Creative sweets for a special treat: Celebrate Valentine’s Day by personalizing chocolate confections
While picking up a ready-made box of chocolates before an evening of celebration is not too much of a hassle, the tradition takes a slight twist in Korea, making something a tad more heartfelt sought after. In Korea only women give chocolates to men as a sign of affection, but the cookie-cutter confections seem to no longer attract female consumers. (Don’t worry. Women in turn receive candy on the so-called “White Day” on March 14 from men in Korea.)
Instead, Korean women are adding their own personal touches to the classic but ordinary box of chocolates.
Where do you start?
Two of the most popular ways to make personal chocolate of your choice is purchasing a DIY kit or visiting bakery ateliers that offer one-day classes. The Korea JoongAng Daily took on the tough but tasty task ahead of Valentine’s Day.
If you are not familiar with baking tools or techniques, try signing up for a one-day class which are widely available by searching on the web or on social media. Typing in the phrase “Valentine’s Day chocolate making one-day class” on a search engine or on Instagram offers an array of classes that have opened up across the country just in time for this commercialized holiday. Most of these classes are conducted in a group of two to four, and the patissier already has a set design using chocolate as the main ingredient.
A baking studio called 301 Baking in Eunpyeong District, northern Seoul, offers such classes. Patissier Do Mi-rae has been running the studio for about three years after renovating one room of her home into a baking studio. She holds regular baking and pastry classes, makes YouTube clips for her channel and also hosts one-day classes on special occasions like Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Korea’s other popular and newly commercialized Pepero Day on Nov. 11, which involves exchanging long chocolate-dipped biscuits that resemble the numerals of the date.
Do is hosting two classes ahead of Valentine’s Day, one making a “Valentine’s chocolate cake,” and the other making a “heart dacquoise,” a dessert made with layers of almond and hazelnut meringue and whipped cream or buttercream on a buttery biscuit base.
The Korea JoongAng Daily had a go at making the Valentine’s chocolate cake. Do has been holding about six classes per day since last week, and the one-day classes for the Valentine’s Day special will end on Feb. 15. The cake-making class costs 60,000 won ($51), while the heart dacquoise class costs 58,000 won. Both classes take about two and a half hours.
Do prepares all the equipment required to make the chocolate cake including packing containers, therefore, the only thing you should prepare before the class are clean hands and short fingernails if possible. Once you arrive, Do hands out aprons, ushers you to wash your hands and explains what she’s already made for the class, like whipping the chocolate cream as it takes a lot of time, and what needs to be done within the two and a half hours.
“It’s quite difficult to make a whole cake that requires few hours of baking time alone in a one-day class, so what we are going to make today is a chocolate biscuit cake,” said Do.
Jeon Soo-kyung and Kim Yoo-rim are two friends in their mid-20s who signed up for Do’s one-day class together on Saturday afternoon. Both said it’s their first time making chocolates for their boyfriends for Valentine’s Day. After navigating the internet for a while to pick out the “prettiest design,” the two friends decided to take 301 Baking’s class although the studio is located quite far from their homes.
“I usually purchased chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but it seemed too ordinary,” said Jeon. “So this year, I wanted to make it a little more special by making something myself. But since I don’t have the baking skills, I signed up for the class.”
Kwon said among so many options to choose from, they liked Do’s class as the design of her chocolate cake was very unique. Do says it usually takes her a few days to come up with the designs for such special occasion confections.
To keep the chocolatey treat as a surprise, Jeong told her boyfriend that she is meeting her friend Kwon for a cup of coffee.
Although the end product did not look as perfect as Do’s, both Jeong and Kwon, as well as this reporter, were satisfied with their cakes. The most difficult part for all three participants was squeezing and swirling out the whipped cream onto the heart-shaped biscuit. Do had to offer her expertise to at least half the students to make their whipped cream swirls adequately appetizing.
“It’s not easy for beginners, but you guys did a good job,” Do encouraged the participants.
Do’s studio is also very Instagram-friendly, allowing her visitors and students, who are mostly women, to take gratifying photographs to post.
“I don’t think I could’ve made this beautiful cake on my own,” said Jeon. “Plus, I don’t think I would buy all the ingredients and tools just to make one cake for this occasion. I really had a good time, and I think it will be a memorable gift for both me and my boyfriend.”
DIY chocolate-making kit
For those who know their way around the kitchen, an at-home option might be more enticing. Even if your kitchen is not fully equipped, there are many different types of DIY chocolate-making kits targeted at a range of different levels online that, with just a few clicks, can be delivered to your doorstep in a couple of days.
The Korea JoongAng Daily picked out a “Sweet Box DIY Chocolate Making kit” that makes about six small chocolate bars of milk chocolate and white chocolate for 24,000 won. The package was delivered within two days.
The many materials and ingredients inside the box may be overwhelming, especially if you are a newbie to such DIY kits, but you’ll soon find out that the chocolate-making process itself isn’t as difficult as the recipe makes it look.
Basically, what this relatively easy DIY kit requires you to do is to melt the chocolate chips that come in the package on top of a double boiler and then pour it into a mold that is also included in the kit. You can then decorate your creations with ingredients like Oreo biscuits, nuts, strawberry powder, dried fruits and rainbow sprinkles.
The most difficult part of this relatively easy-looking process is the very important step of making sure that not a single drop of water gets added into the chocolate chips when melting it on top of a double boiler. This accident can easily happen as you have to create your own double boiler by layering a bowl on top of a larger bowl filled with boiling water. This process has to be repeated when the water cools down or when you want to change the type of chocolate from white to milk, for example. After washing the bowls and the spatula to melt a different type of chocolate, remember to dry it properly.
Another step to take care with is pouring the melted chocolate into the mold. You should only fill two-thirds of the mold and tap it lightly to spread the chocolate out evenly instead of filling the whole mold as once the ingredients are added in, the chocolate will overflow if the mold is too full. Such details are not specified in the recipe.
The solidifying process of the chocolate only takes about 20 minutes as you place your creations in the freezer. You can use the time it takes for the chocolate to harden to assemble the gift boxes that come with the kit.
Each chocolate bar gets packaged individually in small boxes and then all six go together into a bigger box. The templates for the boxes are already cut out so it doesn’t take that long to assemble them, though you may be losing concentration dreaming about your cooling sweet treats.
The whole process takes about one and a half hours. But if you include the time to clean up your kitchen that looks like the aftermath of a natural disaster, the whole process of making your own chocolate at home using a DIY kit takes well over two hours.
But hopefully the time and effort will be appreciated, and your chocolate creations will be enjoyed by whoever is lucky enough to receive them!
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [firstname.lastname@example.org]