Ah, the heart-shaped box o' chocolates: a Valentine's Day tradition that's so cliché it's cool again (at least that's the rumor I'm starting). With so many different confections inside, it's hard to know just what to focus on during your V-Day binge. Here are the five standout chocolates in that mixed heart:
5. Milk Chocolate Peanut Clusters. The popular combination of peanut butter and chocolate often means the pleasures of milk chocolate and peanuts are often overlooked. Russell Stover reminds us of this winning pairing with their clusters, which incorporate whole nuts liberally coated in mild chocolate.
4. Dark Chocolate Molasses Chews. I probably should have added a caveat earlier that this list is not intended for people who have had extensive dental work. The bittersweet dark chocolate molasses chews require some heavy mastication -- enjoyable for those of us who know that repeated chomping unlocks flavor, but deadly for those with loose fillings.
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3. Milk Chocolate Coconut Clusters. I love the slightly gritty texture of these chocolates, as well as the perforated edges reminiscent of a peanut butter cup. The coconut flavor could be stronger; my solution to this problem is just to eat a double serving.
2. Dark Chocolate Truffles. An exception to the "you can't have just one" rule of delicious foods, the dark chocolate truffles from Russell Stover are rich enough to deter you from gobbling them by the handful, like we do M&Ms. I usually drink nothing but water when picking through a box o' chocolates, but these confections need some milk to balance the intense cocoa notes.
1. Milk Chocolate Buttercream Caramels. More cream than caramel, these chocolates nevertheless get my number-one vote because they are supple but not mushy, sweet but not overpowering. Thin streaks of dark chocolate add some variation in flavor and texture to the exterior milk chocolate shell, and both chocolate types contrast wonderfully with the slightly salty, buttery taste from the caramel.