Random Acts of Chocolate

So Valentine’s Day is here again, and I was feeling a little crafty. So what would be a better artistic medium than that age old standby: chocolate. Ah chocolate, praised by the Aztecs, sad housewives, and hyperactive 5 year olds everywhere. And this time of year, chocolate consumption goes up by, like 2 billion percent (Google the stats if you don’t believe me) .

If you’ve ever watched any long running anime series, like Ranma ½ or Ah! My Goddess, you’re familiar with the distinct differences between Japanese and Western observation of the Valentine’s holiday. Particularly on the who’s giving who the chocolaty goodness.

See, unlike here in the US, it’s customary in Japan for girls to give boys chocolates. This may sound strange to any American guy who’s still waiting for their 4th grade crush to even acknowledge that they existed, but in Japan it seems to be the norm. However, turnabout is only fair play; and one month after Valentines, the Japanese celebrate White Day, where it’s the boys turn to pony up the tokens of affection.

There are two levels of the Japanese chocolate gift giving: the obligation chocolates, given to friends and coworkers, then there’s the honmei choco, a specially prepared chocolate confection that is homemade and presented to a girl’s crush.

While I’m not a member of the double-X chromosome clan, I was intrigued by the idea of rolling up my sleeves and indulging my inner Willy Wonka. So I set out to see if a middle aged, single guy could produce a version that any 14 year old boy living in Shinjuku would be happy to receive. No, I’m not trying to woo teenage Japanese boys. You know what, forget I said anything.

The first part was finding a suitable recipe. As always, the internet is my lifeline, my savior, my ultimate guru to any questions that pop into my overstuffed, yet often scattered brain. I chose a simple instructional video on YouTube posted by creator ochikeron, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHyzBre4HhY.

Her instructions were simple enough to follow, with the added bonus demonstration of a little origami crafted box to present your chocolates in.

I used the demo as a jumping off point, because I had to, like Emeril, kick it up a notch. I procured a slew of additions to give distinct flavors and textures to my finished chocolates; including hazelnuts, pistachios, caramel sauce, and sea salt.

Hazelnuts before toasting.
After being toasted and skinned.

For my boxes, I wanted to get a lot of bang for my buck, so a quick trip to Target netted me a major find. There were several Disney themed calendars that were pretty square in shape, and they were on sale for $1 each. They were also slightly bigger than the 6×6 inch origami squares recommended by ochikeron, so I was able to make more chocolates per box. A bargain if ever I saw one.

The entire process, from toasting the hazelnuts( my kitchen smells amazing BTW) to setting the chocolates was super easy. In fact, the hardest thing about the entire process was writing this article.

After cooling, cutting, wrapping, and delivering my work to my selected guinea pi- I mean cherished friends, the reaction was primarily positive. The one piece of constructive criticism I did get was that the texture was perhaps too soft to leave at room temperature. If I do this again, and of course I will because, hey chocolate and origami, I will try reducing the amount of cream and butter to see if the finished product can stand up to being left on the kitchen counter for an hour. By next Valentine’s Day, my honmei choco game will bring all the boys to the yard. I’ll just have to throw back the ones under 18  . Til then, hsawaknow.

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