Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

For many Valentine's Day can be stressful, but I like to think that when you are doing something for your valentine they will be pleased with anything that comes from the heart. Sometimes it is the simple things that make the best impression. You can take one of your valentine's favorite dessert and cut heart shapes from it or add a few hearts made of pie crust cut into heart shapes, moistened with a little water, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked for about 8 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown.

When the produce woman showed me the giant strawberries she had I knew what my home needed (yes I said needed)..... chocolate covered strawberries. The nice thing about these is they are easy and quick and can be dressed up without much effort. I like to use chocolate made for candy making (Wilton's candy melts is an easy brand to find - Walmart even carries it) but you can melt any chocolate you like to make these. If using chocolate bars, roughly break or chop up the bars into pieces before beginning to melt them.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Remember to melt your chocolate slowly, either in a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. If using the microwave there are a few things to keep in mind to insure success, remember it is better to go slowly than risk scorching your chocolate (this can happen very quickly). Begin by putting chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heating for 20 seconds, remove from the microwave and stir. At this point it will probably just be starting to melt in a few places. Return it to the microwave for 15 seconds and stir, repeat until melted. As you get closer to the chocolate being almost melted begin to heat for only 5-7 seconds at a time. Remember to stir each time to distribute the heat. If you only have a few small chunks of chocolate that haven't melted stir a little longer and see if they will melt without any added heat, if not return to microwave for 5 seconds more.

The strawberries should be washed and dried completely. I usually wash my berries and then lay them on a towel to dry for an hour or two, then I take each berry and dry it with a paper towel. Be sure to get all the water off each berry, including the stems and leaves. If any water gets into your chocolate it will seize up.

Take the berry by the stem and dip it into your chocolate. Allow a little to drip off the berry and then place the it on a parchment paper lined dish or tray. If your chocolate starts to cool and get too thick, just put it back in the microwave for 8-10 more seconds and stir. After dipping all of your berries place them in the refrigerator to harden. If using melting chocolate you will not need to refrigerate the berries to harden the chocolate shells.

Have some fun with it. Use sprinkles, coconut, finely chopped nuts, double dip, dip in white chocolate first then in dark (after dipping in chocolate immediately dip in sprinkles/coconut/etc before the chocolate dries). You can also put some melted chocolate in a small zip lock bag, snip a tiny hole in one bottom corner and drizzle them. "Tuxedos" can be made by first dipping the front only of the strawberry in white chocolate then once it has dried dipping in dark chocolate one side at a time leaving a "v" of uncovered white chocolate in the front. Use a tooth pick to dot some buttons and bow tie on the front "shirt" and allow to dry. I have also used edible glitter and sparkling sugar to decorate berries. Just remember to have fun with it.

You can place your beautiful berries in a nice box or put them on a plate and wrap with cellophane and tie it all together with a bow.

Love bug Truffles

Truffles are wonderful rich and so easy. If you don't want to create love bugs you can simply dip the soft centers in melted chocolate (and then in nuts, coconut, etc if you like) or roll them in cocoa powder. No matter what you decide to do these will be loved and appreciated.

12 ounces good quality chocolate, broken into pieces ( used semi-sweet)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place chocolate in microwave save bowl. In a mug heat the cream in the microwave until steamy. Pour hot cream over chocolate allow to sit for about 2 minutes. Stir chocolate mixture. If chocolate has not melted completely place bowl in the microwave and heat for 10 seconds at a time, be sure to stir the chocolate each time you take it out of the microwave to evenly distribute the heat and insure you don't scorch the chocolate. Once it has melted completely stir in the vanilla extract.

Place bowl of chocolate in the refrigerator for 1 - 1/2 hours until softly set but not hard. Using a melon baller, scoop chocolate, roll between hands and place on parchment paper lined dish or tray.
(Note: If you are going to roll in cocoa powder do so right after rolling into ball with hands and then place on parchment paper.) Place tray in refrigerator for 30 minutes. At this point you can dip in chocolate (if you didn't chose to roll in cocoa powder) and chill until set or make love bugs.

To make love bugs, melt red melting chocolate slowly as described above in the microwave 10-15 seconds at a time until completely melted. Using two forks, dip your chilled truffle centers in melted red chocolate and place back on parchment paper.

While red chocolate is hardening slowly melt dark melting chocolate. Dip 1/3 of each red ball in the chocolate and place it on the parchment paper. Place some melted chocolate in a small zip lock bag and snip one of the bottom corners to create a very small small hole. Using the zip lock bag filled with chocolate draw a line down the center of the "bug" from the head the the tail and place dot and/or hearts on the wings.

Slowly melt a small amount of white melting chocolate and place in another small zip lock bag. Snip a bottom corner of the bag to create a very small hole. Place two white dots on the face for the eyes and a little line for the mouth.

To finish the eyes, use the melted dark chocolate in the zip lock bag which you used to makes the lines and dots on the wings and place a very small dot on top of the white. Allow to harden.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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