Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Chocolate-Dipped Valentine's Day with Driscolls!

I've never been a big Valentine's Day enthusiast. Not as an adult anyway. It's a fake holiday that was created to sell cards and chocolates, and seems to unfairly put the burden on the guy to make it special. Plus good luck getting a reservation anywhere! But I will happily help my kids celebrate! And what better way to celebrate friendship than sharing a plate of chocolate covered strawberries? Making your own is easy and far more affordable than buying them pre-made, plus you have the flexibility to get organic berries, avoid GMOs, get allergy-friendly chocolate, etc.

[This post is sponsored by Driscoll's Berries]

My niece's birthday is right around Valentines Day, so when she wanted a sleepover with her cousins that weekend, chocolate-covered strawberries were prominently on the menu! They are supremely easy to make, and so fun to eat, but there are a few tricks to getting them just right!

I've found that candy melts and chocolate chips tend to melt too thick (and usually have artificial colors, flavors, and milk, which we can't have.) So if you're using these, add a little oil or shortening to get a better consistency. I prefer coconut oil or palm shortening, since the brand-name shortening has petroleum-derived preservatives.
Another solution is to buy chocolate bars... They already contain an emulsifier to help them get nice and melty and smooth. You can find chocolate that is all-natural, organic, fair trade, dairy-free, or made in a nut-free facility... whatever you need to make them safe for your family! And in the case of making your own chocolate goodies, you get what you pay for. If you buy cheap chocolate, your results won't be as yummy and fancy and special. It's worth it to splurge for the "good stuff" here!

I'm lazy and choose to melt in the microwave, but as it turns out, that helps you get a better quality finish on the chocolate versus a double-boiler, since you aren't getting moisture from the steam. But for treats being eaten right away, chocolate bloom isn't really an issue! Hahah! But if you are needing a large amount of melted chocolate, double boilers are safer and can hold more at once.
Microwave melting is easy though, and I have a glass dish with a sealable lid that I can use again and again and keep the leftovers ready for next time. Glass is best for this, since it doesn't retain heat like plastic or ceramic, so you run less risk of overheating and ruining your chocolate.

Make sure that your berries are washed and completely dry. Water messes up the chocolate and prevents it from sticking to the berries.

How to Make Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
To melt chocolate in the microwave, put your chocolate (around a cup at a time) in a microwave safe dish and heat for 1 minute on High. Then stir and cook for 30 seconds more. Continue to heat in 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until melted. Then dip away! (If adding oil to thin, add a little at a time between heatings until desired consistency is reached.)

Since it isn't very cost-effective to have enough melted quality chocolate to fully dip whole berries, use a spoon to help cover both sides. Let most of the excess drip off.

Place dipped strawberries onto a parchment-lined baking tray or plate, or on a silicone baking mat on a baking sheet to cool. Allow them to cool at room temperature, unless you plan to eat them all soon. Putting them in the fridge is faster, but can cause unsightly chocolate bloom spots to appear a few hours later.

If you want to get fancy, add gently sifted powdered sugar, crushed nuts or cookies or graham crackers, sprinkles, or mini chocolate chips before leaving the chocolate to harden. Drizzled chocolate designs are also fun and can be done in different colored melted chocolates or even the same, as long as you wait for the dipped chocolate to be mostly hardened first.

Enjoy, and have a berry great holiday, no matter how you celebrate it!

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