Beach Toy Centerpiece
Make a base: Use flexible aluminum strips or very large cake ring to form a base. The base I made was 19-inches in diameter. Place it on a parchment paper lined surface. Pour tempered dark chocolate inside the ring to form a 1/2-inch-thick layer. When the chocolate has set, remove the ring and peel off the parchment paper.
Make a support pole: Roll a 35-inch long piece of parchment paper into a cone that has a bottom diameter of 2 1/2 inches and tapers to a point. Tape it closed. This piece will support the mold so make sure it is long enough and thick enough to support the centerpiece you are making. Set the cone on end and fill with dark chocolate. When it is full, invert the cone over the bowl of chocolate allowing the excess chocolate to flow back into the bowl. Spin the cone so the chocolate inside is evenly coated. Let set. When the chocolate has set, repeat this step a few more times. You want the cone to be sturdy because the rest of the centerpiece will rest on this cone. Allow the chocolate cone to set until hard. Remove the parchment paper. Use a hot knife to trim the base of the cone so it is flat. Then use the knife to scar the bottom of the cone and the base. You want to make it somewhat textured so it will form a better seal to the base. Use tempered chocolate to glue the pole onto the base. Position it well so you can rest the molded chocolate against it.
Make the pails, fish, starfish, lobster, and claim shells: Tip: Alternate the molds using white, dark and milk chocolates to make a more interesting centerpiece. Use a ladle to fill a mold with chocolate. When it is full, empty it into the bowl of chocolate. The inside of the mold should be evenly coated with chocolate. Wipe the edge of the mold clean on the side of the bowl and place it upside down on a wire rack placed over a baking sheet. Once the chocolate starts to harden, about 5 minutes, scrape the edge clean with a paring knife. When the chocolate sets, it shrinks or retracts from the sides of the mold. A clean edge will keep it from sticking and cracking as it shrinks. You can place the mold in the refrigerator for several minutes to help the chocolate to harden. Unmold. Repeat with as many shell or fish molds as you would like.
To make the flowers and the leaves: Use a paintbrush to apply color to the inside of each flower and leaf mold where you are inspired to do so. Place white chocolate in a cornet and use it to fill each of the painted molds. Tap the molds on the surface to help the air bubbles escape. Once the chocolate starts to harden, about 5 minutes, scrape the edge clean with a paring knife. When the chocolate sets, it shrinks or retracts from the sides of the mold. A clean edge will keep it from sticking and cracking as it shrinks. You can place the mold in the refrigerator for several minutes to help the chocolate to harden. Unmold. Repeat with as many flowers and leaves as you would like to make.
If you use an airbrush, simply place a few drops of color in the receptacle of the airbrush and decorate the molded objects as you are inspired.
If you want to paint the molded chocolate pieces, mix together a few tablespoons of the cocoa butter with a small amount of powdered food color. It will be easier if you use a yogurt machine to store and warm your paints. Use a paintbrush to paint each piece, applying color where you are inspired to do so. You can also apply color directly to the mold before filling it with chocolate. This works especially well for the chocolate flowers.
Make seaweed and sea grass: Make 2 cornets and fill 1 with tempered dark chocolate and the other with tempered white chocolate. Use the dark chocolate to draw some seaweed onto a sheet of parchment paper. Repeat the same technique using the white chocolate to paint randomly over the dark chocolate. Use this same technique to draw sea grass. When the chocolate sets, remove the parchment paper.
Make the sun: Use an offset spatula to spread a 1/4-inch-thick layer of tempered white chocolate over a sheet of acetate. Let the chocolate set slightly. Use a paring knife to cut the chocolate into a star or sun shape. The one I made was about 11 inches in diameter. When the chocolate is set, peel off the acetate. Paint the decoration as inspired.
Assemble: Use a hot sharp chef's knife or small round cutter to cut a hole in each beach pail so it can be placed in the support pole. To do this, heat the knife or cutter under very hot water and wipe it dry. If you have a blowtorch, you can also use that to heat the metal. Hold the knife blade against the side of the chocolate where you want to make the cut. Do not press on the knife/cutter or the chocolate will break. Allow the heat of the metal to "cut" through the chocolate by melting it. Use more chocolate to glue the sun/star to the top of the support pole. Arrange the rest of the decorations as inspired to do so.
Recipe courtesy Jacques Torres