A Day of Love

Valentine’s is right around the corner and in my opinion, the Hallmarkification of this holiday is fine because it just means that I can bake all that much more without any remorse. “It’s Valentine’s Day? Chocolate? No problem!”  It’s great! I’ve also spent many hours making holiday cards and plan on running to Michael’s the moment this holiday is over to stock up on discounted Valentine’s craft things for next year. So whether you’re not a Valentine’s Day fan, or are going to be having an amorous day about town – these recipes are bound to please.

I believe that I have written of the famous Julia Childs mousse in a previous posting. Well, I have made it yet again with this sublime recipe. This mousse is just slightly labor-intensive but so worth it. It comes out the perfect texture: between light & airy and thick & creamy. And after all: isn’t chocolate the ultimate aphrodisiac?

Chocolate Mousse

(Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup dark-brewed coffee
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbs sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1) Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2) In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise.(3-4 minutes) Beat in orange liquer.

3) Continue to beat mixture over an ice bath for an additional 3-4 minutes.

4) Beat the chocolate into the egg yolks and sugar.

5) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks are formed.

6) Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don’t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

7) Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

8) Enjoy!

But of course, mousse wasn’t enough for this holiday: I also made these sumptuous Red Velvet Cake Balls. After a trek through New York City to find red velvet cake mix on Valentine’s Day (it’s worse than finding a pumpkin on Halloween!), I was able to purchase the last box the store had. The deep, lustrous red of the cake mix was really necessary for these cake balls. The rich and chocolatey texture of the inside (my roommates even referred to them as truffles) with the firm white chocolate outside made for a perfect Valentine’s combo. I even sprinkled some pink luster dust for a festive finishing touch.

Red Velvet Cake Balls

(Adapted from Bakerella)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
  • 1 package chocolate bark (regular or white chocolate)

DIRECTIONS:

1) After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.

2) Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)

3) Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet.

4) Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)

5) Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.  (Or over a double boiler as I did, being careful not to burn the chocolate)

6) Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

7) Enjoy!

Fancy Valentine’s Dinner

I know it’s a little late, but I forgot to write about our fancy Valentine’s dinner we had last week. My whole suite plus a few other friends got together Sunday night and had a lovely dinner full of fancy food. We had chile, pasta, mozzarella skewers, lox pastry puffs, strawberries and more. It was a lovely way to end our Valentine’s day. Having these little dinner parties are one of my favorite parts about living with other people. Everyone always has something unique to make and we are never lacking food.

I decided to make red velvet whoopie pies that I had seen and stored away in my recipe tab weeks ago. While they seem complicated to make, they are actually quite simple. Having some basic piping skills is a plus, but is not necessary. This recipe could easily be done for other holidays if you wanted to color the batter a different color and make different shapes – perhaps green for Saint Patrick’s Day or any other dark color that can mask the cocoa powder. It required a whole heck of a lot of red to achieve the right color, I think I achieved the proper Valentine’s Day color red. The frosting between the two layers was just a basic cream cheese icing. They are a little time consuming, but a fun and colorful accompaniment to any Valentine’s Day dinner.

RED VELVET WHOOPIE PIES

(Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

INGREDIENTS:

cookies:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 oz. red food coloring

frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.

2) Using a heart template cut out from card stock, trace evenly spaced hearts onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets.  Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

4) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.

5) With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat.  Blend in the food coloring.

6) Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.

7) Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack.  Repeat with any remaining batter.  Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.

8 ) To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.

9) Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip.  Pair the cookies up by shape and size.  Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.  Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair, leaving the edges clear.  Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges.

10)To store, refrigerate in an airtight container.

11) Enjoy!