Japanese Valentine's Chocolate
Cooking For Otaku: Valentine Chocolates
Just about every school-themed anime that spans longer than a year has an obligatory Valentine’s Day episode, which is always guaranteed to include two things: drama and chocolate. People who are new to anime might be a bit confused at first, but usually catch on and adjust to the cultural differences pretty fast. You can learn a lot about a culture from its TV shows, and anime is no exception.
To sum up the traditions, in case any non-otaku cooks or chocoholics have stumbled across this article, on Valentine’s Day in Japan, girls give chocolates to their friends, particularly their male friends, and especially to their significant other, or their crush. Store-bought Valentine chocolate is readily available, but homemade chocolate is held in much higher regard.
Despite the highly dramatized kitchen disasters sometimes featured in anime, most Valentine Chocolates are fun and easy to make. Here’s a simple recipe for smooth, creamy chocolate squares that will melt in your mouth.
- 2 cups Chocolate Chips
- 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
- Toppings of Your Choice
Small Tray (approximately 5x6 inches)
Foil or Parchment Paper
- Heat the heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over Medium heat for several minutes stirring occasionally, until steam rises from the surface of the liquid, and small bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan.
- Reduce heat to Medium Low and add the chocolate chips. Stir the mixture constantly until the chocolate chips have completely melted and combined with the cream.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into your lined tray. Use a rubber spatula to smooth the surface of the chocolate if necessary, so the tops of your chocolates will be nice and even. If you’re decorating with sprinkles, nonpareils, or other decorations that you want embedded into the chocolate’s surface, sprinkle or place them over the chocolate at this time.
- Refrigerate for at least three hours, or until the chocolate has set.
- Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator, and the tray, then cut into squares slightly larger than 1 inch. It may be necessary to trim the edges if your tray’s corners are rounded. Other decorations, such as cocoa powder dusting, or chocolate drizzle can be applied at this stage.
Decorating Your ChocolatesClick thumbnail to view full-size
There are countless ways to decorate your chocolates. From festive to romantic, sophisticated, to zany, the toppings you choose can make a world of difference. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Powdered Toppings: Dust your chocolates with a light coating of cocoa powder, powdered sugar, or even cinnamon, for a classic look, reminiscent of chocolate truffles. Make your own stencils for unique designs.
Melted Chocolate Drizzle: Melt some extra chocolate and use a small squeeze bottle or pastry bag to drizzle it over your squares. Switch up the type of chocolate you’re using (white, milk, or dark) to get a nice color contrast, or try specially colored chocolate or candy melts, which come in a wide variety of colors.
Sprinkles, Cake Toppings, and Other Candies: Raid the cake decorating aisle of your local supermarket. Anything that works on cakes or cookies will also work here, as will any other kind of candy. Coconut flakes, icing, gummy bears, yogurt covered pretzels, almonds, and M&Ms, there is no end to the possibilities. Chocolate in and of itself is Valentine themed enough that there’s no need to limit yourself to decorations that are red, pink, and white, or specifically Valentine’s Day oriented. Decorate your chocolates to suit your friends, or as you see fit.
PackagingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Presentation is important. The chef who taught me used to always say, “People eat with their eyes,” and it’s true. The initial impression someone has when they look at anything they might eat is what sticks, so always make sure, when it comes to your cooking, that those impressions are good ones.
The easiest way to do this is to make sure that your chocolates make it to their destination without getting crushed or jostled about in ways that would damage their shapes or toppings.
Treat boxes are excellent for both displaying your candies, and making sure that they travel safely. If you’re transporting your chocolates on a plate, make sure they’re covered in a way that doesn’t cause anything to press down on the toppings, and carry the plate in your hands instead of putting it in any sort of bag.
Mini cupcake wrappers are eye catching and great for spacing out your chocolates, and keeping them from pushing in on one another. Small treat bags are good for if you’re giving out small quantities of chocolates to lots of friends.
Not all chocolate is made of the same ingredients. Some brands and varieties of chocolates melt much faster or are much softer than others. This recipe takes that fact into consideration, but if your chocolates turn out too soft, use less cream in your next batch. If you want a softer chocolate, use more cream. Make adjustments in one ounce increments to avoid going too far in either direction.
If you decide to use chocolate that is not in chip form, put it through a food processor or use a chef’s knife to chop it into very small pieces so that it will melt more quickly.
When working with melted chocolate, be careful to keep it away from all forms of water. Just a few drops of water can make your chocolate lumpy and unworkable.
Most knives will work for cutting your chocolates into squares, but larger knives, like chef’s knives, get you cleaner, more even cuts and allow you to work faster. Keep paper towels on hand to clean your knife between cuts, to keep the edges of your squares neat.
Have fun! Don’t feel pressured to get every sprinkle perfectly in place, or worry about sticking to Valentine’s Day conventions when you choose your toppings. Too often, Valentine’s Day is overly stressful. Use these chocolates as a way to keep life sweet. ^_^