Dessert is a perfect way to show you care

Although chocolate is the traditional treat for Valentine’s Day, there are plenty of other sweets to try

    Valentine’s Day is a time to pamper your loved ones, and one way to do that is by making special treats for them.
    Although chocolate is a tasty treat when eaten by itself, it is also a rich ingredient in such traditional desserts as tortes, tarts and cakes. To make them feel extra special for Valentine’s Day, use small baking pans to create individual servings, then place them on a dusting of cocoa or powdered sugar on a plate. Garnish with fresh fruit slices, whipped cream or ice cream.
    Chocolate can be used in cookies that are eaten out of hand or dipped in a fondue to create a decadent treat. You could also dip biscotti, fresh and dried fruits, small pieces of cake or marshmallows in a chocolate fondue.
    But chocolate isn’t your only choice. Fruity desserts are also delicious and in winter can provide a clean and unexpected taste. Tarts are a beautiful way to provide a treat for the eyes and the palate.
    Homemade candies are delicious, and they can incorporate a wide variety of flavors and toppings so you’re sure to find something for everyone.
    You can also take a simple dessert, such as a s’more, and give it a gourmet twist to make a lucious treat for the whole family.
    Following are a few Valentine’s Day treats from www.epicurious.com.

 

epicurious.com

Dark Chocolate Mousse

For mousse:
7 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
For topping:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

    To make mousse, heat chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (bottom of bowl should not touch water) about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and butter are melted and well blended. Set aside.
    Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl about five minutes, until pale and fluffy.
    Using electric mixer with clean beaters, beat egg whites and remaining sugar in another medium bowl about three minutes, until medium-stiff peaks form. Using a large spatula, gently fold egg yolk mixture into chocolate mixture until no streaks remain. Starting in the center of the mixture and working your way toward the edges of the bowl, gently fold egg whites into chocolate mixture, making sure to scrape up from the bottom and rotating bowl, until no streaks remain.
    Divide mousse among eight ramekins, smooth surface, and chill at least four hours.
    Whip cream and sugar in a medium bowl until medium peaks form. Top each serving with whipped cream.
    Makes 8 servings

 

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

For vanilla creme filling:
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sifted flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
For cupcakes:
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2-1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups whole milk
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 cup fresh strawberries, diced
For frosting:
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced strawberries
For inside layer and garnish:
24 fresh strawberries, sliced

    For the filling, mix egg yolks and sugar for four to five minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer.
    In another large bowl, sift together the flour and cornstarch. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture slowly, mixing on low speed for one to two minutes, until smooth.
    In a medium saucepan, warm milk on medium heat, just until it starts to boil.
    Using the mixer’s whisk attachment, add hot milk slowly to the mixer, whisking continuously at medium speed to keep the mixture smooth. Add heavy cream, rum extract, vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds and mix thoroughly for two to three minutes.
    Pour mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly during this time. After it boils, whisk two more minutes, until thickened.
    Remove from heat and let mixture come to room temperature before pouring in a bowl. Refrigerate at least two hours.
    To make cupcakes, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, and set aside.
    Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bowl. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed three to five minutes, until well incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing slowly after each addition.
    Combine vanilla extract and milk in a large liquid measuring cup. Carefully scrape the vanilla bean seeds from the milk.
    Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then gradually add one third of the milk mixture, beating slowly until well incorporated. Add another third of the flour mixture, followed by another third of the milk mixture, beating and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add remaining flour mixture, followed by remaining milk mixture, and beat just until combined.
    Using a spatula, gently fold in the strawberries.
    Scoop batter into 24 paper-lined cupcake baking cups until two-thirds full. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes our clean. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool completely.
    Place frosting ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat three to four minutes, until well incorporated and the frosting is light and fluffy.
    Once cooled, peel wrappers off the strawberry cupcakes and slice in half length-wise. Place a tablespoon of filling on top of the bottom half of the cupcake, add sliced strawberries and cover with the top of the cupcake to make a “sandwich.” Frost and garnish with a strawberry slice.
    Makes 24 cupcakes

 

Red Velvet Mug Cake

1 large egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon liquid red food coloring
3 tablespoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup self-rising flour
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cider, white, wine or rice vinegar

    In a large mug, whisk together egg and oil with a fork. Stir in food coloring, buttermilk, vanilla and sugar. Add cocoa, flour, salt and vinegar. Beat batter until smooth, then divide between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 minutes, until risen and firm.
    Top with cream cheese frosting, Marshmallow Fluff, whipped cream, fresh berries, red sugar sprinkles, candied pecans, or chocolate shavings.
    Makes two cakes.

 

Free Form Chocolate Candies

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
Toppings, such as pecan halves, dried tart cherries, thinly sliced dried figs, thinly sliced candied ginger, puffed quinoa or rice, salted, roasted pumpkin seeds, bee pollen, flaky sea salt and/or demerara sugar

    Turn a rimmed baking sheet over and place a sheet of parchment paper on top. Spoon or pipe quarter-size mounds of chocolate onto parchment, spacing about two inches apart.
    Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread outward in a circular motion to make silver-dollar-sized disks. Top as desired. Chill 30 to 35 minutes, until cold and set
    Carefully peel candies off of parchment just before serving.
    Makes 30 candies.

 

Double Chocolate Skillet Brownie

For brownie:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup pecan halves, chopped
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
For toppings:
1 cup vanilla ice cream
2 tablespoons pecan halves, chopped
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

    Pour one inch water into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Set a large heatproof bowl on top to create a double boiler, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Put bittersweet chocolate and butter in the bowl and gently melt. Stir until smooth.
    Remove from heat and whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until combined and smooth. Whisk in the maple syrup, vanilla, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder until incorporated. Fold in flour, pecans and chocolate chips until smooth.
    Pour batter into a greased 10-inch cast-iron pan or oven-safe skillet and bake in 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
    Let brownie cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then serve with ice cream, crushed pecans, and fresh mint.
    Makes 8 servings.

 

Lemon Curd With Berries

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
6 large eggs
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups mixed berries

    Bring lemon zest, lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar to a bare simmer in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisking to dissolve sugar, then remove from heat.
    Whisk eggs, salt and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl about one minute, until light and thick. Whisking constantly, gradually pour about one-quarter of hot lemon mixture into egg mixture, then, whisking constantly, incorporate egg mixture into remaining lemon mixture in saucepan. Cook over medium heat about two minutes, whisking constantly, until lemon curd is opaque and thick enough to hold the marks of the whisk.
    Scrape lemon curd into a blender. With motor on medium speed, add butter, one piece at a time, waiting until each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next, until the butter is emulsified and curd is light and thick.
    Transfer curd to a large nonreactive bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface so a skin doesn’t form. Chill at least two hours, until cold.
    Toss berries and remaining sugar in a large bowl. Let sit 25 to 30 minutes, until some juices have accumulated. Spoon curd into bowls and top with berries and their juices.
    Makes 8 servings.

 

Frozen Mini S’Mores Pies

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
8 graham crackers
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

    Heat butter and honey in a small saucepan over medium or in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until fine crumbs form. With the motor running, drizzle in butter-honey mixture and process until well combined. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl.
    Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese in a large bowl about three minutes, until creamy. Add condensed milk and cocoa powder and beat until smooth.
    Using a whisk or electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream in another medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into cocoa powder mixture.
    Line muffin pan with paper liners. Pour cocoa powder mixture into a pastry bag or plastic bag with the corner snipped off and pipe evenly into muffin cups. Top each with 1-1/2 tablespoons cracker mixture, breaking up crumbs to completely cover, then press down gently to adhere. Freeze at least three hours, until set.
    Heat corn syrup, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over low until sugar is melted. Increase heat to medium and cook about five minutes, until an instant-read thermometer registers 240 degrees.
    Using electric mixer on medium-high speed or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Reduce mixer speed to low and carefully add sugar syrup in a slow and steady stream. Increase speed to high and beat six to eight minutes, until light, glossy and fluffy.
    Remove pies from tins, turn upside down and remove paper liners. Dollop each pie with meringue. Using kitchen torch, carefully brown fluff. Serve immediately or return to freezer until ready to serve.
    Makes 12 pies.

 

Mary’s Panna Cotta With Red Wine Syrup

For panna cotta:
3-1/2 sheets gelatin
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
2 cups plain whole-milk kefir
1/2 cup kefir labneh
For red wine syrup:
1 750-milliliter bottle red wine
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Sliced peaches and pomegranate seeds), for garnish

    Submerge gelatin in an ice bath for 10 minutes, then drain well. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a light simmer over medium heat. Add drained gelatin and whisk in the sugar. Cook two minutes, until sugar is dissolved.
    In a bowl, combine kefir and labneh, then add the warm cream mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Pour into eight 6-ounce ramekins or custard molds and allow to set in the refrigerator overnight.
    Pour the wine into a small, heavy-bottomed pot and add honey and black pepper. Cook until the alcohol is gone and mixture is reduced to a thick syrup. Pour syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to remove the pepper. Refrigerate syrup.
    Remove panna cotta from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Fill a bowl with hot tap water and dip each panna cotta mold into the water, then turn out onto individual plates. Garnish with sliced peaches and pomegranate seeds (arils) and drizzle with red wine syrup.
    Makes 8 servings.

 

Molten Chocolate Chunk Brownies

1 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/3 cups caster or superfine sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
8-1/2 tablespoons dark chocolate, chopped

    Place flour, cocoa, sugars, butter, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl and mix until smooth. Add chocolate and stir to combine.        Lightly grease an eight-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper. Spread batter in the pan and bake in a 325-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until brownie is set.
    Cool in the pan for five minutes before slicing into squares and serving warm or allow to cool completely in the pan.
    Makes 16 brownies.
    

 

Triple Cherries Juliblee

1 pound bag frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon cherry juice
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
3 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tablespoon arrowroot
1/4 cup thin matchstick-size strips orange peel, orange part only
1/3 cup kirsch
1 quart vanilla or cherry-vanilla-swirl ice cream

    Place sieve over bowl. Place cherries in sieve and let drain. Pour juices into heavy medium skillet and set cherries aside.
    Mix two cups cherry juice, dried cherries and sugar into a skillet. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add bean. Boil sauce about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1-1/2 cups. Mix arrowroot with remaining 1 tablespoon juice in small bowl, the whisk into sauce. Boil another minute, until thickened. Discard vanilla bean. Mix in drained cherries and orange peel.
    Heat kirsch in skillet over low heat. Remove from heat, then carefully ignite kirsch with match. Pour flaming kirsch into sauce. Scoop ice cream into bowls and spoon sauce over the top.
    Makes 16 servings.

 

Pistachio-Rose Shortbread Squares

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
2 tablespoons rose rooibos tea or other rooibos tea, crushed
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raw pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries
1/4 cup pink or red sanding sugar

    Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
    Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat powdered sugar and butter in a large bowl about three minutes, until aerated and pale. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat two minutes more. Reduce mixer speed to medium, add egg and beat until well incorporated. Add tea, lemon zest and vanilla and beat 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl, until combined.
    Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture, followed by pistachios. Stir dough a few times with a spatula, making sure to get to bottom of bowl. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface and divide into quarters.
    Working with one quarter at a time, place dough on a sheet of parchment paper and pat into a log, then pull the parchment around the log and, using the parchment to help contain the dough, press firmly against work surface, rotating and squaring off edges until you have a long 1-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap parchment-wrapped dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least three hours.
    Unwrap dough and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
    Pulverize raspberries into a fine powder in a food processor or spice mill. Transfer to a plate and mix in sanding sugar.
    Roll dough in raspberry sugar, pressing with hands to adhere. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices, rotating rectangle a quarter turn after each slice to maintain its shape. Arrange slices on two rimmed baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper, spacing 1/2-inch apart. Bake cookies in a 325-degree oven for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until opaque and barely golden. Transfer pans to wire racks and let cool.
    

 

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