Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Every 14th February brings together couples and gives them the opportunity to express the incredible feeling of being in love. Some go out of their way to buy gifts, flowers, chocolates, lingerie, V-day bunnies [I personally find them grotesque], some keep it simple with the classic dinner and a movie date while some [the lonely ones] will bitch and brag about V-day being absolute bullshit to anyone who will care to hear, or rather, read & comment on their Facebook status!

To have a great time on Valentine’s day, you do not have to spend a fortune; it is possible to have lots of fun within a reasonable budget but you need to know where to go and what to do. Thoughtful creative gestures count and one of the best ideas is to stay in and cook something special for your dear one. Not so expensive afterall, plus you can add to the romantic mood by playing a selection of soft slows and dancing to them.

And to celebrate love, I bring to you not one but three decadent desserts that will make you sigh with pleasure after each mouthful. Starting off with this very sinful tart filled with a two tone chocolate ganache, you can make it days ahead and keep the precious minutes to spend with your love instead of slaving away till the very last moment in the kitchen. Taken from Baking Bites, this 100% chocolatey dessert can be easily customised by flavouring the ganache with spices, liquor or extracts. Get creative and enjoy!

MARBLED CHOCOLATE GANACHE TART

Ingredients:

100g dark chocolate, chopped

100g milk chocolate, chopped

2 tbs pure honey, divided

2 1/2 tsp instant espresso or coffee powder

1/2 cup heavy cream or whipping cream

1 tbs butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

One 9 or 10-inch tart shell or four individual 4-inch tart shells

Method:

  • Prebake tart shell at 350 oF for 30 minutes until golden. Remove and cool completely.
  • In a medium bowl, combine dark chocolate, 1 tbs honey and instant espresso powder.

  • In another bowl, combine finely chopped milk chocolate and 1 tbs honey.
  • Bring the cream just to a simmer in a small saucepan, or in the microwave. Divide into 2 parts.

  • Pour separately into each bowl of chocolate. Stir with a spatula until chocolate is melted and the mixture is very smooth.
  • Add 1/2 tbs butter and vanilla extract to each mixture, and stir until butter is melted and the mixture is very smooth.

  • Pour dollops of ganache, milk alternating with dark chocolate, into prepared tart shell until nearly full.
  • Use a wooden skewer to marble the milk and dark chocolate ganache into an attractive pattern.

  • Warm the chocolate ganache for 10-15 seconds in the microwave if it becomes too thick to pour.
  • Chill tarts for at least 2 hours to allow filling to set. Tarts are best when served close to room temperature.

While my tart shell was happily baking away, I decided to tackle my next V-day dessert: Chocolate & Cherry Mini Cakes, the Eggless Version! The recipe from Food Tale was exactly as it promised to be; a quick way to whip up moist and dense and intensely dark chocolate cake. Tall, dark and handsome would be fitting here except that they were mini cakes, not tall ones. I guess it’d be one to reach for when I run out butter and eggs or cannot be bothered to wait for them to get to room temperature. Cherries can be replaced with strawberries or raspberries in keeping with the festive mood. They do tend to be rare and expensive but try the Food Lovers Market, Bagatelle. You might get lucky!

CHOCOLATE CHERRY MINI CAKES

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

6 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup hot water + 1 tsp coffee

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

12 cherry halves + 12 whole cherries

For the Frosting

2 tbs margarine or butter, room temperature

1 cup + 1 tbs powdered sugar

2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 to 1 tbs milk

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 170 C. Lightly grease a 12-hole mini muffin pan and dust it with cocoa powder or use paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and sugar and make a well.
  • Add all the wet ingredients one by one. With an electric mixer, beat the mixture on low speed for 2-3 minutes.

  • The dry and wet ingredients should be well combined. Do not over beat. Pour 2 tsp of the batter in each muffin cup.
  • Place a cherry half in the centre of each and spoon over 2 tsp of the chocolate batter. Bake for about 30 min.
  • Check cakes by inserting a toothpick in the middle; the toothpick should come clean when the cakes are ready.

  • Once out of the oven, transfer the pan to a wiring rack to cool. After about an hour remove the cake from the pan.
  • Cool completely before frosting. For the frosting, measure out margarine, sugar and cocoa powder in a medium bowl.
  • Start beating with an electric mixer on low speed. At this stage it may seem to be very dry but do not panic.

  • Add milk little by little and continue beating till you get a good piping consistency. Transfer the cakes to a plate.
  • Fill a large pastry bag, fitted with a wide star tipped nozzle, with the chocolate frosting and secure the end.
  • Pipe on a generous swirl of frosting and top with a cherry. Cool down in fridge for at least one hour before serving.

And finally, I made some cookies as well. Big heart shaped linzer cookies with raspberry jam filling and a fine dusting of icing sugar. I found the recipe on Cook and Be Merry after searching at length for a cookie recipe with hazelnuts. V-day baking was great fun; the real pain was to get good shots of the baked goodies. We had something like a cyclone that swept close to our tiny island this weekend and the skies are still grey with the occasional drizzle. Not ideal lighting conditions for food photography but had to manage. I hope the pics look decent enough. Well, the rainy weather’s gonna be a good excuse to stay close cuddle under the blankets. Hmm!

LINZER RASPBERRY COOKIES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts or almonds

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

2 tbs caster sugar

1/8 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsifted cake flour

1/8 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together with a fork until light and fluffy.
  • Stir in the ground nuts. Blend in flour, baking powder and cinnamon to form a stiff dough. Shape into 1-inch thick disc.

  • Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill well for several hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator for about an hour.
  • Dough should be soft enough to roll out. Cut two pieces of plastic wrap about 2 feet long and place on rolling surface.

  • Place dough between the 2 sheets. Place two more pieces of plastic wrap over dough, overlapping them by 6 inches.
  • Roll out dough between pieces of plastic wrap to ¼-inch thick or lightly less. Remove the top sheet of wrap.

  • Cut into heart shaped cookies. Remove from the wrap with an offset spatula and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Cut out the centers of half of the batch of cookies with a smaller heart shaped cookie cutter.

  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 9 minutes or until the edges of cookies are golden. Remove from oven.
  • Let stand 1 minute, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Sift powdered sugar over the cookies with the cut outs.

  • Spread the remaining ‘whole’ cookies with 1-2 teaspoons raspberry jam. Top each with a cut out cookie.
  • Press the 2 halves gently together. Spoon a little more jam into the opening of each. Makes one dozen cookies.

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