Making Valentine’s Day chocolate…honestly, what the heck? Was anyone else flummoxed by this? I was always tremendously confused as to why people in Japan wouldn’t just go out to buy chocolate like we do in America. Also…”making” chocolate. Like…from scratch? Do you know how hard it is to actually do that? I’ve researched it- without professional cocao bean grinding equiptment it’s incredibly difficult to do in a home kitchen. So why were Japanese tween girls in every anime ever apparently able to do this on their own?!?
For a long time I felt truly incompetent as an aspiring chocolatier. How could I hope to be good when I couldn’t even compete with literal SIXTH GRADERS (Card Captor Sakura, anyone?) in the art of Valentine’s Day chocolate making?
As it turns out, when people in anime say they are going to make chocolate for Valentine’s Day, it just means they are going to melt down existing chocolate and reform it into different shapes, which they would then decorate. It could also refer to making chocolate cookies/cake/pastries. Maybe I’m too invested in this, because I was actually really annoyed to learn it wasn’t any more difficult than that.
But, you know, Valentine’s Day in Japan is a big deal. Girls give chocolate to lots of people- people they like, chocolate for friends, and “obligatory” (giri) chocolate- chocolate for the people you are aquainted with, but have no romantic feelings for- like a co-worker or something. And, as we all know, giving gifts as a symbol of your love or affection for someone can be difficult. I fondly remember my Japanese teacher telling me of the struggle that was giving her crush Valentine’s chocolate- which resulted in failure (poor Sensei). And, of course, chocolate gifts are rewarded with White Day gifts from the guys a few months later.
Gintama, comedy gold that it is, makes great fun of this notion of giving chocolate to others. Kagura gets all torn up about how to give chocolate to Gintama and Shinpachi without having them make fun of her. She asks all of her female friends for advice, which is not exactly the best advice out there.
But, in the end, she gives them big chocolate hearts (Hers is the one in the blue box).
If you want to give chocolate to someone this year for Valentine’s day, there is a really easy way to do it. Sure, you could make truffles, or cakes, or cookies, but you could also just make a big old chocolate heart, in the style of Gintama. The recipe I’m providing below is for beginner chocolatiers. It uses “fake” chocolate, which is chocolate with vegetable fats instead of cocao butter. This makes it easy to heat up over and over, and is guaranteed to harden up completely. Also, it doesn’t need to be tempered the same way real chocolate does, which is essentially a process of heating real chocolate up just enough to melt, but not enough to ruin the structure of the chemical bonds in the chocolate, which will make it soft and not shiny. (Which is confusing, and hard to get right, so don’t feel bad if you don’t understand it.)
If tempering chocolate is something that comes naturally to you, you can certainly use this tutorial with real chocolate instead- the only thing you would do differently is melting the chocolate, which, if you’re using real chocolate, should be done very carefully over a double boiler with a thermometer. But, if you’re just looking for a fairly uncomplicated project, using “fake” chocolate will be the perfect solution, and will result in great tasting chocolate to give to someone you care about!
Check out the video below for a visual on instructions. Ingredients and picture instructions are listed just below.
- 1 bag of Candy Melts
- Candy Melts in complementary colors, for decoration
- Parchment paper
- A spatula or knife for spreading chocolate
1. Using parchment paper or acetate, cut out a heart shape. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper/acetate to pour the chocolate on.
2. Pour Candy Melts into a plastic bowl (plastic bowl doesn’t hold heat- so it won’t burn the chocolate. A Tupperware will work!) and melt according to package instructions, stirring after each go in the microwave.
3. Pour the chocolate onto the big piece of parchment paper and spread it out so that it is bigger than your heart template.
4. Allow to harden, about 10-15 minutes, until the top is firm but it is still a bit flexible when you pick up the corners of the paper to try to bend it.
5. Lay heart template on top and cut around the edges with a knife. Allow to harden completely, 20 minutes or until solid to the touch.
6. Melt contrasting color Candy Melt by placing the melts in a plastic bag and placing in a bowl of hot water until melted.
7. Snip off the tip of the plastic bag and decorate according to your heart’s desires. I, of course, chose to decorate this with the love of my life in mind. *COUGH COUGH CRUNCHYROLL COUGH COUGH* Does this mean I get a White Day gift? #whitedaygift4emily. Let’s make this a reality, guys. *COUGH COUGH COUGH* I mean…what?
Work quickly- if the chocolate hardens in the tip, it will make it difficult to pipe out decorations. In this case, you can pinch the chocolate out of the tip. If it all hardents, switch the chocolate to a new bag and remelt before cutting off the tip to go back to decorating.
8. And now it’s done!! Package as you wish and give to a loved one :3