By Chef Todd

Melting Chocolate for Valentines Day

Rather than buying Valentines Day candy, how about melting chocolate and making your own Valentines Day candy this year?

The key to melting chocolate for Valentines Day, Easter candy, chocolate lollipops, or any homemade chocolates is melting chocolate to a precise temperature, called chocolate tempering.

Real chocolate should have four basic ingredients: Cocoa, Cocoa butter, Sugar, and Vanilla. Any chocolate bar that lists things like vegetable oil or palm kernel oil cannot call themselves chocolate. Chocolate for Valentine's day candy may also have soy lecithin as an emulsifier, and milk.

Chocolate starts out in the seeds of the yellow fruit of the cacao (Ka-Kow) tree. There are about 40 almond-sized beans in each of the cacao fruits. The beans are harvested and treated a lot like coffee. Cacao beans are left in the sun to dry and ferment. They are then crusted, revealing the valuable "cocoa nib"

Cocoa nib is further processed into "chocolate liquor" (has no alcohol), or "chocolate mass". This the resulting fat or butter from the processing of the nib. This is what gives real chocolate it's wonder mouth-feel.

Melting chocolate isn't as simple as just applying heat and watching it melt. If you'd like to create your own valentines day candy, then the chocolate needs to be "tempered" so it will return to it's solid, crisp, shiny state after melting.

Tempering chocolate is not difficult, but you must contain a lot of caution in melting chocolate this way. There is a slight 10 degree Fahrenheit range to which you must melt the chocolate gently, and then "seed" the melted chocolate with cold pieces so that the warm sugar may assume the crystal structure of the cold sugar in the chocolates.

It's more fun, and a lot less expensive to make your own Valentines Day Chocolates by learning the correct method to melting chocolate to create your own Valentine's Day Candies.