You might not be a fan of Valentine's Day, God knows I'm not, but I dare you to show me a person who doesn't like chocolate. Don't ask me why we associate V. Day with chocolate, or with flowers for that matter, I'm not gonna be the one to challenge the courtship rituals of the day. I am going to say this though; don't wait for V. Day to declare your love, admiration, devotion, your lust or your passion for your loved one, be that your wife/husband, boy/girlfriend, lover, even a secret crush. Life's too short to just sit and wait for February 14th.
Having said that... I'm just a girl who wouldn't mind receiving a nice box of chocolates on the day, although I have to admit, I prefer making my own. There's a certain satisfaction in making chocolate and an underlying sense of seduction. It's mystical, magical, this procedure. It makes me feel like an alchemist, working to make all the secret ingredients click and result in a spellbinding concoction that will allure and excite anyone tasting them.
Like the temptress that I am, I decided to make use of two kinds of chocolate and create two different treats. Spiced dark chocolate hearts and marzipan-white chocolate bites with ginger. Adding aphrodisiacs in the form of spices will always do the trick.
The little chocolate hearts melt in your mouth, filling it with the glorious sweetness of the chocolate and the slight tingle of heat from the cayenne and black pepper. The marzipan-white chocolate bites, flavored with the aphrodisiac of the East, ginger, taste like heaven in a bite, and along with the almond flavor of the marzipan constitute a marvel for the palate.
I could try more to explain the feelings that these chocolates evoke when eaten, but it would be futile. You have to try them. Keep these recipes bookmarked for when you just want to savor something special, something that you'll want to share not only with the love of your life but with anyone you love, no matter what day it is. They will be grateful to you.
Spiced Dark Chocolate Hearts
Adapted from Stelios Parliaros
You need only a few ingredients to make these chocolates but you do need to temper the chocolate for better results.
Yield: 30 chocolates (10 g each)
350 g couverture or bittersweet chocolate
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
A good pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or in the microwave.
If you use a bain-marie, stir the chocolate while it melts and do not overheat it.
Be careful not to let any steam or water come in contact with the melting chocolate because it will ruin it and make it stiff.
If you're using the microwave, make sure not to boil the chocolate. Do not overheat it.
Next you need to temper the chocolate.
The procedure of tempering chocolate is an essential step when making chocolates. It ensures that the chocolate will remain shiny and will snap when broken, instead of crumble. When you temper chocolate, you lower its temperature by the constant folding and smearing of it across a cold marble stone, in order to prohibit crystallization of the cocoa butter and to prevent splitting of the solids from the liquids. This procedure goes on until the temperature of the chocolate drops to 30 degrees Celsius for dark chocolate and 28 degrees Celsius for white chocolate.
To temper chocolate, you can either follow the aforementioned method or a much easier one.
Let's start with the difficult one (based on the one above). Once you melt the chocolate, pour it onto a marble stone or a glass surface, or any other cold and smooth surface (not wooden or porous surfaces). Fold the chocolate, smearing it across the surface many times, using a spatula, for about 5 minutes. Continue this process until, inserting a thermometer, the temperature reads 30 degrees Celsius. Then place the chocolate in a bowl.
Now for the easy method. Not everyone has a marble stone or even a big enough surface in the kitchen for folding the chocolate, and I'm sure not many of you have a thermometer for this kind of use. So, there's another way to temper your chocolate.
Once the chocolate is melted, pour it into another bowl and keep stirring it around with a rubber spatula until it cools. How will you know when it has reached the correct temperature? Just bring a bit of the melted chocolate to your lips and feel it. If it feels warm, then continue stirring, until when you feel it again it's cool but not cold.
After tempering the chocolate, add the cayenne, black pepper and nutmeg and stir around until incorporated. Then pour the chocolate into the heart-shaped molds.
You will need silicone molds or molds especially made for chocolates.
Tap the molds gently onto a surface so that you eliminate any air bubbles in the chocolate, and place in the refrigerator to set. They will take about 20 minutes to set. Remove chocolates carefully from molds and store in an airtight container.
If you don't have molds, then you can just pour teaspoons of chocolate onto greaseproof paper and let cool completely before putting in the refrigerator to set.
Leave the chocolates at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving, because they get really hard when they're in the refrigerator and are difficult to bite into.
The chocolates will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator, stored in an airtight container.
Marzipan-White Chocolate Bites with Ginger
Adapted from Stelios Parliaros
This recipe has a small list of ingredients. The marzipan here is not the traditional one but a much lighter one since it does not contain eggs.
Yield: 25 chocolates
35 g orange juice, freshly squeezed
50 g icing sugar
200 g almond flour
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or 1/4 ground ginger
125 g white chocolate
50 g icing sugar (optional)
Sugar hearts (optional)
In a blender, place the almond flour, icing sugar, orange juice and the ginger and blend until it becomes a firm dough. Remove dough from blender and shape into bite-sized balls. Put aside.
Melt the chocolate and temper it exactly as described in the previous recipe (the temperature must be 28 degrees Celsius after tempering).
Roll the marzipan balls into the white chocolate and place them on a wire rack to harden, adding on top, if you wish, small sugar hearts.
Alternatively, you can roll them into the white chocolate and then in icing sugar.
Place coated marzipan balls in the refrigerator to set. Serve straight from the refrigerator.
The marzipan-chocolate bites will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator, stored in an airtight container.