Impress your sweetheart with a homemade chocolate-covered Valentine’s Day treat
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, bakeries, chocolate shops and candy stores are stocking up on all the delicious goodies to bring to your sweetie.
But instead of going the store-bought route this year, why not impress your love with some homemade treats? Executive pastry chef Joshua Cain at Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando shared some tips and tricks on how you can make your own chocolate-covered strawberries, cherries, pretzels, whatever your main squeeze would enjoy.
Cain is a chocolate expert. He spent time in France this summer with chocolatier Barry Callebaut, creating his own chocolate that will be exclusive to Caribe Royale. His dark chocolate should be introduced around April, and a milk chocolate version will debut a few months later. They will be used for everything from brownies and cookies to ice cream and sauces.
There’s an art to chocolate-covered food. Although simple to make, following a few easy steps should ensure the best looking and tasting results.
What kind of chocolate should you use?
High end chocolate, like Valrhona or Barry Callebaut, would taste best, but you can also go to your local craft store and buy chocolate melts.
How should you melt the chocolate?
Take it nice and slow. Put the chocolate in a bowl and microwave it for 10 seconds. That doesn't seem like a lot, but you just want to keep mixing it with a rubber spatula and move the chocolate around. Keep doing that in 10 second intervals and mix the chocolate a little. You are looking for a nice smooth and shiny consistency. If you leave it in the microwave for too long, even 30 seconds, the chocolate will get too thick and it will be hard to work with.
What technique should you use when dipping the fruit, pretzels, etc. in the chocolate?
When I'm dipping food in chocolate, I pull it out and bounce it up and down a little bit. That pulls the chocolate down to get a nice, even coat.
Is there a certain food or fruit that works best with chocolate?
Fruits that have a lot of moisture, like apples and pineapple are hard. With strawberries we wash them, dry them well and leave them on a paper towel overnight. That way they get to room temperature before we dip them in the chocolate. Dried fruits work well, and I prefer pretzels rods over pretzel twists.
If you want to add toppings when do you do that?
Right after you dip the item in chocolate. You want to add the toppings when the chocolate is still shiny and wet. Once it's dull, it won't stick. You can get creative with the toppings. I like using cereal, because it adds a nice crunch. Mini marshmallows or mini candies also are good, because they add texture. It really can be anything, even crushed up pretzels would be good on strawberries to add a crunch.
Once the food is dipped, what do you place it on?
I use parchment paper. Wax paper also works well and so does a silicone mat, because it's easy to release. Don’t forget to push the chocolate-covered item forward slightly once it is placed on the parchment paper, as this will remove some of the chocolate that has puddled up.
Do you need to let the chocolate-covered food stand for awhile before eating?
It will probably get eaten quickly. Technically, you can eat it right away, but it's good to let it sit out at room temperature to harden. Don't put it in the fridge or freezer, because that will cause the chocolate to sweat and the moisture will impact the quality of the chocolate.
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How long will chocolate-covered treats remain fresh?
Dried fruit, pretzels will last awhile. Strawberries need to be eaten pretty quickly, within six to eight hours.
Any other tips?
You can take this simple process and enhance the look of it by the presentation. Take the chocolate-covered pretzels and put them in a mason jar. Put the chocolate-covered strawberries on a nice plate and dress the plate up.
Michelle Spitzer is a Viera-based freelance travel and lifestyles writer. follow her at bymichellespitzer.com.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Pastry chef shares tips for making chocolate-covered sweets