If you are looking for something special, sweet-tasting and local to give your loved ones for Valentine's Day, Fresno-area food makers say they've got the gift.
This Valentine's Day, local candy and pastry makers are gearing up for a surge of customers with treats such as chocolate-dipped jumbo strawberries, heart-shaped cinnamon rolls and handmade chocolate biscotti.
California Gourmet Company in Fresno has been making its decadent strawberries for 27 years. It makes thousands to meet the seasonal demand.
"Our customers love them because they are big," says Gina Paul of California Gourmet Company. "Sometimes they are so big, they don't even fit in the box."
The strawberries come in various designs and are sold individually or in gift boxes. A box of six costs $19.95. Although the company plans to have lots of strawberries available on Valentine's Day next Friday, Paul recommends ordering in advance.
And if strawberries are not your thing, the shop also offers handmade chocolates, chocolate caramel apples, chocolate-dipped Oreos and Valentine's s'mores with heart-shaped marshmallows.
Diane Rosetti, owner of Rosetti's Biscotti House in Clovis, has become an expert at helping last-minute and inexperienced Valentine's Day shoppers.
"We will take them by the hand and walk them around the store, if we need to," Rosetti says. "It is always such a fun time."
Rosetti has plenty to choose from in her cozy Clovis store. The shop is known for its biscotti, biscotti bark and harvest cakes that contain a medley of dried fruit. This year, Rosetti also will make heart-shaped biscotti bark, a cookie-like creation flavored with rich chocolate.
Many of the items also will be specially packaged with a Valentine's Day theme.
For lovers of chocolate-covered nuts, fruit and candy, Sierra Nut House and Bella Frutta have a wide supply. Bella Frutta also carries several of Rosetti's products and English toffee.
Gift boxes with an assortment of products also are available at both stores.
JoAnn Sorrenti, owner of the Sierra Nut House, said she also will have a special Valentine's Day dinner in the store's bistro.
For pastry fans, the bakers at Dough Ray Me Bakery in Madera are making their popular cinnamon rolls in a heart shape. The cinnamon rolls are $1.50 each and you must order at least 10 rolls. The bakery's owners deliver.
And for those who want to try their hand at making their own Valentine's Day treat, the Driscoll's company has a recipe for chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Some of the Fresno-area food makers whose specialties include Valentine's Day treats:
-- Bella Frutta, 1959 N. Willow Ave., Clovis, (559) 298-8290 or bellafrutta.com
-- California Gourmet Company, 2015 W. Bullard Ave., Fresno, (559) 432-9135 or californiagourmetcompany.com
-- Dough Ray Me Bakery, Madera Ranchos, (559) 284-0754 or Dough Ray Me Bakery on Facebook
-- Rosetti's Biscotti House, 25 Railroad Ave., Clovis, (559) 323-6450 or Rosetti's Biscotti House on Facebook
-- Sierra Nut House, 7901 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno, (559) 432-4023 or sierranuthouse.com
Chocolate covered strawberries with sprinkles
1 package (16 ounces) Driscoll's long stem strawberries, if available
6 ounces semisweet chocolate (chips, chunks or chopped bar chocolate)
1 package (2.5 ounces) sprinkles
Rinse and dry the strawberries. Make sure you dry them well with a soft cloth. You do not want water on the berries when you dip them in chocolate.
Melting the chocolate: Melting chocolate is a delicate but simple task that requires constant attention. Chocolate can burn quite easily, so it's important to melt at a low temperature, be patient and follow the right steps to ensure a bowl of smooth melted chocolate for dipping.
There are two trusted methods for melting chocolate: stovetop and microwave. The method you choose depends on your preference and comfort level, but you'll end up with the same result.
To melt chocolate on the stovetop, place chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. If you do not have a double boiler, place a glass or metal bowl of chocolate over a pot of barely simmering water. The gentle steam from the hot water will slowly melt the chocolate while you stir constantly to help the chocolate melt evenly. Don't let any water from the pot get into the chocolate as the water will cause it to clump and "seize," not melting properly.
To melt regular chocolate in the microwave, place chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate at medium (50%) power for 1 minute then stir and continue to microwave at medium (50%) power in 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until melted and smooth. The total time will depend on how much chocolate you are melting but should only be a couple minutes.
Dipping the berries: Line a baking sheet with wax paper, parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place sprinkles in a shallow bowl or small plate beside the baking sheet.
Hold berries by their stem or calyx (green leaves) and dip in bowl of melted chocolate, swirling until coated as much as you like. Gently shake off excess chocolate. Immediately dip chocolate-covered berry in sprinkles. Place berry on prepared baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining berries.
Place baking sheet of chocolate-covered berries in refrigerator to set for about 15 to 30 minutes. If leaving berries in refrigerator longer than 1 hour, condensation may occur.
Chocolate-covered berries are best served the day they are made. Chocolate will hold up at room temperature for about 2 hours, depending on the temperature where they are being served. If you need to store overnight, do so in the refrigerator and let berries sit at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter. Driscoll's