Hazelnut Spread from France
Suggested by chocolate columnists Liz Gutman and Yvonne Ruperti: "A basic set of dipping forks (3 is really all you need) makes a great stocking stuff for the DIY chocolate lover."
A suggestion from chocolate columnist Yvonne Ruperti: the best way to turn large blocks of chocolate into chocolate chips.
Of these Venezuelan chocolate bars, we like the Dark Chocolate with Pecans, Hazelnuts and Toffee Almonds and the Milk Chocolate with Almonds and Sea Salt. But the really fun part is customizing your own ($6), with up to four components. Hazelnuts with pretzels and sea salt? Don't mind if we do... Order online »
Brownie Mix from Baked
Want a fantastic brownie mix for someone who likes to bake (but likes simple projects with great results)? The brownie mix from Baked ($16.95) is the best one we've ever tried, "incredibly gooey, with chocolate flavor that's near perfect: rich, dark, and ever so slightly bitter."
KA-POW! from Sahagun Chocolates
Know someone who's as much of a coffee fan as a chocolate fan? Consider the KA-POW! from Sahagun Chocolates ($5/bar), using coffee to create a chocolate-like bar with a huge caffeine hit. Order online »
The magic wand for anyone who's tried tempering at home with frustrating results. Unlike tempering-specific thermometers, which tend to be analog (and therefore need to be kept in the chocolate while you're stirring and generally making a mess), these infrared digital thermometers ($31.78) give you an instant read on the temperature without having to dip anything anywhere.
It's indispensable for practicing until you learn what chocolate looks and acts like at the proper stages. After that, it's really fun to point at your friends and read their surface temperatures.
Rebel Rocky Road by Droga Confections
Why "rebel"? It's made with peanuts rather than the traditional walnuts, but these tiny clusters are stretchy, chewy, and impossible to stop eating ($19.95). Order online »
Chocolate Tempering Machine
Another suggestion from chocolate columnist Yvonne Ruperti. This guy is for the serious chocolate maker, to make the tempering process as easy as possible.
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread from Askinosie
You know how Nutella is never quite as chocolatey or hazelnut-y as you'd want? Try the killer Chocolate Hazelnut Spread ($13) from Askinosie, where they create their own hazelnut butter that they mix with roasted cocoa nibs and cocoa powder. It's silky-smooth and impossibly rich and as good straight from the spoon as it is spread on bread or drizzled on ice cream.
Chocolate Transfer Sheets
Yvonne also suggests chocolate transfer sheets, which let you create edible patterns atop your chocolate creations. Poke around the Internet for patterns you like.
Amazon, $49.95 for a large set (others are much cheaper)
Star Wars Han Solo Carbonite Chocolate
Liz Gutman loves this Han Solo trapped in carbonite, in chocolate—hey, we can't disagree.
Burnt Caramel Almonds from Recchiuti
Each large almond is coated in both dark chocolate and little bits of sharp, burnt caramel that amplify the toastiness of the almond. It's just salty enough to brighten up the whole thing and make eating a second one almost inevitable. And while plenty of cocoa-dusted nuts shed powder all over your hands, these cling perfectly. I sort of can't imagine a better chocolate-covered nut. I'm just regretting that I've fallen so hard for what should really be a special-occasion candy. But as a gift, it's perfect. ($12) Order online »
John & Kira's Chocolate Ladybug Medley
What do we love more than good chocolates? Good chocolates that are absolutely adorable. We love these chocolate ladybugs from John & Kira. They're individually hand painted, two-bite creations, a delicate dark chocolate shell with a smooth Valrhona chocolate ganache. ($28.95) Order online »
Jacques Torres Hot Chocolate
A New York classic, and the winner of our packaged hot chocolate taste test. There's a half cup of milk per every 1/4 cup of mix (that's a whole 2-to-1 milk-to-chocolate ratio!), which contains solid chocolate nuggets mixed with the powder. It's definitely indulgent, but also very drinkable. Slightly salty to balance the sweetness. (18 oz., $24.95) Order online »
"Double-Dutch" Cocoa Powder
The secret in savvy brownie, cupcake and cake-bakers' pantries everywhere. This Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa ($10.95) is a proprietary blend from King Arthur Flour made with dutch-process cocoas and "black" cocoa powder (the kind they use in Oreos) to yield a rich, dark, velvety chocolate taste. Anyone you know who loves to bake is going to want to have some of this around. Order online »
Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates
The chocolates are made by hand in the back of a Philadelphia shop, with local ingredients from Lancaster County (16 pieces, $29.95). The Peanut Butter Pretzel is our single favorite, a common pairing well-executed with the filling closer to a peanut feuilletine than simply crushed pretzels and peanut butter. Order online »