From the stress of finding dinner reservations to writing the perfect sentimental card, the days leading up to Valentine’s Day can be daunting. But sentiment goes a long way when it comes to gifts, and it’s always the thought that counts more than the actual gift. I can’t remember one Godiva box I’ve received, but I still have vivid memories of my first Valentine’s with my wife when she made me chocolate-covered kiwis. This Valentine’s Day, skip the candy aisle and make your own box of chocolates.
It might seem scary, but with a little preparation you’ll have a thoughtful, sentimental and delicious gift in no time. All of these recipes can be made a day or two ahead of time, so be sure to head to the grocery store by the 12th to have everything you need.
First up is a classic chocolate truffle. They’re super easy and a great place to start for beginners. You just gently heat some heavy cream, pour it over chopped chocolate, let it sit for 5 minutes and then mix until smooth. Pop it in the fridge until cooled, then form it into balls and roll them around in your favorite topping. I like to use sprinkles, peanuts and cocoa powder, but it’s really up to you.
Next up is a Valentine’s day staple — dark chocolate-covered caramel. The hardest part about making caramel is just making sure it doesn’t burn. Don’t walk away from it while it’s cooking or you’ll have to start over.
Last is a milk chocolate pistachio nougat. It’s a little more difficult because it involves pouring a warm liquid into whipped egg whites without deflating them, but as long as you take it slow, it will always come out smooth and velvety. It’s an extra touch that shows how much thought and work you put into your gift.
If you want to add a little fun and an extra bit of surprise, go to your local arts and crafts store and buy an empty chocolate box. Fill it up with your homemade goodies and your valentine will never want store-bought chocolate again.
8 ounces high-quality chocolate of your choice, chopped into tiny pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles (optional)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (optional)
1. Add heavy cream to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until just simmering.
2. Add chocolate to a heat-proof bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes, then mix well until all chocolate is melted and smooth.
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
4. When cooled, scoop about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into hands and roll into 1-inch balls.
5. Roll each into desired toppings and serve.
Dark Chocolate Caramel
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 (7-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips, melted
1. Grease a 9-by-4-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Add butter to a saucepan and warm over medium heat until melted.
3. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk, and stir.
4. Cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Pour into the prepared pan and let cool at room temperature for 2 hours.
6. Remove caramel from loaf pan and cut into 1-inch squares.
7. Dip caramels in melted chocolate and place on a wax paper-lined tray or plate.
8. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top while warm and let cool.
Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Nougat
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 large egg whites
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup pistachios, chopped
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
1. Grease a small baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook over medium heat until it reaches 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
3. Add egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip until stiff peaks form.
4. When the sugar mixture reaches 250 degrees F, slowly stream 1/4 of it into the whipped egg whites while the machine is still running.
5. Continue to cook the remaining 3/4 of the sugar mixture until the thermometer reaches 300 degrees F. Then slowly stream it into the egg whites while the machine is still running.
6. Add the butter to the stand mixer and beat until the candy is very thick.
7. Fold in chopped pistachios and pour the entire mix into the prepared dish.
8. Let cool at room temperature for 2 hours, then slice into whatever shape your heart desires.
9. Dip nougat in melted chocolate and place on a wax paper-lined tray or plate.
10. Garnish with coconut flakes, if using, and let the chocolate cool/harden before serving.