Every year millions of people exchange chocolates on February 14th for Valentine's Day. This trend has grown very popular in recent times, especially with the rise of quality chocolates (...and the number of chocoholics). Still, even in these modern times there are a few things you need to consider before you run out and grab a chocolate gift.
Fresh chocolates are the best to get
Some of the larger chocolate candy makers make their chocolates for the "busy season" (December through February) as early as summer time. That means that some of the packaged valentine chocolate you can purchase are several months old. Also, some of these chocolates are made with added preservatives which allow the chocolates to stay good longer, but can affect the taste. To get around this it is recommended you buy from a local chocolatier, candy store, or bakery who can produce a fresh chocolate treat for you (or at least one that is only a day or two old). If you are sending your chocolates to someone far away, check to see if there is a good local place that could deliver fresh chocolates for you and lessen the chance of shipping mishaps.
Nothing beats a homemade gift
For a more personal touch you can make your own box of valentine chocolate to give to your valentine. Don't worry if you are not a whiz in the kitchen - even if your gift does not turn out perfectly, it will earn extra points because you made it especially for them. There are many books, magazines, and websites to turn to for help and guidance so you do not have to go it alone. This is also a chance for you to personalize the chocolates an make them extra special by adding your valentine's favorite fruits, nuts, liqueurs, flavors, etc. See the Chocolate Truffle recipe below for a good way to make your own homemade gift.
The shape of love
While hearts are often a common theme used for shaping chocolates and gift boxes, you can use any shape that would appeal to your valentine, such as flowers. You can be creative with cookie cutters, stencils, or decorator's icing to give your chocolates extra flair, such as drawing a heart, smiley face, or bow on your chocolates. Also consider the different ways you can dress up the gift box with ribbons, flowers, handwritten love poems, etc.
Milk chocolate is not the only chocolate out there
While most Americans favor milk chocolates, don't be afraid of using dark chocolate in your gift; for instance, you can do a mixed selection of 1/2 milk chocolate and 1/2 dark chocolate. If you are not sure if your valentine likes dark chocolate you might want to go for the mild and sweet taste of semisweet chocolate. If you want to go for intense chocolate flavor then go with the bittersweet dark chocolate. Generally, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bittersweet the chocolate will taste. If you are using unsweetened or baking chocolate, then you will want to mix it with something else, such as cream and sugar, to help bring down the intensity level.