Chocolate is one of life’s guilty pleasures; it’s one sweet treat that we simply cannot resist. There is rarely a person that doesn’t feel satisfied by closing their eyes, taking a bite of a velvety smooth piece of chocolate and having it melt on their tongue.

February brings with it the romantic tradition of giving chocolate indulgences to loved ones. But why not take the standard box of Valentine confections up a notch and make your own sweet delights.

Sandi Godin of Minot has been making dipped chocolates for more than 30 years, and this “lovers holiday” is no exception.

“Few people celebrate Valentine’s Day without chocolate,” said Godin. “And homemade chocolates are a great expression of love. They don’t have to be difficult and you can customize the assortment to your sweetheart’s tastes. My husband, Ray, loves and appreciates the thought that I made them myself — wrapped in tissue or served on a pretty dessert dish, they are far more elegant and much more valued than anything I could buy in a store.”

Godin’s preferred candies involve a creamy fondant-type center, dipped in a combination of melted chocolates.

“I have two fondant-center recipes. One is peanut butter and the other is a plain base, which I divide and add flavorings to. The dipping chocolate is a mixture of unsweetened chocolate, semi-sweet bits, candy bars and paraffin. It’s a combination that I have fine-tuned over the years because each ingredient plays a different part in the taste and texture. The unsweetened gives it that gloss effect, the candy bar adds the sweetness value and the touch of paraffin gives it a firm set up.”

One bonus: The centers are made the night before and refrigerated.

“The peanut butter ones use butter, peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar. The plain base is made with butter, condensed milk and confectioners’ sugar. The ingredients are kneaded like bread until it forms into a ball. Place the dough in a baggie and make as air-tight as possible,” said Godin.

In the morning, just add flavoring and roll into balls.

“As the chocolate ingredients are melting in the double boiler, roll the peanut butter fondant into balls and put them on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and store in the fridge. Next, divide up the plain fondant and, prior to rolling, add flavoring/extract (and food coloring, if desired),” she said.

The combinations are endless.

“Add your sweetie’s favorite extracts to the fondant, such as maple with chopped walnuts, peppermint with crushed candy canes, rum or almond with coconut,” said Godin.

“One favorite of ours is adding cherry flavoring and mold the fondant around a maraschino cherry before dipping. Crushed Heath Bars are great too. You can go as far as your imagination takes you! There are hundreds of flavorings and extracts online that aren’t carried at local stores, like blueberry, pistachio and champagne.”

Godin noted: “Just remember that a little goes a long way with flavoring and extracts. Add tiny drops at a time and taste. If anything, make it a bit milder than desired, as once they are dipped, the chocolate will intensify the flavor.”

Timing is key, she said.

“Once you have rolled the balls, refrigerate and keep checking . . .  don’t chill long enough and the balls will fall apart in the chocolate; too long and they begin to have a thin, dry film.”

Godin said she has found that the best way to dip the filling is with a thin, bent knitting needle. “A fork will have too much chocolate on the bottom and a wooden skewer gets a build up on it.”

Then it’s time for the finishing touches.

“There will be a small hole on the top where the knitting needle was,” said Godin, “so this is a great time to cover that hole and at the same time denote each flavor. First, take a tiny spoon and dollop a small amount of the melted chocolate on all of them (over the hole). Then, white or a lighter-colored (warmed) chocolate can be put into a decorating bag and . . . make swirls or cross-hatching designs on top (of the chocolates),” giving the same-flavor candies similar designs. Sprinkles also can be used to indicate flavor.

Finally comes the packaging.

“My favorite is Valentine cupcake wrappers,” said Godin. “But you can put the chocolates in Mason jars with a string wrapped around it and a heart dangling down, or recycle an old Valentine’s (candy) box or make your own with wrapping paper and red tissue. Cellophane bags work well with a bow and love note added.”

Now, if fondant-filled candy seems overwhelming, there are many other things you can dip into the chocolate.

“Caramel squares can be dipped and topped with sea salt. Turtles are made easy by taking the caramel squares and pushing them down onto pecans and dipped,” said Godin.

“For fruits, dipping sliced bananas, strawberries . . . even apples slices and orange wedges taste amazing. Salty items such as pretzels and chips are great for dipping too. There are hundreds of molds to pour the chocolate into for making heart-shaped chocolates and even lollipops.”

Godin continued, “For rocky road clusters mix mini-marshmallows and peanuts; pour some of the melted chocolate over it and spoon out clusters. You can even take a leftover fortune cookie, dip half in the chocolate and slide in a personal fortune.”

“Dipping a firm ganache has the consistency of a truffle and is great for the chocolate-chocolate lover. It’s simply semi-sweet bits melted in heavy cream. Just pour into a container, cool and form into balls.”

Whether it’s decadent, fondant-cream centers dipped in chocolate or simple caramel squares dipped in pre-packaged melted wafers available at most stores, be a winner when it comes to February’s romantic holiday.

“Skip the store-bought candy this Valentine’s Day and make homemade candies or dessert straight from the heart. They are so much fun to make and the sweetest way to say I love you,” said Godin.

Basic fondant centers

Ingredients:

1 can condensed milk

2 pounds confectioners’ sugar

1/2 pound extra confectioners’ sugar

1 stick softened butter

Desired flavorings and food coloring

Instructions:

Set extra confectioners’ sugar aside

Blend milk, butter and 2 pounds confectioner’s sugar together in a large bowl, starting with a wooden spoon.

As it starts to blend, use hands and knead it until it comes off the bowl nicely and forms a ball; a bit thicker than a Play-Doh consistency. Add extra confectioners’ sugar if needed.

Store in an air-tight bag for at least 5 hours or overnight.

Separate dough depending on the number of different flavors you want to make. Add flavoring to each batch, starting with just a few drops until desired taste. Same with food coloring. Knead, adding extra confectioner’s sugar if needed.

Roll into balls, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes. Dip in chocolate.

Peanut butter fondant centers

Ingredients:

1 pound softened butter

2 cups peanut butter

2-3 pounds of confectioners’ sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions:

Same as basic fondant centers; no need to separate dough or add flavorings.

Crushed peanuts can be added before rolling.

Dipping chocolate

Ingredients:

2 (12-ounce) bags semi-sweet bits

4 (2-ounce) squares unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 Hershey’s (1.55 ounce) chocolate bar

1/2 bar of paraffin wax

Instructions:

Melt all ingredients slowly in a candy melting pot or double boiler.

Once melted, keep on very low heat to prevent burning.

Dip desired centers. Or this makes a great fondue.

Depending on personal dipping, recipe should dip both peanut butter and basic center recipe.

‘Ganache with panache’ filling

Ingredients:

1 part heavy cream

3 parts semi-sweet chocolate bits

Instructions:

Bring cream just to a boil, remove immediately and pour over a bowl of bits.

Whisk until smooth. Cool until firm and scoop with a melon baller and shape into balls.

Refrigerate for 10 minutes if dipping in chocolate or simply roll in cocoa powder or nuts.


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