Valentine's chocolates

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, your bakery can add profits by jumping on the opportunity to make chocolate candies. Even if you are not a master chocolatier, you can reach out for technical assistance and troubleshooting tips from the experts to create a special collection of your own chocolates for this extremely important holiday. Remember, you don’t have to be a full-time chocolate shop to make your own chocolates at special times of the year.

The profit potential is huge. According to a 2013 Valentine’s Day spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, the average US consumer spends $130.97 on candy, cards, gifts and more, up from $126.03 in the previous year. More than half of gift givers will buy candy, spending $1.6 billion in total.

It is important to know what types of chocolates are in demand by your local customers. Of note, milk chocolate is preferred by 57% of chocolate consumers in the US, with dark (33%) and white (10%) chocolate coming in second and third, according to Mintel. Older consumers prefer dark chocolate more than younger ones. Two-thirds of consumers aged 25-34 prefer milk chocolate, compared to half of those aged 55-64.

To make your own artisan chocolate candies, chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, academic dean for student affairs for The French Pastry School, offers several helpful tips for making chocolates with fruit fillings.

“When you make your own jam with sugar and fruit, reduce it completely,” he recommends. “If you have too much water left, it will mold.”

Invest in a brix refractometer to measure the brix, or sugar content of an aqueous solution, in your fruit reduction. Pfeiffer recommends reducing your jam to 60-62 brix.

“Let it cool to 89° F before piping into the chocolate mold,” he says. “Then keep it overnight in a chocolate room.”

As you fill your chocolate molds, tap the mold gently on your work table to allow for settling. If you overfill, Pfeiffer recommends placing a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap on top to take care of the excess. Once filled, your chocolates need to go into a chocolate room overnight before you add a final layer of chocolate on top the next day.   

The ideal storage temperature for chocolate is between 59° F to 63° F, with a humidity that is less than 50%. Chocolate easily absorbs aroma and should be stored separately from other foods, especially those with strong aromas such as herbs, spices, onions, garlic, and meat. For this reason, dark, white, and milk chocolates are carefully and tightly wrapped, so as to avoid absorbing moisture and other foreign elements.

The beauty of chocolate candies is you can experiment on your own unique sweets. Chef Celine Plano, a Barry Callebaut technical adviser, offers a creative twist on the classic S’mores dessert, which can be a perfectly unique chocolate treat for Valentine’s. Her version is called C’Mores (with the C standing for Callebaut and caramel).

These marshmallow-filled chocolates are made with your own marshmallow filling. First, Plano lines the chocolate molds with tempered chocolate, adds the marshmallow filling, and then pipes in a small line of caramel into the center of the marshmallow filling.

“I wait 12 to 24 hours for the marshmallow to set before I finish my candies,” she recommends. “Always remember to use tempered chocolate to have a nice shine on your chocolates, and to be able to unload them as well. Otherwise, it’s going to be trouble.”