Christmas Gift Guide

Giving a gift is often more rewarding than receiving one. And it’s even better if you’ve made the gift yourself and packaged it with love.

The most popular chocolate gift is pralines and confectionery, which is more than enough reason to take a closer look at both of these. Pralines and confectionery are both ‘bite-sized’ chocolate treats with a filling of nougat, marzipan, nuts, ganache or something similar. Pralines contain at least 25% chocolate; anything below that is confectionery.

Making pralines and chocolates yourself

While you can create small, beautiful works of art out of chocolate, it’s important to work with the material first, so that everything’s perfect when you’re done. To start with, couvertures should always be used, as they’re the finest form of cocoa. Other types of chocolate often contain added fats, which can become clumpy during the tempering process. The temperature, equipment and a little patience are also important.

Chocolate Bars

3 ways to make Chocolate Bars

Chocolate Truffles

3 ways to make Chocolate Truffles

Hot Chocolate on a stick

3 ways to make Hot Chocolate on a Stick

Equipment

Scale

Creating chocolate and pralines is much like baking: precision is key and it all comes down to exact quantities. We highly recommend working with a digital scale to ensure that all the quantities are absolutely correct.

Cooling rack

Ideally, pralines are placed on a cooling rack or grill and coated in chocolate with a flowing motion, creating an even effect and allowing excess chocolate to drip off without collecting around the base of the pralines.

Thermometer

Melting couverture can be a very delicate process: maintaining exact temperatures is a must and requires a digital thermometer.                                                                                                                                                                  

Praline shells

You can create fillable chocolate shells for pralines yourself using moulds, though the process is quite complex. It’s easier to buy them and then fill and coat them yourself however you choose.                                

Bain-marie

Tempering requires a bain-marie, which comprises a stainless steel bowl and a pot of water. The bowl should be slightly submerged in the pot, ensuring the base of the bowl does not touch the base of the pot. 

Chocolate bar moulds

For consistent results, you can order silicone chocolate bar moulds online and lovingly decorate the bars however you please.

Proper tempering

The couverture needs to be melted before it can be used to coat pralines or create confectionery or be poured into chocolate bar moulds. Proper tempering is essential, as the chocolate can otherwise clump, lose its gloss or even have a whitish tinge after cooling. 

To start with, heat around 80% of the couverture to 40 to 45 degrees in a bain-marie. Especially when it comes to white couverture, this temperature should never be exceeded, as the milk protein could otherwise flocculate.

Then remove the melted couverture from the cooker and gradually add the remaining finely chopped couverture until the mass cools to approximately 26 to 28 degrees.  

Then return the melted couverture to the bain-marie and heat it to a processing temperature of 29 to 33 degrees, stirring at all times.

Cooling

Allow the chocolate to fully cool before trying the delicious creations or giving them as a gift. Any location is suitable, provided the temperature does not exceed 20 degrees and it’s relatively free of moisture and dust and protected from the sun.
The chocolate now needs to be left alone and shouldn’t be carried around or touched. It should take around two hours to cool and will contract in the process. The chocolate is usually easy to remove from the mould.

Storage

Chocolate should be stored in a dry location that’s not too warm or cold. White chocolate, in particular, can absorb smells and should therefore be packed airtight or stored at a safe distance from foods with an intense aroma such as cheese and onions.

What form should it take?

Chocolate gifts can take a whole host of forms and come in many different colours. If pralines are too complicated and chocolate bars too simple, you just might find something here to inspire you.

Hot chocolate 

Hot chocolate is a cinch to make yourself. Simply temper couverture and add it to a mould that would fit inside a cup. Small, washed-out yogurt pots, for example, are perfect. Now insert a wooden stick such as an ice pop stick and allow to cool. Alternatively, you could use a cinnamon stick, which not only looks good, but also adds a unique flavour.

Liqueur

A variety of spirits such as rum and amaretto can be used to create your very own liqueur. Example of a basic recipe for a creamy liqueur:

1 egg, 100 ml heavy cream, 100 ml condensed milk, 30 g sugar, the seeds of a vanilla pod, 100 ml spirit such as amaretto, 50 grams chocolate

Melt the chocolate with the sugar and condensed milk in a saucepan. Then add the egg and allow the mix to thicken on a medium heat. Now add the cream and spirit and allow the whole mix to thicken again for approximately 5 minutes – don’t forget to stir! 

Cake pops

Cake pops are usually made from cake mixed, for instance, with cream cheese to create a malleable mass. These balls are then placed on wooden sticks, allowed to cool and then coated with chocolate or icing and creatively decorated.

Biscuits

Biscuits of all kinds are always a wonderful gift, whether traditional, in crazy shapes or with wild decorations.

Decoration

Something entirely new: creative combinations

Blackberry and gin pralines
Early Grey pralines 
Speculoos hot chocolate with cinnamon stick
Whiskey and salted-caramel filling
Thyme and vanilla chocolate

When it comes to decoration, the sky’s the limit! For example, you can mix various chocolate varieties together, create fillings with or without alcohol, and dust or sprinkle with sugar. Suitable delicious toppings could include:

Marshmallows
Sugar pearls
Spices (cinnamon, chilli flakes and peppercorns are very popular)
Chocolate sprinkles
Herbs (rosemary, for example, is especially eye-catching)
Dried berries (goji berries add an exciting flavour)
Edible flowers
Nuts
Pistachios
Flakes of sea salt

Sustainable Packaging

As everyone knows, giving gifts is lots of fun! But it can be even more fun if you make the gifts yourself and package them with love. There’s plenty of packaging that’s easy to make yourself, which saves money and is usually better for the environment.

Paper bags

Paper lunch bags are perfect for packaging chocolate bars and can be painted or decorated beforehand. But you could also go for an understated look, adding a ribbon of natural fibre so that the chocolate can steal the show. 

Cardboard boxes 

You can either fold cardboard boxes yourself or buy them finished. What makes them so special is the decoration, which could be, for example, beautiful water colours or writing. And if you weren’t blessed with flawless penmanship, simply opt for a stamp, which can also be used to achieve wonderful effects.

Tins

Tins can be found in most home decor shops and are ideal for filled pralines in particular, which can be arranged in rows and protected from outside forces. The tin can store the pralines and then be used again.

 

Jars

Carefully wash out old jam jars and fill them with small treats. You can either glue the lid or wrap it with fabric. Small flip-top bottles are ideal for gifting liqueur and can be adorned with bows and a small handwritten tag.

The best-known praline varieties are:

  • Truffles: Traditional truffles are balls of chocolate with a filling of chocolate, cream and flavours such as coffee, vanilla and whisky. 
  • Belgian pralines: These are made from a mix of dark and milk chocolate and traditionally filled with nougat.
  • Mozartkugeln: A time-honoured Salzburg speciality invented by confectioner Paul Fürst in 1890. In addition to chocolate, the traditional recipe also contains pistachio, marzipan and nougat.

Well-known varieties of confectionery include:

  • Petit four: Petits fours are traditional French confectionery, with a distinction made between dry petits fours secs and glazed petits fours frais. Both are cut from puff pastry, filled with creams or marzipan and, in some cases, beautifully glazed.
  • Rum balls: These are balls covered in chocolate sprinkles and made from fat, sugar, chocolate, cocoa and rum (or rum flavour). They’re small, as heavy as bricks and wonderfully delicious. 

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