Valentine's Day Tips - Candy

Ideas and tips for Valentine's flowers, treats, wine, dinner and dessert. Part 2 of 5.

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In case there was any doubt in your heart, chocolate is indeed the nation's favorite candy to give on Valentine's Day. It is elixir of love, food of the gods, sweet seduction. And while the national association makes a case for the health benefits of chocolate -- in it's natural state, cocoa is crammed with antioxidants and considered a "super fruit" -- there is no denying the tradition of using confections to signify affection. Some things to chew on:

More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine's Day, half of those bought by the ladies; Valentine's Day is the fourth biggest holiday of the year for confectionery purchases; American men say they'd rather receive chocolate than flowers, especially those over 50.

But wait, don't forget the conversation hearts.

Early American colonists made homemade candies with love notes scratched on the surface for Valentine's Day. New England Confectionery Company expanded upon the colonists' idea and created the conversation heart in the mid-1800s. In 1860, the company invented the process to print motto candies. Originally, the candies were "cockles" -- shell-shaped, wrapped in colored paper with printed sayings.

As time went on, the sayings became shorter and more to the point. The familiar heart shape was also produced.

Conversation hearts are now popular Valentine treats. It takes a combination of machines and skilled candy makers to produce the tiny hearts; much of the equipment used is original or exact replicas.

First sugar, color and other ingredients are mixed. When that feels like dough, it's flattened, then a machine stamps a saying on it and cuts the dough into hearts. A conveyor belt carries "Be Mine" and "Text Me" to a dryer. Once dry, the hearts get to tango with other colors. Finally, it's all boxed and shipped, where it end up in your child's Valentine's Day mailbox or passed around the office like, er, candy.

Source: The National Confectioners Association.

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