On Valentine’s Day, chocolate is romance. On Valentine’s Day, romance is chocolate.
There is a strong correlation between love and refined cacao beans in mid-February.
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. They believe candy is delicious. In both cases thick, delicious chocolate smooths the way.
For Valentine’s Day, I made four chocolate-based recipes. She swooned, which was exactly what I wanted.
I started with a chocolate cupcake. Someone asked me for my favorite chocolate cake recipe. After thinking about it for some time, and even checking the computer, I realized that I had never made a chocolate cake recipe. I continued to think about it and realized that I had never made a chocolate cake in my entire life. I prefer pies.
I decided to remedy that by making a chocolate cake with almost melted chocolate chips sprinkled throughout. The cake was marvelously moist, courtesy of a cup of corn oil — it’s Valentine’s Day, so calories don’t matter.
It was also double-chocolatey, as the chocolate in each layer was enhanced with extra chocolate chips. It was then topped off with a triple dose cocoa-based frosting that was placed around the cake and between the three layers.
It was like eating chocolate cocoa.
But I still like pies, so I made a tart, too — it’s the next best thing to a pie. But it wasn’t an ordinary tart. This was a Malted Milk Chocolate Tart.
It was much easier than it sounds. It was also easier than it sounds, even if it sounds amazing.
The crust was simple to pull together: It’s just flour, sugar, cocoa, butter and an egg yolk mixed together and pressed into a tart pan (I’ll admit, my crust stuck pretty firmly to the pan). The filling was a chocolate ganache. Simply pour hot cream over the chocolate and blend it together.
The malted-milk flavor is subtle. It gives just enough hint to enhance the rich, chocolatey filling with a crisp, cookie-like crust.
I also made a Chocolate Coeur a la Crème, which is the French version of the chocolate-romance rule. It is a cream heart. It is light, airy, ethereal, and absolutely stunning.
There are as many ways to make Coeur a la Crème as there are people who know how to pronounce it. I chose a method that guarantees delicacy and featheriness. Simply fold the whipped cream with vanilla and powdered sugar into a mixture of whipped cheese and melted chocolate.
The light sweetness of the whipped cream balances beautifully with the light sourness of the whipped cream cheese, and the chocolate — which is also light —ties it all together with a romantic bow. The dish is enhanced by the addition of strawberry flavor and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
The coeur part of Coeur a la Crème means “heart,”The dish is traditionally made using a heart-shaped mold with holes at the bottom to allow liquid to drain out.
I happen to have a Coeur a la Crème mold (I know, right?), but if you don’t, don’t worry. You can also make it in paper cups or other disposable containers that you have poked holes into.
My last dessert is the least chocolatey, but it’s also the most enjoyable. It starts with a banana sandwich, with vanilla cream, chocolate sauce, strawberries, and optional peanuts. The bananas are then coated with a caramel sauce. They are then wrapped in a crepe.
We learn two important lessons from this dish
• Bananas reach their ultimate potential when they are coated with a caramel sauce. And,
• Everything tastes better when served in a crepe.
The genius of this dessert is that you don’t have to make the whole thing. If you don’t want to make the crepe, you can leave it out. The caramel sauce can be thrown out. The strawberries should be thrown out.
Make sure you do it all. It is just delightful. And someone once said that calories don’t count on Valentine’s Day.
COCOA FROSTING AND OLD-FASHIONEDCHOCOLATE CAKE
Yield: 8-10 servings
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated Sugar
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1 cup corn oil
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 cups powdered Sugar, Divided
½ cup (about) whole milk
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Sift flour, granulated sugar, ½ cup of the cocoa, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Mix the corn oil, cold water, and 1 tablespoon vanilla in a large bowl. Mix in the flour mixture. Divide the batter equally between the pans. There won’t be enough batter in any one pan. Sprinkle ½ cup chocolate chips over the batter in each pan.
2. Bake cakes until a tester inserted into their center comes out clean, approximately 25 minutes. Let the pans cool on racks for 15 min. To loosen, trim the sides of the pans. Place the cakes on racks and let cool completely.
3. Make frosting by beating butter in a large bowl until it is light and fluffy. Gradually incorporate 3 cups powdered Sugar. Beat in the milk and the remaining 1½ teaspoons vanilla. Mix in the remaining 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and 2 cups powdered sugar. Beat until well blended. You can thin the mixture with more milk if needed.
4. Place 1 layer of chocolate-chips-side up on a platter. Spread 1/3 cup frosting over. Layer the second cake layer chocolate-chips side down. Spread 1/3 cup frosting over. Spread remaining frosting on top of the cake, chocolate-chips side up. Spread remaining frosting on top and sides of cake. Can be made up to one day in advance; cover with a cake dome, and let stand at room temperatures.
Based on a 10 calorie serving: 1,009 calories, 45 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 32 mg cholesterol; 8 grams protein; 153g carbohydrate; 128 g sugar; 5 fiber; 495m sodium; 30m calcium
— Recipe from “The Bon Appétit Cookbook”Barbara Fairchild
CHOCOLATE COEUR A LA CRÈME
Yield: 6 portions
1 cup heavy Cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup powdered sugar
8 ounces cream Cheese, at Room Temperature
2 ounces semisweet Chocolate, chopped and melted
6 squares of cheesecloth (6 inches) or a 12-inch piece for large molds.
6 (4-inch) coeur a la crème molds or 1 (8-inch) mold, see note
For the chocolate-dipped strawberries
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 fresh strawberries, washed and dried at room temperature
Note: if you do not have a coeur a la crème mold, simply poke small holes in the bottom of 6 (3-inch) paper cups.
1. Mix the cream and vanilla together in a medium-sized bowl. Beat at medium speed until you get soft peaks. Continue beating until the powdered Sugar is incorporated. Set aside.
2. Mix the cream cheese in a medium bowl until it is fluffy. Mix in the melted chocolate. Continue beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Fold in the whipped cream.
3. Each mold should be lined with a square piece of dampened cheesecloth. Divide the chocolate cream mixture evenly between the molds. Each cheesecloth that is not folded over the top should be folded over. Place the molds onto a wire rack and place it on a baking tray. Place the molds on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and let cool for at least 8 hours.
4. Prepare the chocolate-dipped strawberries by covering a baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed papers. The chocolate should be stirred in a double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over hot (but still not simmering) water until it is smooth. Take the chocolate out of the boiling water. Take a strawberry and hold it by its stem or hull. Dip two-thirds into the chocolate. To remove any excess, shake gently. Place the strawberry on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining strawberries. If necessary, place the chocolate in hot water to soften it while you work. Allow the berries to cool down until the chocolate is set, which should take about 30 minutes.
5. When ready to serve, remove the heart from the molds carefully and gently take off the cheesecloth. The chocolate-dipped strawberries and the hearts can be served on individual plates. This can be done up to several weeks in advance.
Serving: 460 calories, 29 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol; 7g protein; 49g carbohydrate; 38g sugar; 38g fiber; 127m sodium; 99m calcium
— Recipe by Emeril Lagasse
MALTED MILKCHOCOLATE TART
Yield: 8-10 servings
8 tablespoons (1 stick), unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated Sugar, divided
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting, optional
10 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
2 ounces 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
2½ cups heavy whipping cream, divided
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons malted milk powder, such as Ovaltine (yellow label, not chocolate-flavored), divided
1. Make the crust by combining 1/3 cup of sugar and butter in a bowl. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Use a spatula or a spoon to scrape down the bowl. If any lumps of hard butter remain, continue beating for another minute until all is well. Add the yolk to the bowl and beat well. Scrape down the bowl.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and 2½ tablespoons of the cocoa powder. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix on the lowest speed until the dough comes together. Some clumps may still be small and medium-sized. The dough should be moist and uniform in color. Scrape the bowl and mix by hand using the spatula. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes before you continue.
3. Scrape the dough clumps into a 9- or 9½-inch tart pan. Use your heel to press the dough into an even layer along the bottom and up the sides. Start at the center of the pan and work your way up, building up extra dough at the edges. Press the excess dough along the sides of your pan with your thumbs. Be sure to check for cracks and uneven spots. Reserve any remaining dough. You can chill the dough in the fridge for up to an hour, or in the freezer for up to 30 minutes.
4. Bake the shell. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Place an oven rack in central position. Bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes. Close the oven door and take the pan out of the oven. Check for cracks. You can repair any cracks using a little of the reserved dough. Bake for 15-17 minutes more. Let cool on a rack.
5. Make the filling by combining the bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat 1 cup cream in a small saucepan. Boil until it boils. Remove from the heat and whisk in ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the malted milk powder until dissolved. After the chocolates are melted, pour the cream over them. Let the mixture rest for 1 minute before you start to whisk it together. Place the mixture in a tart crust. Let cool in the fridge for 1 hour or until the filling has set.
6. Finish the tart: Use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand-held mixer to whip the remaining 1½ cups cream, the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon malted milk powder to medium peaks (whipping it to stiff peaks will turn it grainy; if this happens, stir in a tablespoon or two of extra cream until it smooths out). Transfer the whippedcream to a bag (or plastic bag with one corner cut) and pipe the whippedcream across the tart. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
7. To serve, use a fine-mesh sieve to dust the top with the remaining ½ teaspoon of cocoa powder, if desired. The tart can be cut with a sharp knife after it has been warmed in hotwater and dried. The tart can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. However, the whipped cream might start to fall apart.
Based on 10 servings: 451 calories; 32g fat; 20g saturated fat; 84% cholesterol; 5g protein; 38g carbohydrate, 24g sugar; 2g fiber; 35m sodium; 88m calcium
— From “The Art & Soul of Baking”Cindy Mushet
HOT BANANA CREPES
Yield: 4 portions
1/3 cup granulated Sugar
¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon table salt, divided
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla extract divided
4 ripe medium bananas
1 cup strawberries
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
½ cup half-and-half
1/3 cup packed light brown Sugar
4 crepes (recipe following, or store-bought Crepes
1 pint vanilla ice cream
½ cup salted peanuts, optional
1. To make the chocolate sauce, combine 3/4 cup water, the granulated sugar and ¼ teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Mix in the cocoa powder. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until mixture thickens slightly. Stir in the chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
2. Peel the bananas. Cut in half crosswise. Split the halves lengthwise. Hull and quarter strawberries.
3. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until the foam subsides. Add the bananas, increase the heat to high and sauté them for about 3 minutes, turning them until they are golden; transfer them to a plate using a slotted spoon.
4. Add the half and half, brown sugar, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt to the skillet. Cook until the mixture thickens, approximately 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the bananas, and then turn the heat off.
5. Place one crepe on each of four dessert plates. Spread one-quarter cup of the sauce and bananas onto each crepe. Roll it up. Each crepe should be topped with a scoop or two of ice cream, some strawberries, chocolate sauce, peanuts, and if possible, peanuts.
810 calories per serving; 40 g fat, 20 g saturated fat, 87 mg cholesterol; 14g protein; 112g carbohydrate. 84 g sugar. 10 g fiber. 286 mg sodium. 230 mg calcium
— Recipe from “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners”Sara Moulton
Yield: 8 portions (only 4 are required for Hot Banana Split Crepes recipe).
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon table salt
1. Melt the butter. Reserve 2 tablespoons. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons, milk, flour, eggs, and salt in a blender. Blend until smooth. Cover and let cool at room temperature for 30 min.
2. Lightly brush a 10-inch nonstick skillet with some of the reserved butter. Heat over medium heat until hot but still not smoking. Reduce heat to medium.
3. Stir the batter and ladle a scant ¼ cup into the pan, tilting and rotating the pan until the batter coats the bottom. Cook the crepe for between 30 and 45 seconds or until the top is set and the bottom is barely golden. Turn the crepe over and cook for another 30 seconds.
4. After they are cooked, transfer the crepes onto a cooling rack. Once cool, stack them up until you are ready. You can freeze extra crepes.
— Recipe from “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners”Sara Moulton