Use good quality dark chocolate for all of these “recipes” (some may call for white chocolate as an optional choice, but vegan white chocolate may be difficult to find in some areas). It might be a good idea to run a test batch with your chocolate, because some chocolates are just better suited to baking than others, both in taste and texture.
Many dark chocolates already contain some vanilla, but you may want to add some extra vanilla extract for all of these recipes. Almond and maple extract can be used too, but they may not go well with all of the recipes.
Remember that unlike most candy, dark chocolate is a very healthy food which contains vitamins, minerals, fiber and plenty of good flavonoids.
Chocolate is best melted using a bowl placed inside a saucepan containing hot water. The melting temperature is quite low (remember that it melts in your mouth!) so the water does not have to be boiling. It’s better if it doesn’t boil, because getting water in the chocolate bowl can ruin the texture.
It is also possible to melt chocolate in the microwave. Just use very low power, even the thawing mode may work. Stir frequently and be careful not to burn the chocolate.
Shaping the Chocolates
You can use cookie cutters, mini muffin cups or other small molds; frosting bags (for some recipes) or just spoon the chocolate onto a baking parchment. The chocolates can be decorated with frosting sugar, cocoa powder or desiccated coconut.
Coconut Milk Chocolate
Coconut milk chocolate is an easy way to create a very creamy chocolate similar to milk chocolate. The coconut taste is not really evident, so this should please even people who are not so fond of coconut.
Melt chocolate and add some coconut milk powder (it can be bought at Asian grocery stores). Stir until combined.
Nutty Chocolate Truffles
2 parts (e.g. 2 oz) chocolate and 1 part (e.g. 1 oz) cashew or almond butter. Melt the ingredients together and stir to combine.
Add a few drops of peppermint oil or mint extract to melted chocolate. You can also add crushed peppermint candy pieces.
Add some cayenne powder or other finely ground chili powder (which does not contain oregano, cumin or other spices!) to the chocolate, to taste. If using cayenne, remember that it is pretty hot, so add by pinches, not by teaspoons – unless you’re gifting a real chili head.
Traditional Mexican chocolate spices – which are also traditional Christmas spices – include cinnamon and nutmeg. Again add to taste, keeping in mind that nutmeg should only be used in very small quantities. You can also add these spices in the chili chocolate.
Feel free to experiment with other spices. Some people like pink peppercorns in their chocolate and it can be combined with cinnamon and nutmeg, but it isn’t everyone’s cup of cocoa.
Dip dried strawberries, cherries, blueberries or cranberries into melted chocolate by using a spoon or fork. White chocolate is a traditional companion to strawberries, but dark chocolate is superb, too.
Dip nuts into melted chocolate. You can use cashews, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, just about any nuts. Roasted unsalted macadamias make for a particularly decadent treat. If you can only find roasted salted nuts, the salt can be washed out (pat carefully dry, as melted chocolate doesn’t like water).
You can, of course, dip the nuts into some of the previously mentioned chocolates. What about Chili Chocolate Pecans or Coconut Milk Chocolate Cashews? Most of the recipes here can be combined for fancy, unique chocolates!