With 100,000 pounds of Conversation Hearts produced every year during the season, they are the best selling Valentine’s Day candy. They even beat out the boxes of chocolate, according to the Necco Company which has been making the little candies since 1866 when Daniel Chase invented a machine to press letters onto the tiny heart shaped candies.
Over the years, those words have evolved as times have changed. It’s hard to imagine finding a “Text Me” candy in the box even 20 years ago. But after 150 years, with the availability of edible ink pens, it’s totally possible to take back your Valentine’s Day candy and do it yourself. Use heart shaped cutters to cut out your candies and you don’t need a machine to write your message.
Doing it yourself makes it possible to totally personalize your messages. Just spell it out. Anything you want. Anything at all. There are, after all, no censors in the privacy of your own kitchen.
Valentine’s Day is a good time to remember that Red Velvet isn’t just for Christmas anymore. As a base for brownies, fudge, cookies or most any kind of confection, Red Velvet is a quick way to get a Valentine’s vibe going. Best of all, squeeze the cake into balls and dip in white chocolate. Delicious and easy.
Need kid friendly Valentine projects? What kid wouldn’t want to tear a cake into shreds and then squeeze it into shapes? To be able to destroy and reform without being screamed at is any kid’s dream.
For very young children, let them dip some pretzel rods into white chocolate and sprinkles. Fun for even the smallest children.
If Valentine’s Day is not Valentine’s Day without some chocolate, Cooperative Extension is here for you. They’ve got two chocolate workshops just in time for the holiday on Thursday, the 11th from 6-8 p.m. and Friday, the 12th from 12 noon until 1 p.m. Sign up and get your chocolate on. Registration is required to attend either of these workshops. You can register by calling 336-401-8025.
Red Velvet Truffles
box red velvet cake mix (plus ingredients listed on the box to prepare the cake)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
16 oz. white chocolate
Prepare the 9 x 13 inch cake according to package instructions, let it cool completely then crumble the cake in a large bowl. Add softened cream cheese and knead gently with your fingers until cream cheese is fully incorporated. Roll about one heaping tablespoon of the mixture into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper. You will get about 35-40 balls. Place in the fridge to chill. Melt white chocolate, remove cake balls form the fridge and using a fork dip them into melted chocolate. Place one ball at a time into the melted chocolate, roll the ball to coat evenly coat with the chocolate, then slightly tap the fork against the side of the bowl to trim the excess chocolate and place the truffle on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with sprinkles. Put them back in the fridge until chocolate is firm.
1/3 cup cool water
3/4 tsp. powdered gelatin
1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar
few drops flavoring or extract
few drops food coloring (you can use multiple colors, if you wish)
edible ink pens (available online, or wherever cake decorating supplies are sold)
In a heat-safe liquid measuring cup, measure the water and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface. Let bloom for 5 minutes, then melt in the microwave in 10-second bursts until fluid and fully dissolved. Transfer the melted gelatin to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time and mix on low speed until fully incorporated. Continue adding confectioners’ sugar and mixing until the mixture is smooth and resembles a white dough. The dough shouldn’t be sticky and it should be firm to the touch. Divide the dough into even pieces, depending how many flavors and colors you’re planning to make. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap: It’s important that the dough stays tightly wrapped until you’re ready to use it, as extended exposure to air will cause it to form a skin. Line your work surface with parchment or wax paper. Working with one piece of dough at a time, drop a few drops of flavor and color onto the dough. Knead by hand until the color is uniform and the dough is even (if you’re using a bright color, you may want to wear gloves at first to avoid staining your hands with the color). Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, wrapping each tightly when finished. On a clean, dry surface, roll out one piece of dough to 1/4-inch thick. Every few rolls, pick up the dough and turn it 45 degrees in either direction. If you work quickly and keep rotating the dough, it shouldn’t stick to the surface. (Note: If you’re having trouble, you can roll the dough between two sheets of parchment, wax paper, or Silicone baking mats. Or, use a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar on the surface and on the dough.) When the dough is the proper thickness, pick it up and rotate it once more, then use a small heart cutter (or another small sharp cutter) to stamp individual candies out. Transfer each piece to a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a small bit of space between each candy. Repeat with the remaining candies, then let them all dry, uncovered, for 2 days. When the candies are dry, use edible ink pens to write messages on each piece. The finished candies can be stored in airtight containers for up to 3 weeks.
Valentine’s Day White Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods
1 package of Pretzel Rods
10 oz. of white chocolate
Sprinkles for decorating
Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper or a nonstick baking mat and set aside. Using a microwave safe bowl or coffee mug, melt your white chocolate in the microwave according to the directions on your package. Dip each pretzel into the melted white chocolate and then hold it vertically over the dish for a few seconds so the excess chocolate can drain off the end or shake it a few times. (Or use a spoon to scoop up the melted chocolate & spread it over your pretzels). Coat with sprinkles and place on your prepared cookie sheet. Allow the pretzels to dry, you can put them in the refrigerator for a few minutes to speed up the process.
White Chocolate Popcorn
1/2 cup pop corn kernels, unpopped
4 oz. white chocolate baking bar
6 oz. white chocolate chips
1 drop pink food coloring
Place popcorn kernels in a paper bag and fold top of the bag twice. Place it in the microwave and set to high for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Listen carefully for when kernels stop popping. As soon as the popping stops, take the bag out of the microwave. Length of time will vary due to the power of your microwave. Place popcorn in a baking sheet and lay flat to cool. In a double boiler melt chocolate. When the chocolate is melted add 1 drop of food coloring and mix through. Pour chocolate over the popcorn and with your clean hands mix chocolate through. Set aside until chocolate sets and serve.
2½ cups sugar, divided
1½ cups applesauce
2 pkgs. (3 ounces each) red gelatin
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 tsp. lemon juice
Coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place in refrigerator. Combine 2 cups sugar, applesauce, red gelatin, unflavored gelatin and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Let stand for 1 minute. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute and then immediately pour into cold baking dish. Refrigerate until firm (about three hours should do it or up to overnight.) Loosen the sides of the gelatin with a spatula and invert onto cutting board or waxed paper. Use small, sharp heart shaped cookie cutters to cut out gumdrops. It helps to dip the cutters into hot water first. Sprinkle sugar over a piece of waxed paper and place gumdrops on top of sugar. Let dry for about 8 hours or until slightly sticky. Roll in remaining sugar and store in an airtight container.
Red Velvet Swirl Brownies
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, for pan
Red Velvet Brownie Layer:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp. red food coloring
1 tsp. vinegar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Cream Cheese Layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan, and set aside.
Brownie layer: In a saucepan on medium heat melt the butter. Remove the butter to a large bowl and add the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, in that order, mixing between additions. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and stir it into the cocoa mix. Fold in the flour until lightly combined. Stir in the walnuts and pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, saving 1/4 cup of the batter for the top.
Cream cheese layer: Blend together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Gently spread the cream cheese layer on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Dollop the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer. Using a skewer or the tip of a knife, drag the tip through the cream cheese mixture to create a swirl pattern. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before cutting.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.