remember to place water in the lower pan and bring it up to temperature (between 90 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit; use the candy thermometer to check it). It should be almost to a boiling point, but not scalding hot. The chocolate goes in the smaller pot on the top, which sits in the hot-water bath. Make sure no water mixes with the chocolate or this batch will be ruined. Stir the chocolate until it's melted.
If you are working with more than one color of chocolate or are marbleizing with two tones, consider using the microwave method. Place a small amount of chocolate (about half a pound) in a microwave-safe bowl. Depending on the wattage of your microwave, cook on high (600 watts) for about one minute. Return to microwave for 15-second intervals if needed. Stir until completely melted.
Adding a Flavor
For a special zing, add your preferred flavoring now. You can do this with an oil-based flavoring designed for chocolate-making. Just don't overdo it, Toyoshiba says. Twenty to 25 drops of flavoring per pound of chocolate works nicely.
Filling the Molds
Fill a squeeze bottle with chocolate and pour a small amount into each mold crevice. Tap the mold gently on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. (If there are any stubborn bubbles, pop them with a toothpick.) Then, fill the crevices to the top. If your favor needs a lollipop stick, insert it now. Then, place the entire mold in the freezer for about five minutes. The favors are ready when they start to pull away from the mold. Remove the favors from the freezer and immediately place each chocolate on a sheet of wax paper to rest.
Dusting with Shimmer
A final coating of luster dust will give your favors a nice sparkle. After the chocolates are out of the mold, dip a brush (Toyoshiba prefers to use a regular paintbrush) first in a clear liquid—like water—then in the luster dust. Brush the powder onto your favors for a solid-looking, rather than dusted-on, color.
Packaging the Favors
Put each chocolate into a cellophane bag and close with staples or with a pretty ribbon (if you've got enough money in your budget, you might consider getting ribbons personalized with your names and the wedding date).
How Much Will It Cost?
The cost for DIY chocolate favors will depend on the molds you select, how much chocolate you need, and your packaging. It's possible to make 100 favors for about $30. If you choose a larger mold or finish the favor with an expensive ribbon, expect your costs to rise to about $1 per favor.
Online Chocolate-Making Sources:
Sugarcraft (sugarcraft.com): the place to go for candy molds and supplies
Creative Treets (creativetreets.com): offers a great starter kit and how-to video
The Chocolate Box (tcbsupply.com): offers candy molds, chocolate, flavorings, and more