Chocolate? For me? Oh, you so should have

2/24/2011 14:55:49 PM

Saint Valentine — it is rumored — was a Roman priest who went behind Emperor Claudius II's back in the third century and married Christian couples in secret.

It was a crime to help Christians. For this, he was sentenced to death. The myth continues the story, which some find far-fetched. While in prison, he fell in love with the blind daughter of the jailor and their love restored her vision. Just before his death, he wrote her a note, saying "From your Valentine."

February was also a time of the celebration of fertility and spring when men would draw the names of women from an urn to be joined with them during the year, a sort of primitive The church thought this was too sexy so they threw St. Valentine in there to represent the spring revival and love.

And now, we give chocolate and cards.

Cadbury was the first company to put chocolates in a heart-shaped box, but even the Aztecs used chocolate as a gift because it was precious, luxurious, sensual and filled with endorphin-producing chemistry. They thought it elevated sexual power, and Montezuma drank it before going into his harem.

It's got stimulants like caffeine, and phenylethylamine, an endorphin, a mood lifter, as well as seratonin, which soothes and calms. When you get a lovely box of chocolate, wrapped in soft, red satin, it's the beginning of seduction on many levels. We have many local spots to get terrific chocolate for your sweetheart and here's a little guide, along with a great recipe for chocolate-covered strawberries.

Lindt Chocolates

Various locations,

Brand new this year is a milk chocolate truffle with a white chocolate center that melts in the mouth. Lindt has vibrant Valentine's Day packaging too.

The Chocolatier

27 Water St., Exeter, 888 246-5528,

The masters of great chocolate shapes for any holiday. It's all fun. It also has individual chocolates to make your own array.

Byrne and Carlson

121 State St., Portsmouth; 60 State Road, Kittery, Maine (888) 559-9778,

Luxurious, and high end chocolates in many varieties including with sea salt and very, very dark.

Mainely Gourmet

55 Hanover St., Portsmouth, 433-3210,

Truffles, chocolate-covered marshmallows and more fun stuff all enrobed in chocolate.

Divine Chocolate

1480 U.S. Route 1, Cape Neddick, Maine, (207) 363-1300,

High-quality truffles and Valentine' Day gift arrays.

Edible Arrangements

800 Islington St., Portsmouth, 431-2999,

Chocolate-covered strawberries — huge! — in lovely gift boxes that make them look like a rose arrangement.

Chocolate-covered strawberries

Tips: Use perfect strawberries. Make sure you have everything ready before cooking and assembling. The strawberries should be dry for dipping. Use a heat proof bowl when melting chocolate. Store the finished strawberries at room temperature.


Fresh strawberries with green top intact

Chocolate buttons for melting or your favorite quality chocolate to chop. You will need approximately 2 cups of chocolate buttons melted to dip 20 medium sized strawberries.

Decorations like chopped nuts and sprinkles.

Icing bags for decorating.

Paper cases, cellophane bags or small bamboo skewers for presentation

How to melt chocolate

In a double boiler

Bring a small amount of water to the boil in a saucepan. Turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Place your heat proof bowl containing chocolate buttons to fit on top. The base of the bowl must not touch the simmering water. It is the heat of the steam that is used to melt the chocolate not the water. Stir the chocolate buttons until melted.

Dip the strawberries

Holding the strawberry by the green top, dip into the melted chocolate up to the level you desire. As you remove the strawberry give it a little shake to help reduce the thickness of the chocolate coating. Allow any excess chocolate to drip off. If you plan to dip the strawberry into chopped nuts or sprinkles etc., then carefully do this now.

Transfer the finished strawberry to a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, wax paper or foil. Leave the strawberries to set at a cool room temperature. Once set they can be further dipped or decorated.

For presentation, display each chocolate-covered strawberry in a slightly flattened paper case. Bamboo skewers are also a fun way to serve them.

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