Chocolate dipped fruit and candy on a tray.

Chocolate dipped circus peanuts, dried apricots, as well as peanuts and raisins on chocolate.

One of the things I love about living in Japan is their Valentines Day tradition.  The girls buy or make gifts for all the guys they know (that can be a lot at the office if you think about it).  The tradition is that what they probably spent on a Valentines gift will be returned on March 14th, which is White Day here.  The trick is that the man is supposed to spend three times as much on the woman as she spent on him.  Again, that could be very expensive in the office but in families it can be VERY expensive.  One example I heard was that girls will get moderately expensive gifts for their dads in hopes of getting a designer bag or expensive jewelry a month later.  As much fun as the tradition is, I’m more interested in the craft side of things this year.  What I love about “Couple’s Day” here is that the shops are full of things for making candies and cakes.  I always look forward to February because I get to play in chocolate again.

I grew up watching my mom make her chocolates as she learned one summer in Mackinac Island, Michigan.  Every winter she use to go shopping for big chocolate chips and candy-maker’s sugar and packaging and flavoring as well as other things.  One weekend in December she would make a kind of sugar-dough in the mixer, roll it out into long snakes, and cut the snakes into little pieces which she then rolled into  small marble-sized pieces and set out to set.  Later she would melt the chocolate in her double boiler and pour it out onto her marble tray-sized slab and mix it until the temperature was right.  Then she dipped those soft marbles in chocolate and one of us kids got to move the trays around so she had a clean tray to put those goodies on.  We weren’t allowed to touch them until after she’d packed most of them away in boxes as Christmas presents for teachers or friends or extended family but we got to eat the candies left over , and my mom always made sure there were plenty of candies left over for the family still at home.

She also made candies in the spring but in smaller amounts since it was getting warmer and harder to set the chocolate right.  The whole family (and many of our friends) loved it when Christmas time came around (not just for the candy, but that was a big part of it) and I always look forward to Valentine’s Day here so I can play in the chocolate.    Here’s some of what I did:

Candy molds with decorative color before the chocolate was poured on

I had fun decorating molds with decorating gel and pink chocolates


Molds with lots of decorating gel but no chocolate

Apperantly decorating gel doesn't stick to chocolate well since this is all the gel left in the mold afterwards.


Candy molds with popsicle sticks and caramel under the chocolate

I realized caramel is very tempermental since I'm pretty sure I burned it before figuring out how to melt it but the molds of chocolate then caramel then more chocolate on the back went quickly with my friends.

I also learned to put a small bit of chocolate in the molds before putting in the peanuts for peanut/caramel clusters and the blueberry craisins for an interesting treat.  If you don’t put down a small layer of chocolate, the inner treat shows which works for some but wasn’t the effect I wanted.  I learned that rubber molds work best with cakes, not chocolates.  The candy is hard to get out of the rubber molds once set.  Oh well, I had fun and I learned a few things.  I can’t wait until next time when I can play with chocolates and learn some more things!

What did you make this week?

Filed under: Kitchen