Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Easy Valentine's Treats

Here's a quick and simple Valentine's day gift, and project with the kids.

Target has heart shaped ice cube trays on sale this month 3 for $1.

You can use any size ice cube tray container that has a pretty or interesting shape. The flexible trays are much easier to extract the finished chocolates from.

Take whatever chocolate you have on hand. Melt it in a double boiler. The key here is to not let the chocolate get too hot or it will become grainy. Keep it just warm enough to melt but no warmer. (If you don't have a double boiler, a metal or glass bowl set in a pot of water above a burner will work just as well.)

I am using 72% dark Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe's, approx $3/pound.

Chocolate chips would work too. This is by no means gourmet, but it's fun and tasty. I'd show you pictures but my battery died during this project so you'll have to use your imagination.

Spray your molds with a light cooking spray so the formed chocolates come out.

Here is where it gets fun. You can do whatever you like with this chocolate. You can add salt free butter and cream to make a ganache, which is softer. You can add flavors; peppermint extract, cinnamon, chai liqueur, Irish cream. The cheaper the chocolate, the funner it is to play with the flavors. Or, you can just melt the chocolate and use it plain.

Then, simply pour the melted chocolate mixture into the molds. Cool and pop out. Wrap individually in cellophane, you can put them in the tiny muffin cups for color, and tie with a ribbon and you have a lot of fun Valentine's to give away.

Fancy tips and tricks

First paint the inside of the molds with melted chocolate using a pastry brush or clean paint brush. Allow to cool.

Next fill the inside of the mold. I like to do a dark chocolate shell with a milk chocolate center. You can also use peanut butter (I would sweeten it if it's unsweetened), macadamia nut and cashew butter, whole nuts, white chocolate, strawberry preserves, or cream filling.

Cream filling is simple to make. Start with a few drops of your favorite flavoring in a bowl. Stir in powdered sugar until the desired thickness. The end, unless you want to add color.

I'm using the leftover cream cheese frosting from my birthday cake for filling some of them.

Once the chocolates are filled, put in the freezer so the centers get firm and then pour a final coat of melted chocolate over the outside to seal it.

Let set and then pop out of the molds.

I you want to get fancy you can do things like paint a picture in one color chocolate on the inside of the mold and then it will show when you pour a contrasting color in over top.

The easiest way to get fancy is to use regular chocolate and white chocolate pour the dark chocolate in first. Then add a dollop of white. With a toothpick quickly swirl, just once, inside the mold and then put it in the freezer. You'll have pretty swirls in the finished product. Don't over stir.

Finally, if using a paint brush seems like too much work for you, you can just make layers. Pour in a bit of chocolate, let set. Pour in a different flavor of chocolate, like milk chocolate, let set. Pour in a third layer of the first chocolate. You get it. It's simple but it impresses your kids.

Updated to add:

Hazelnut, how could I forget the magic of hazelnut spread. It make s great filling and you can even put it in and stuff a real hazelnut in the center for a truly gourmet effect.

Have fun.

Happy Valentine's Day
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