Introduction: Customized Valentine's Day Chocolates

Haven't got a gift for your loved one yet? Running out of time and ideas for this year's Valentine's Day? Look no further! This is the best combination of DIY and customization, takes little more than 10 minutes to prepare, and it's edible!

After a bit of internet-surfing, I discovered the newest thing in chocolates is the customizable chocolate bar,offered through several websites and catering to all tastes. The idea is simple - pick your favorite chocolatey base, cover it with your choice of toppings, and wrap it up pretty. Here's the DIY part:  the idea of a customizable chocolate bar is VERY easy to replicate at home, and for a fraction of the cost. Imagine the look on your valentine's face when you present them with a treat that is custom-made for them, by you. You can top it with any combination of dried fruits, toasted nuts or seeds, candy bar pieces, sweets or cookie bits. Is your valentine more adventurous? Try wasabi peas, cayenne pepper or even crumbled bacon as a topping! The possibilities are endless.

Also remember that this can be done super easy and on the cheap, too. Check your pantry for ingredients. A bag of chocolate chips and some leftover cookies does the trick, as does some trail mix or cake decorations. Don't overdo it if you don't have to, it's fun!

Step 1: What You'll Need

For the base:

A Mold. There are 2 types that work well for this project.
       1 - Cookie cutters in a heart shape make a really pretty presentation and are easy to unmold, but require a wax paper-lined baking sheet underneath them, as they have no base.
2 - Cake pans also work well and come in a variety of shapes, but will need a spritz of oil to unmold properly. I had success with both types.

Chocolate. You'll need enough to fill the mold you've chosen. You can use anything from chocolate chips to the very best baking chocolate pieces money can buy. I used a bag of semisweet chocolate chips that I had on hand. Try making different bars using white, milk and dark chocolates, or you could even try swirling 2 types together.

For the topping:

You'll need about a tablespoonful of each topping you plan on using. Herbs and spices are used in much smaller quantities.(Imagine a tablespoon of cayenne pepper on a chocolate bar! Yikes!) Here are some ideas, but the options are in no way limited to this list.

Dried Fruits - apricots, apples, strawberries, melon, dates, blueberries, cranberries, papaya, mango, orange peel, banana chips, pineapple, raisins

Spices - basil, mint, lavender, cayenne, black pepper, chili flakes, parsley, cinnamon, cardamom, curry, ginger, oregano, camomile

Nuts - almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, hazelnuts, flax seed, macadamia, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, wasabi peas, poppy seeds

Candy - gummy bears, nougat, chocolate chips, sprinkles, smarties,  toffee bits, caramel, marshmallows, jelly beans, peppermint candy

Cereals - rice crispies, corn flakes, granola

Cookies - oreo cookie pieces,cookie dough,graham crackers

Other - cocoa nibs, dried flowers, ground coffee, coffee beans, pretzels, beef jerky, bacon, potato chips, cane sugar, fleur de sel

Step 2: Preparing the Toppings

Decide on the combination of topping for your chocolate bar, then chop up anything that is too big. Pieces should be about 1/4-inch, to allow for proper combination and distribution all over the base. If you are making several varieties at once, separate the ingredients for each bar into small bowls.

Step 3: Melting the Chocolate

Pour the chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl and melt at 30 second intervals, mixing in between each. The chocolate is ready when it is smooth, and has no more unmelted pieces in it. This usually takes about 1m 30s, but could take longer, depending on the size of your chocolate pieces.

Step 4: Filling the Molds

Once the chocolate is melted, pour into the molds one spoonful at a time, until the chocolate spreads nice and evenly to the edges. Do not spread the melted chocolate too thin, or it will break when you try to remove it from the mold. Do not spread the chocolate too thick, either, as too much chocolate will overpower the flavors of your toppings. I had success with a thickness of 3/16-inch(.5cm).

Step 5: Topping the Bars

Carefully sprinkle each of the selected toppings onto the chocolate base. Once all the toppings are used, lightly press them into the chocolate, so they hold there, and do not pop off during the unmolding.

Repeat the process of filling each mold with melted chocolate and adding the toppings until all the molds are filled, and chocolate used up.

Step 6: Setting the Chocolate

Place the completed bars into the fridge for a few hours, to allow the chocolate to set. If you have time, this can be done at room temperature, but overnight. Remove from the fridge when the chocolate is set.

Step 7: Unmolding

Once set, carefully push the chocolate bars through the cookie cutters to unmold. If using baking pans, first pull gently on the sides of the pan to loosen the chocolate, then turn the pan upside down and gently push down on the bottom. The chocolate should unmold.

Step 8: Wrapping Up the Bars.

Now for the pretty packaging. You'll need:

 - Wax paper
 - Plain white paper
 - scissors
 - stapler
 - red marker
 - red pen

First, pull out a piece of wax paper and cut it so that it can wrap over the chocolate bar like an envelope. Cut the piece from the roll.

Fold the piece of wax paper in half over the chocolate bar.

Fold the 2 sides of the wax paper in towards the middle of the envelope. Remove the chocolate bar.

Using the scissors, clean up the look of the envelope by cutting the sides smaller. Staple the sides closed. Return the chocolate to the envelope.

Cut a piece of white paper to the width of the top of the envelope, to create a label that will fold over the top. Fold the label in half, and decorate it using the red pen and marker. A simple design can be enough to say "I love you". Remember to write the ingredients on the label, so your loved one knows what they are eating!

Place the label on top of the envelope, and staple it in place. That's it!

Step 9: Presenting Your Chocolate

Now you have a delicious, one-of-a-kind chocolate to give to your sweetheart, and it took no time at all. Enjoy, and...

Happy Valentine's Day!