Ingredients and tools (for 6 pumpkin shells):
- 20 oz (600 grams) milk chocolate
- (6) 4” to 5” diameter balloons
- 2 to 3 oz of white chocolate for painting the features
- Plastic wrap
- Silicon or rubber spatula
- Pots and bowls for melting chocolate
Set a bowl on top of a pot of boiling water, and slowly melt the chocolate. Now you can skip to the dipping balloon part. But if you want a stronger and better looking shiny shell, read the following about how to “temper” chocolate like a pro.
When you take a bar of chocolate out of its package it is shiny and crisp. This is because it has been tempered, a technique used to stabilize the crystals in the chocolate. When the chocolate is simply melted then cooled, it will have lost its shine and snap. To regain those characteristics after melting you need to re-temper the chocolate. In addition the chocolate being shiny and crisp, there are other benefits to tempering. It will harden quickly at room temperature and stay that way almost indefinitely in the right conditions. Tempered chocolate also slightly contracts when it cools so it will release from the balloon easier.
There are a few techniques used to temper chocolate. They all call for melting the chocolate, cooling it, and then warming it slightly. All you need is a thermometer and patience. We used one of the easiest methods called seeding. The temperatures we give are for milk chocolate. They differ for dark and white chocolate.
The first step of seeding is to chop the chocolate finely and set 1/3 to the side. Put the remaining 2/3 in a stainless steel or glass bowl and place over a pot of steaming water to create a double boiler. Stir the chocolate occasionally until it is melted and has reached 105-110°F. Remove the chocolate from the heat, wiping the bottom of the bowl dry, and being careful not to get any water in the chocolate.
In 3 parts, add the reserved chocolate, stirring until melted after each addition. The goal is to bring the chocolate down to 81°F. If the chocolate is still not cool enough after the last addition, allow the chocolate to sit, stirring occasionally, until cool. Now carefully return the bowl of chocolate to the double boiler for 20 seconds at a time, stirring constantly, until the temperature rises to 86° to 88°F (30º-31ºC). This step can happen very quickly so be careful not to hold the chocolate over the steam too long!
Now your chocolate should be tempered. To test it spread a small amount onto a piece of parchment. Within 5 minutes the chocolate should harden and be streak free. If you don’t think the chocolate is tempered, repeat the process.
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of tempering you can just use chocolate that has been melted but you will want to let the dipped chocolates sit in the refrigerator overnight before attempting to pull out the plastic wrapped balloon. You also don’t want to keep the chocolate pumpkin out of the refrigerator for long periods of time until serving or the chocolate will start to soften and may lose its form.
Now it’s dipping time. Blow the balloons to 4” -5” diameter. Wrap each balloon in plastic wrap and gather at the top. The plastic wrap serves 3 functions- it's food safe, it forms cool ridges and add nice details to our pumpkins, and it helps to carry the weight of the chocolate since balloons can stretch.
Hold the gathering tip and dip the balloons in the melted / tempered chocolate, also use the spatula to paint the chocolate as you get closer to the top. Leave a 2” to 3” opening at the top. Set the shells on parchment paper lined plate or sheet pan to cool. Put them in the fridge for 1-2 hours to make them extra hard before punching the balloon and carefully peeling away the plastic wrap.
To carve out the eyes, heat a small knife over a candle flame for a few seconds, take a deep breath, and go for it! It's a good idea to wear rubber gloves so we don't leave finger prints on our shiny pretty chocolate. Then melt the white chocolate, put them in a small paper cone like those cone cups or make one with parchment paper, cut a tiny hole at the tip, and pipe the mouth, teeth, highlight around the eyes, and any features that you fancy!
These shells can be made days ahead, wrapped and stored in the fridge. If they are tempered, they can be stored at cool room temperature. A couple of good tips:
- Keep the shells at a distance from the heat of oven and stove as you proceed to make the cake and mousse, or they will start melting
- Wait for the melted/tempered chocolate to cool a little to a warm to the touch state to start dipping, otherwise the balloons may burst and (especially if you use balloon only with no wrap) you will have chocolate splattered faces and walls - guess how we know that? =)