They say that Valentine’s Day is about Love.
I disagree. Valentine’s Day is about CHOCOLATE!
Until I married the Geek, I rarely had a “beau” on Valentine’s Day. Just my luck, I always either met a guy right after the Big V, or my relationship ended right before the 14th.
Being a single adult on Valentine’s Day is downright irritating. (I treated myself to lots of chocolates, with an occasional pawn shop jewelry trinket thrown in when funds allowed.)
Being a KID on Valentine’s Day is AWESOME. (All the Valentine’s cards! The lollipops and candies and chocolates and cupcakes and…really, only Halloween is better for the ‘score’ factor!)
UNLESS you are a kid with food allergies. Then, Valentine’s Day is just another day, only worse, because everyone else is wide-eyed with treat-inspired excitement and you can only sit and watch. You can’t even dress up like Thomas the Tank Engine! (Well, you could, but that would be weird.)
That’s pretty lousy. Frankly, I’m getting tired of watching Mr. Charm live through holidays with minimal participation. One thing I looked forward to in parenting was the joy of really doing the holidays up “big”. So far, I’ve had to purposefully downplay them all so Mr. Charm won’t get the sense of being left out.
(The other day in the candy section near a check-out stand, Mr. Charm got down on his knees to examine a bag of candies. Suddenly he called out “Calk!” in an excited voice – Mr. Charm’s version of the word “chalk”. The child thought a certain bag of candy was sidewalk chalk, because he’s never had candy before in his life. That’s good, but that’s just sad.)
Well, I set out this Valentine’s Day to provide something he could indulge in as a treat.
I want my son to have a candy.
I was inspired, initially, by a friend who mentioned that she’s experimenting with maple syrup and cocoa powder to make her own ‘safe’ chocolate chips for her son.
So, I started Googling. Maple syrup is “safe” on Mr. Charm’s diet…surely there was SOME maple syrup/chocolate candy recipe out there!
If there is, I couldn’t find it. I found a great tutorial on how to make plain maple syrup candy, and those look and sound delicious!
But I wanted a CHOCOLATE for my boy. He loves chocolate, but the Enjoy Life chocolate we started using when we had to go dairy-free two and a half years ago have evaporated cane juice in them, which we have figured out makes Mr. Charm nutso. Plus, they may or may not be safe for Mr. Happy when he can start having treats, so, finding a safe chocolate would be fabulous!
In my searching, I DID find a recipe for a homemade chocolate syrup, which I promptly made. Mr. Charm has never had a drizzle of chocolate on anything in his life! No chocolate milk, no ice cream with a drizzle of chocolate syrup on it, no strawberries dipped in chocolate.
I followed the recipe to the letter, and it came out DIVINE! The Geek said it tasted just as good – if not better – than Hershey’s Syrup…I think it’s better because it’s not full of junk!
I’m not going to put the recipe in here, because I didn’t tweak a single thing about it – just click on over to Deliciously Organic and make it for yourself! I will, however, show you how gorgeous it turned out:
So, back to the Great Candy Making Experiment.
I won’t keep you in suspense…it failed. Miserably.
It’s been so long since I had this many kitchen fails, I’m really quite disheartened! (Along the path of this candy search, I found two pudding recipes that needed lots of tweaking but sounded like they had potential…one tasted great, but was far too runny, the other was far too thick and bland. Ugh.) Though, in all fairness, I’m a total neophyte when it comes to candy making, so I really was doing this all on a wing and a prayer!
The first batch of candy that I made, I decided to essentially just add cocoa powder to the maple syrup in this recipe. The only question I had was: when to add the powder?
She says to boil the syrup until it reaches 110 degrees C, then take it off the heat and DON’T STIR while it cools to 80 degrees C. (Celsius was easier to read on my candy thermometer!) Then, at 80, you’re supposed to stir like crazy as the candy quickly thickens and starts to harden, then pour it fast into molds or onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
So, do I add the powder at 80, and hope I can incorporate it before the candy starts to harden? Or do I add it at the beginning?
I decided to add it at the beginning.
I’ve made a similar recipe once before, my delicious Honey Lollipops, so I could tell this was cooking up nicely…until it reached 105 degrees C. Then, it just…stopped. It would not get any hotter and I started to smell “scorching” smells.
So, I wound up with a very thick, goopy pan of, basically, a fudge sauce.
Not. What. I. Wanted.
So, for round two, I decided that maybe I should try using my brand new Chocolate Syrup instead of cocoa powder, and add it at 80 degrees, right before you’re supposed to stir like mad. Then, the chocolate would probably be easier to incorporate, and if it didn’t incorporate completely, it might make a nifty swirl effect.
Without the cocoa powder in the syrup, I was easily able to reach 110 degrees C. I let it cool to 80, dumped in the 1/4 cup of syrup, and stirred away.
Yet another pan of less thick, but still goopy fudge sauce.
STILL Not. What. I. Wanted.
So I did what I should have done in the beginning and went to my computer to look this up online. Using an iPhone to search for recipes gets challenging; using the bigger screen and mouse setup made it easier…and finally, on the SECOND page of my Google search for “make your own sugar free chocolate” I found the answer to where I have gone so miserably wrong: Fat.
In all the recipes I searched out, they all had some variation on cocoa powder, vanilla, some kind of sweetener, some even called for chopped up baker’s chocolate…AND they all called for some kind of Fat.
Some used shortening. Some used butter. But some said the REAL secret to EXCELLENT homemade chocolate is Cacoa Butter.
I don’t have any Cacoa Butter.
So Mr. Charm won’t get any chocolates for Valentine’s Day.
He will, however, get a big ol’ glass of chocolate milk, some strawberries dipped in chocolate sauce, and maybe a big bowl of Banana Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce drizzled on top!
That’ll have to do…until Easter.
Mama’s on a mission, y’all.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I hope you have delicious goodies to nosh on, and lovely people to share the goodies with!
Has anyone successfully made a vegan, sugar/fructose-free chocolate bar/chip? If so, I’m begging you to share the recipe!!!