Even though only 62 percent of us fess up to celebrating Valentine's day, we collectively manage to buy 58 million pounds of chocolates in the days leading up to February 14. If you're planning on indulging this year but you're in a DIY frame of mind, here are some of our favorite easy, make-ahead sweets.
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This is the prettiest kind of bark you can make since the add-ins—or as they're called in the candy world, inclusions—are just scattered on top of the melted chocolate as artfully as you like. Think of this more as a template than a mandate—you can certainly buy candied orange peels instead of making your own, you could dice them instead of leaving them in julienne strips, or you could dispense with them altogether and use freeze-dried raspberries, candied strawberries, toffee bits, pumpkin seeds, cocoa nibs, pretzel bits or sprinkles instead.
Peanut Butter Crunch
This is a peanut butter lover's dream candy. To make it, you basically just fold peanuts and melty peanut butter into hot caramel and pack it into a square pan. As the caramel hardens, it turns into crisp little shards that are swirled into the peanut butter for an amazing Butterfinger-like effect.
A food processor is all you need to make these delicious cardamom-spiced date energy boosters from star chef Elizabeth Falkner. For gifting, try rolling them in other ground nuts and seeds for a festive look.
Learn star pastry chef Jacques Torres's secret for keeping melted chocolate shiny as it cools while making these crispy, uber-simple 2-ingredient clusters. The recipe calls for dark chocolate, but I'd recommend trying it with white as well. Even if you think you don't like white chocolate (or if you don't like to admit it), when mixed with cornflakes it turns into a sweet milky treat.
Dark Chocolate Bark with Walnuts and Dried Cherries
Indulgence can be healthy too! In this super simple-to-make bark, mood-enhancing dark chocolate gets an extra boost of goodness from candied ginger, walnuts and dried cherries. For gifting, you can spread it into neat slabs and wrap it in foil and pretty paper, like Dandelion and the Mast Brothers, or break it into rustic shard and pack in a cute box or plastic bag.
These sweet clusters remind me of an old fashioned candy bar. They get their special crunch from feuilletine, super crispy, buttery toasted flakes that are responsible for that amazing crunch you find in many French chocolates and cakes, but you can use cornflakes instead. The hazelnuts give these clusters a great praline flavor, but you could swap them out for shredded coconut, which would be fun as well.