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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Chocolate Topiary Tree DIY

   A leaflet came through my door a month or two ago, advertising "chocolate explosions". It was effectively a ball of chocolate, and they had a starting price of £20 for 40 chocolates. I considered buying one for the family at Christmas, as a sort of chocolate family gift, but after visiting their website, and finding that their brochure had the significant majority of their products already in it, it also dawned on me that I could probably make it myself.
   Still, I sent an email, enquiring as to how much it would cost for a mix of Ferrero Rocher and Lindt Lindor, but they told me that it would be £30 for either chocolate, and they could not mix them due to a difference of size. Yet they advertised that they could do any chocolate and combination you wanted, and since both of those are popular chocolates in the household, I decided to go ahead and try it myself and prove that the, frankly, little size difference was of no consequence.

What I Used:
Polystyrene ball, approximately 6 inches in diameter
A pot roughly the same size as the ball (so ball sits in it as above)
A wooden stick cut to the appropriate length (guesswork!)
A hot glue gun and glue sticks
Tissue paper coloured to fit the scheme
Scissors (for cutting! Yaaay!)
Food-safe toothpicks and a clean needle
250g Air Dry clay (not pictured)
Chocolaaaate! I used 60 pieces.

Time Taken: 1.5 hours

   First of all, make a hole about 1 inch deep into the bottom of the ball. It doesn't need to be tidy, and prepare for a "snowy" mess. Use the hot glue gun and put a generous dollop in the hole, then fix the stick in place. Add more glue around the edges to fill the rest in. Once you've done that, hot glue the other end of the stick to the inside of the pot, in the middle. If the stick is flat and level at the end, it should stand easier as the glue is drying. Though this won't take long. Once the glue at the base of the stick is dry, get out your air dry clay. This was an afterthought for me, because I thought hot glue would do it, but as soon as I started putting chocolate onto the ball, the stick toppled over. I wasted literally 5 hot glue sticks before resorting to clay. Now, you don't have to let the clay harden first. I cut the block into large squares and pushed them to to surround about 3-4 inches of the stick, and to cover the entire bottom of the pot. The clay and initial glueing should be enough to keep the stick in place while working.

    Take your first piece of chocolate and pierce it with a tooth pick. There's a possibility that you might need to make a hole with a thick needle first, so do that before destroying sticks/chocolate. I thought that, due to the shells of Ferrero Rocher and Lindt Lindor, I would certainly need a needle to make a first incision, but that turned out to not be the case. I used the needle for about the first 6 chocolates, but found that the cocktail stick would go through just fine on its own shortly afterwards, and proceeded this way instead.

   Take your tissue paper. Most tissue paper comes folded up, so to save time, I would suggest cutting squares from folded paper and cutting off the folded edges that keep them joined. Once you've got your squares (or circles, if you prefer), pierce the middle of one of them with the tooth pick and slide it on up to the chocolate.

   Bunch the paper around the chocolate - this will give you a firm grip, and will shape the paper - and push the stick into the ball. Be careful at this point, however: Ferrero Rocher were not as thick as I had thought, and on several occasions, the stick ended up pocking its way right through and out of the other side of the wrapper, pricking my hand. I used the flat side of a pair of scissors to push it on properly, and to push the stick back in so as to not injure myself. This was a frequent problem with the lovely golden chocolates, and much less so with the Lindt. Only twice did the stick break through the Lindor wrapper, and the way it came out was through the other end of the twisted wrapper.
   If you're using chocolates wrapped in the same manner of Lindt Lindor (wrapper twisted at both ends), unwind the end that will be against the tissue paper. I usually chose the end that wasn't wrapped as perfectly as the other. Unwind that end and push the stick through, then twist it back up. Once it's twisted back up, turn the end bits inside out so that instead of the excess wrapper sticking out like the other side, it was folded over and cupped against the chocolate. I'm sure that makes no sense, but when you try to figure out what to do with the twisted end, you'll know exactly what I mean. If it helps, picture it like an umbrella: while it's normal (ie: the twisted ends sticking outwards like it should be) it's like an open umbrella, but when you fold it upwards, it's like the umbrella got caught in the wind and turned inside out. Does that help? Probably not.

   Be wary when putting chocolates at the bottom of the ball. I had a couple of Rocher fall off. This isn't a problem further up, but the bottom of the ball is holding them upside down. If you have a problem like this, push the stick into the ball with the tissue paper, and once the stick is secure, then attach a chocolate. That way the chocolate won't have as much time to move around on the stick to widen the hole and make space to fall off of it. You obviously don't want to use glue, afterall.

   Anyway! It's simpler than it sounds. Do this for all of your chocolates. I found that 60 chocolates (20 Ferrero Rocher, 20 standard Lindt Lindor, and 20 hazlenut Lindt Lindor) was adequate, but if I had bunched them together closer, I probably could have fit in another 10.
   I bought a box of 24 Ferrero Rocher on Amazon for £8.80- easily found in the shops - and after Seeg snatched the few I said were spare, I was down to the 20 I needed. I also bought a pick and mix box of 40 from the Lindt website, where I was able to choose exactly which chocolates I wanted, and how many, up to 40. They would have cost me £15, but I was able to use the code FacebookFan20 for 20% off, knocking it down to £12. Lovely. They were the perfect number.

   However, Ferrero Rocher and Lindt Lindor are all available in the shops, so you can still put all of this together last minute for Christmas, or you can use whatever chocolates you prefer. The tissue paper easily covers the bare spots from where I may have been able to fit a few more (which I didn't have anyway) had I bunched them up more.


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