Susan S. Yeske: Dining In - Recipe of the Week

Homemade chocolates for Valentine's Day



Homemade truffles are one way to give a gift of chocolate for Valentine’s Day.

Flowers, jewelry and dinner at a favorite restaurant are all popular choices for your favorite Valentine. But consider this statistic from bulk candy distributor CandyStore.com: 69 percent of those questioned in a survey said they would prefer chocolate over flowers as a Valentine’s Day gift.

Here’s another fact: this year the National Retail Federation is estimating a drop in categories such as jewelry, clothing and gift certificates. Meanwhile, spending on candy is expected to remain firm.

Also surprising is that conversation hearts – those small, heart-shaped candies with a variety of messages printed on them – is the top-selling candy in the U.S. for Valentine’s Day with 8.2 billion created for this year. Maybe it’s because they are fat-free or because people like those little messages, but while people are buying those candies, the recipients may well be pining for chocolates.

An estimated 40 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for the holiday, and chocolate-covered caramels will be the most popular choice in those boxes. Here in Pennsylvania, the land of Hershey, CandyStore.com says the top choice is pink and red M&Ms, although boxes of chocolates are a strong second. Conversation hearts take third place here in the Keystone State.

We’ve been enjoying chocolate since Swiss innovators developed the first appealing eating chocolate in the 1870s.

Chocolate truffles reportedly were formed by accident in the kitchen of French culinary giant Auguste Escoffier in the 1920s.

An apprentice accidentally poured hot cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks, and rather than waste it, he mixed it up and found it could be used as a ganache to top desserts, and when cooled could be worked into a paste and formed into small balls. Those were rolled in cocoa powder, and because they looked like the highly sought-after fungus called truffles, they were named chocolate truffles.

Today’s chocolate truffles can refer to the rolled version or the more familiar chocolates we find in heart-shaped boxes.

If you want to give a gift of chocolate but prefer to give something you have made yourself, it doesn’t get much easier than this truffle recipe from kraft.com. Using a heart-shaped box is optional.

Easy Chocolate Truffles

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3 packages (4 ounces each) semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces, melted
1½ teaspoons vanilla

Suggested coatings: ground walnuts, unsweetened cocoa powder, flaked coconut

Beat cream cheese in large bowl with mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add sugar, mixing until well blended.

Add melted chocolate and vanilla; mix well. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chilled.

Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in walnuts, cocoa, powdered sugar or coconut. Store in refrigerator.

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