The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

Shopping Responsibly for Chocolate for Valentine’s Day and Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cups

By Meredith Hink, Garden Coordinator with Vicki Lopez-Kaley on Monday, February 5th 2024

Yield: 40 mini cups

Note:  For the most accurate measuring when baking, weighing ingredients in a kitchen scale is the most reliable method.  If you don’t have a kitchen scale, approximate measurements in cups are provided.  Vicki

40 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips  (6 and 2/3 C)
6 ½ ounces powdered sugar (About 1.4 C)
1 ½ oz dried strawberries (About 2 1/4 C) See Note below.
½ stick (4 T) unsalted butter, melted
7 oz sweetened condensed milk (About 2/3 Cup)

1.    Line 40 mini baking tins with paper cups.
2.    Melt 20 ounces of chocolate chips.  See note below.  Place 1 T of chocolate in the bottom of each paper lined cup.  Using a pastry brush, brush the chocolate up the sides of the paper to completely cover.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set.
3.    Meanwhile, in a food processor combine powdered sugar and dried strawberries.  Add melted butter and sweetened condensed milk and blend until smooth.  Refrigerate until firm.
4.    Place a heaping ½ T (1 ½ tsp) of strawberry filling in each chocolate cup.
5.    Melt the remaining 20 ounces of chocolate chips and spoon over strawberry filling, smoothing to form flat, level covered cups.  Refrigerate another 30 minutes or until set.  Pop out chocolate covered cups.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Note:  Two Ways to Melt Chocolate Chips
Melting chocolate is pretty straightforward, yet precision is important, according to Alison Spiegel of Simple Recipes.
One wrong move, and you could end up with chocolate that is scorched, chalky, and unusable. The two most common ways to melt chocolate is in a double boiler one the stove or in the microwave. Both have advantages.
A double boiler, which is a set of pots that consists of one larger pot and a smaller one that rests above the first, allows you to cook low and slow.   Make your own double boiler by setting a small bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. This ensures the chocolate comes out silky. This method also allows you to keep an eye on things. The downside of using a double boiler is that it leaves the chocolate more exposed to water. If water accidentally splashes into the pot, it could ruin all the chocolate and turn it into a paste. Another downside is more pots to clean.
The microwave saves some cleanup because it requires just one bowl, but it cooks much faster than the stovetop, which makes the chocolate easier to scorch.
First, place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 25-30 seconds. Remove the bowl carefully as the bowl will be hot! Stir and return the bowl to the microwave and heat for another 25-30 seconds.
Remove and stir again:
Depending on how much chocolate you’re using, the chips may have sufficiently melted if you keep stirring.  If you’re using a cup or more, you’ll likely need to return the chocolate to the microwave and keep heating and stirring in 30 second intervals—or less, if you think the chocolate needs less time.
Melting Times for the Microwave:
Milk chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 1 minute, or 2 30-second blasts on high heat, to melt.
Dark chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 1 minute, or 2 30-second blasts on high heat, to melt.
White chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 45 seconds, or 1 30-second blast and 1 15-second blast on high heat, to melt.

Freeze-dried Strawberries are usually found in the snack aisle of most grocery stores.  They can also be used to add flavor, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants to oatmeal, baked goods, smoothies, yogurt, desserts and more. 

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Valentine’s Day is about celebrating those we love.  The tradition of giving chocolates in heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day was started by the Cadbury company in 1868.  Although chocolate is a sweet treat, it comes with a price.  To this day, children and forced labor are used to work many cocoa farms.  In addition, many cocoa farms contribute to illegal deforestation.  

According to the US Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, and an estimated 1.56 million children in these two countries alone are engaged in farming cocoa.  According to the World Wildlife Federation, about 70% of illegal deforestation in Cote D’Ivoire is due to cocoa farming. Some cocoa companies have taken a stand against these practices.  How can you help?  First, look for and research the labels (e.g. fair trade, rainforest alliance) on your favorite chocolate brands or seek out brands that have these labels.  Be aware that brands that go these extra steps cost more than brands that don’t.  Spread the word by gifting others with the brand(s) you support and telling them why you support them.  

Take a look at recent news stories on CBS News and Fair Trade Chocolate and A CBS News Investigation.

Fair Trade: 
Fair trade is a global effort to connect farmers in Latin America & the Caribbean, Africa & the Middle East, Asia and Asia Pacific with businesses and consumers in the US—and all of the traders and manufacturers in between. Advocates of fair trade specifically work with producers outside of the US who grow products like bananas and other produce, coffee, clothing, textiles, and cocoa.  To learn more, go to Fair Trade America.

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