Easy Valentine Chocolates

Gourmet Great-Grandma was a professional candymaker and makes the most fabulous fondant! She also has a recipe for a quick, no-cook center that happens to be my hubby's personal favorite. I make it quite often so I don't have to do all the work of turning fondant. Grandma, if you're reading this, we love you and have loved learning some of your chocolate skills--please don't cringe at my sloppy dipping!:) So, if you really want to "wow" someone this year, whip up some homemade chocolates! These two 'shortcut' recipes will have them made in a snap.
Almond Dreams-Gourmet Dad's all-time favorite!
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. softened butter
4 1/3 c. powdered sugar
chopped roasted almonds as desired (at least 1 cup)

Warm condensed milk can in hot water for a few minutes. Mix all ingredients, freeze in greased 9 x 13 pan. cut into small squares and dip in chocolate while frozen. (they become very soft and gooey when thawed). Make sure the entire square is covered in chocolate or it will ooze out. It sounds so easy but they are soooooo good!
Tip: a reader mentioned how hard they were to dip because they thawed quickly. What I do is cut off one row of the filling, put the rest back in the freezer, cut that row into squares, and dip them. So, I'm only working with 10-12 pieces at a time and the rest can stay in the freezer. Hope that helps!

Microwave Caramels adapted from Bakespace
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Light Karo Syrup (not dark-doesn't set right)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 t. vanilla
Sea Salt (I used a pink sea salt)
Chili Flakes
Toffee Bits
Buttered 8x8 baking dish

Melt butter in large microwave bowl. Stir in Karo syrup, both sugars and sweetened condensed milk. Mix until dissolved. Microwave on high 3-1/2 minutes. Stir down and scrape sides of bowl. Microwave on high 3 1/2 minutes. You may have to adjust your cooking times by 15-30 seconds since all microwaves cook differently. Stir in vanilla. Pour into buttered dish and refrigerate until set. When set, remove from fridge and cut into squares.
Dip in melted chocolate and set on wax paper. Add a few chili flakes, sea salt, or toffee bits to the top (if desired). Let set completely.

NOTES: Jessica had a great question about what kind of chocolate to use for dipping, see comments for more info. I personally use Guittard Signature chocolate, you can use most anything. Avoid chocolate chips since they do not harden well after melting.

Now, just in case you want Gourmet Great-Grandma's caramel recipe here it is. I made about 20 batches of these for my wedding!
BJ Caramels
2 C sugar
1 1/3 C corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 C. cream
1/2 C. milk

Add cream and milk together. Add 1 c. of cream mixture to sugar and corn syrup and bring to boil. Simmer on medium low for 25 min. Add half of remaining cream mixture and simmer on medium low for 25 min. Add remaining cream mixture and bring to 237degrees or soft ball. Pour into greased pan and cool. When adding cream turn heat up so mixture is always boiling.

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