Friday, February 13, 2015

Love is in the air...

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so of course- love is in the air.
I personally, love this time of year. There's something about white snow, red and pink window displays and chocolate that can put anyone in a good mood. One of my favourite things actually, is to see men both young and old crowding around the flower displays in grocery stores, trying to buy that perfect bouquet for their significant other.

I know some say it's a commercial holiday but to me, there ain't nothing wrong with something that makes you want to write a card, listen to a love song, pick a flower or cook something special for the one you love.

I always like to bake or make something a little extra special for those I love and so today is the perfect day to prep a few things in my kitchen for the day of love.

One of the most delicious and undoubtably symbolic foods at valentines is chocolate. Especially chocolate fondue. It's hard to work with at home if you don't have a fool proof technique. Chocolate can burn easily and the smell is anything but romantic. Many may think if they buy a "proper" fondue kit they will be all set. While it's great to have a nice fondue kit for dinner parties, I for one just don't have the space to store it in my teeny tiny kitchen cupboards.

So, this Valentine's Day I'm sharing with you my quick and easy tips for melting chocolate. I use this to make chocolate covered strawberries but you can also use this as a chocolate dip for pretzels or any other chopped fruit. If you want, you can even set up a fruit platter and have your special someone dip their own fruits with a small skewer or toothpick.

All you need to make this happen are chocolate chips, a medium size bowl, a spoon or small silicon spatula and a saucepan. I'm on a bit of a health kick so I chose to work with dark chocolate chips today. Dark chocolate (look for at least 70% cocoa) has great health benefits as it contains flavonols which are powerful antioxidants. Recent research has shown that a daily dose of dark chocolate can help lower and maintain blood pressure, increases blood flow to the brain and can help control stress. Plus- it tastes good. If, however you are not into dark chocolate you can use milk chocolate (I feel this is a little too sweet) or semi-sweet.

Fill your saucepan about 1/3 of the way with water and bring it to a simmer (low to medium heat). Place your chocolate chips (I'd use about half of a 250 g package) into the bowl and lower the bowl into the water. This is called a double boiler in the food industry. Using a double boiler is a great way to melt chocolate because it keeps the chocolate itself away from direct heat. Use your spoon or spatula to gently stir your chocolate chips until they melt.

Once your chocolate has melted (it really only takes a few minutes) you can dry off your bowl and add it to your fruit platter. You will want to heat your chocolate immediately before serving so you have ample time to dip away. If your chocolate does harden again, just bring it back to the double boiler and reheat.

If you'd like to make chocolate dipped fruit, use a skewer to dip the fruit into the boil once the chocolate has melted. Place the fruit skewer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Keep dipping until your baking sheet or plate is full (you don't want your chocolate dipped treats to be touching each other) and then move it into the fridge to set. Once your chocolate has hardened, you can transfer your treats to a serving dish or pack them into a container to give as a gift.

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