Here we are on the eve of yet another Valentines Day. It’s also a Friday. Combine that with everyone rushing home to start their weekend, a quick trip to grab a card, chocolate and over-priced flowers, and you’ve got a recipe for a really frustrating start to the weekend. No fear…I got you. We’re going to MAKE some chocolates that are easy, beautiful and WAY better than anything you can get in a heart-shaped box. All you have to do is pass the brightly colored promo aisle and head for a couple of the regular aisles. We’re making chocolate clusters and Brigadeiros, a favorite from Brazil. You can find everything you need in your favorite grocery store, and you’ll have a nice batch of handmade chocolate before you go to bed tonight. If you’re giving them away, you’ll score major points with your sweetie and if you’re currently unattached, you’ll have sweet dreams knowing there are some delicious chocolates just waiting to add a little sweetness to your day! I’m a huge fan of treating yourself.
Start by grabbing a few supplies from the baking aisle:
- Mini muffin paper liners (any color)
- Parchment paper
- Milk powder (I used carnation brand)
- Assorted Sprinkles, Toffee chips, Nuts, Coconut
- Freeze-dried Strawberries (I used Target’s Simply Balanced brand)
- Dark chocolate cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
- 14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk
Next, head to the regular candy aisle and pick up a couple of bars of chocolate. Buy the good stuff…remember, we’re treating ourselves. Chocolate chips would work, but a good quality bar chocolate will take your treats to the next level. I grabbed these:
You’ll also want to grab a box of cornflakes to make the crunchy part of the chocolate clusters, and hit up the gift section to find a cute box, maybe some ribbon or a bow and that card you were going to grab. Now, on to the recipes and photos. We’ll start with the chocolate clusters.
Chocolate Clusters 3 ways
Strawberry Crunch Cluster
Let’s start by making the cornflake crunch, which is a recipe from the famous Milk Bar in New York. Check out the recipe book here if you love a cooking challenge. That book kicks my tail regularly and I LOVE it. It pushes me to up my cooking game. Anyway, preheat the oven to 275. Place 2 1/2 cups of cornflakes in a medium bowl and crush into smaller pieces about 1/4 of their original size. Then add:
- 1/4 cup milk powder
- 1 1/2 T. sugar
- 1/2 t. kosher salt
Mix well and add:
- 4 T. melted butter
Mix and spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until they look toasted, smell buttery and crunch when cooled. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in the microwave (30 second increments) or over a pot of simmering water. Melt until 2/3 of the way melted and stir until smooth. Roughly chop:
- 1/4 c. freeze-dried strawberries
Mix the strawberries, 1/4 cup cornflake crunch and melted chocolate gently, then drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper. Let sit for 15-20 minutes or until set. Drop into mini muffin papers.
Toffee Cashew Rum Raisin Cluster
Toast ¼ c. cashews in oven for about 8 minutes, or until golden. Let cool
Combine 2 T. rum in a small bowl with ¼ cup raisins. Let sit for 5-7 minutes. Drain.
Melt milk chocolate in the same way as above.
Combine ¼ c. toffee bits, toasted cashews and raisins with melted chocolate. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment. Let sit for 15-20 minutes until set. Drop into mini muffin papers.
Dark Chocolate Pecan Cayenne Cluster
Toast ¼ c. pecans in oven for about 8 minutes until they smell toasty. Let cool.
Melt dark chocolate in the same way as above.
Combine ¼ c. cornflake crunch, toasted pecans and a pinch of cayenne (up to 1/8 teaspoon) with melted chocolate. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment. Let sit for 15-20 minutes or until set. Drop into mini muffin papers.
And that’s all there is to making the clusters. Package them in a cute box with a ribbon or a bow, and get prepared to receive high praise. You can even call yourself a chocolatier if you’d like. And now, on to the Brigadeiros!
Brigadeiros are a delicious, sweet treat common in Brasil for birthdays but they can be eaten on any occasion. Since Valentine’s Day qualifies as an occasion, brigadeiros are a no-brainer. They are also extremely easy to make. Take a look at these lovelies:
Looks delicious and fancy, right? And, as promised, really easy to make. Here’s how:
In a saucepan, mix:
- 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ c. cocoa powder
- 2 T. butter
Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened and you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir. Remove from heat and add :
- 1 T. vanilla extract
Using a little softened butter, grease a large plate. Carefully pour the mix onto the plate to cool. Meanwhile, place desired toppings (chopped nuts, toffee bits, coconut, sprinkles, crushed cookies, etc) in small bowls for rolling. Sprinkles are traditional in Brasil, but get creative! Anything that goes well with chocolate will work here. Place several mini muffin papers on a plate to get ready for the finished candies. Once the chocolate mix has cooled, grease hands with a little softened butter or flavorless coconut oil (I used it and it worked well!). Scoop into balls using a teaspoon and roll gently in palms then drop immediately into topping of choice. Roll in toppings and drop in muffin papers. Repeat until all of the chocolate is rolled and topped. This recipe is pretty quick and only took about 30 minutes from start to finish! Just like the chocolate clusters, these can be packed in a box, topped with a bow, and proudly presented to your person of choice. Now that Valentine’s Day is saved, treat yourself to some samples. You know, for quality control reasons. Someone has to check, right?