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From Martha Stewart Living

A box of chocolates is anything but cliche when they are handmade with love and heart-meltingly gorgeous.  These creations taste as delicious as they look — and they're sure to surprise and delight.

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LOVE BITES

Chocolate-caramel truffles are a Valentine’s Day triple threat. They’re amazingly quick to make (the mixture comes together in 10 minutes), long-lasting (they keep in the fridge for weeks) and beyond divine. These truffles are inspired by brigadeiros, a dulce de leche confection popular throughout Brazil.

CHOCOLATE-CARAMEL TRUFFLES

Active Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes

Makes: About 3 dozen

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (a scant 2/3 cup)

3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

White, pink, and red sprinkles, for rolling

1. In a medium saucepan, bring condensed milk, butter and cream to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until butter melts. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens slightly and turns pale golden, 4 to 6 minutes (do not let it get too dark, or mixture will separate). Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Add chocolate, cocoa powder and vanilla, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth and combined. Transfer to a pie dish or a wide, shallow bowl and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.

2. Scoop 1 tablespoon of chocolate mixture into your palm and roll into a ball. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet; repeat with remaining mixture. Place sprinkles in bowls (one for each color). Roll truffles in sprinkles until thoroughly coated. Place in paper mini baking cups and serve, or store in refrigerator, covered, up to 1 month.

HYPNOTIC HEARTS

These striking shortbread cookies were made with two doughs: one flavored with cocoa and espresso powder, and the other with white chocolate. You will need a nesting set of four to five heart-shaped cookie cutters for this recipe, ranging in size from approximately 3 1/2 inches to 3/4 inch (available at williamssonoma.com). For crisp lines, chill the dough twice — after cutting and after assembling.

DARK- AND WHITE-CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD HEARTS

Active Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes

Makes: 32

DARK-CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD:

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

WHITE-CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 ounces white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. DARK-CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD: In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt. Beat butter on medium speed until creamy; add confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined, then beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic, flatten to a 1-inch-thick disk and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

2. WHITE-CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD: In a bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Beat butter with white chocolate on medium speed until creamy; add confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined, then beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic, flatten to a 1-inch-thick disk and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

3. Remove both disks from refrigerator; let stand 10 minutes. Roll out dark-chocolate dough 1/8 inch thick between two pieces of floured parchment. Stamp out heart shapes with largest cookie cutter; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather dough scraps, reroll and stamp out more heart shapes with largest cutter. Freeze cutouts until firm, about 15 minutes. Repeat with white-chocolate dough.

4. Stamp out smaller hearts from larger ones, starting with second-largest cutter and working down to smallest cutter; transfer cutouts to parchment-lined sheets. Freeze cutouts until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 325 F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Starting with smallest cutouts and working up to largest, fit together dark- and white-chocolate cutouts like puzzle pieces. (It’s okay if dough cracks or breaks in places; simply press back together as necessary.) Arrange completed hearts 1 inch apart on fresh parchment-lined baking sheets. Freeze again until firm. Working in two batches, bake cookies, rotating sheets and rack positions halfway through, until dry and firm, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

DECADENCE, SQUARED

These creamy no-bake bars are the sophisticated older sisters of peanut butter cups. Use a smooth supermarket peanut butter rather than chunky, which won’t have the same melt-in-your-mouth effect.

NO-BAKE CHOCOLATE–PEANUT BUTTER CUP BARS

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 4 hour 30 minute

Makes: Sixteen 2-inch squares

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

16 ounces creamy peanut butter, such as Jif (1 3/4 cups)

1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (1 cup)

1. Coat bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray. Line bottom and two sides with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang. In a large bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups peanut butter, 1 stick butter and vanilla until smooth. Stir in confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until smooth. Transfer to prepared pan; press with your hands to flatten and smooth top (if mixture is too sticky, dampen them slightly).

2. Combine chocolate and 4 tablespoons butter in a metal bowl. Set over a saucepan containing 2 inches of simmering water; stir with a rubber spatula until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from heat and let cool slightly, stirring gently, about 3 minutes. Pour chocolate over peanut-butter mixture in baking pan, tilting pan to ensure chocolate spreads evenly across top.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup peanut butter until smooth. Let stand until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Drop 1/4-to-3/4-teaspoon rounds of mixture on top of chocolate in baking pan in 1-inch intervals. Drag the tip of a wooden skewer or toothpick quickly through center of each round to create a heart shape. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or, loosely covered, up to 1 week.

4. Run a paring knife along edges of pan on the two sides not lined with parchment. Use parchment overhangs to lift from pan; cut into 2-inch bars. Serve cold.

For more recipes and additional tips, visit www.marthastewart.com. Questions or comments should be sent to: askmartha@marthastewart.com.

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