Archive for: valentines
Over the holidays, I tried quite a few limited edition Peeps and really enjoyed the novelty of having some seasonal flavors instead of the usual, and relatively plain, traditional Peeps. These Strawberry Creme Peeps are a Valentine’s Day edition that caught my eye – and I was glad to have a chance to try them out before the holiday was completely over! The Peeps are bright red and strawberry-flavored, and they’re dipped in a thin layer of dark chocolate. The store where I spotted them also carried the same strawberry flavor Peeps dipped in milk chocolate. From previous Peep-tasting experience, I know that I prefer to have dark chocolate with my Peeps, so I passed over the milk chocolate option this time around.
As soon as you open the package, you get a big burst of strawberry scent, and the Peeps have just as strong a flavor. It’s pleasant, like strawberry candy (which, of course, it is) rather than a bite of fresh strawberry. With the dark chocolate in the picture, however, you really do get a chocolate dipped strawberry flavor that makes these Peeps quite tasty. The strawberry flavor does make them seem a little sweeter than your average Peep, so they’re better in small doses than they are in a big bunch unless you have a big sweet tooth. But given the cute factor of the chick-shaped marshmallows and the fun flavoring, these just might make a more fun Valentine’s Day treat than real chocolate covered berries for a marshmallow lover (or at least in addition to them!).
A springform pan is a type of cake pan that has removable sides, held together by an adjustable latch or buckle. They’re great for cheesecakes and other delicate baked goods since you don’t need to flip the pan upside down to get things out. Most springform pans are round, but every once in a while you’ll see a shaped one and, around Valentine’s Day, these pans often take the shape of a heart. The heart-shaped springform pans work just as well as their round counterparts, but give anything you bake in them a clear heart shape. Shaped pans can be difficult to work with, not only because cakes and other desserts can stick in corners of the pan, but because they are difficult to line with parchment paper to prevent sticking. A shaped springform pan ensures that the shape of your pan comes through when you’re done no matter what you’re baking.
I’ve seen them in both individual 4-inch serving sizes and full size 9-inch pans. Both sizes are ideal for baking heart-shaped cheesecakes, and you can divided just about any full size cheesecake recipe up into mini pans and reduce the baking time to make mini cheesecakes. The mini pans are just a bit larger than the muffin pans that I often use to bake single-serving cheesecakes, but my Chocolate Chip Mini Cheesecakes and Mini Double Chocolate Cheesecakes can be baked in pans like these for a super sweet Valentine’s treat.
There is nothing like getting a bouquet of roses to say “I Love You” – but a rose-shaped cake comes pretty close, and might even be better than flowers if the cake happens to be your favorite flavor! This is clearly what they were thinking at Nordic Ware when they designed their Rose Bundt Pan. The beautiful cast aluminum pan looks like a giant rose in bloom, with row upon row of lovely petals coming from the center of the pan. The 10-inch bundt pan comes with a recipe, but is a standard size and should work with any favorite bundt recipe that you already have. A nonstick finish on the inside of the pan will help cakes to come out easily, with all that detail intact. One of the great things about a pan like this one is that it creates a very dramatic cake and you don’t need to do any decorating to get it to look great. Just sprinkle the cake with a little confectioners’ sugar or a little cocoa powder and it is ready to serve.
When you have a pan with this much detail, you always run the risk of the cake cake sticking in places, even when the pan has a nonstick coating. To ensure that you get a clean release, you need to be even more diligent about greasing and flouring this pan than you do with other bundt designs. I recommend melting some shortening (or just using vegetable oil) in a small bowl and using a pastry brush to give the inside of the pan a good coat before dusting it with a little bit of flour. Also, let the cake rest and retract in the pan for about 10-15 minutes after baking and that will help it slide out a little bit more easily, too.
Chocolate covered strawberries are a classic treat for Valentine’s day, but strawberries aren’t exactly at their peak in February. It’s possible to find fresh ones, of course, though your options are either going to be fairly expensive hothouse berries or berries that simply don’t have the flavor of those at their peak later in the season. I decided to make these biscotti as a stand in for the classic, using strawberries in the biscotti and dipping the cookies themselves in chocolate.
I didn’t use fresh or frozen berries in these biscotti; they’re too juicy for the crispy, dry cookies. Normally, I’d use dried fruit in biscotti, but this time around I decided to use freeze-dried strawberries. These berries have zero moisture content and incorporate easily into any batter without changing the texture. They contribute a good strawberry flavor (not as much as a fresh berry, though) and still allow the biscotti to maintain their crisp, perfect-for-dipping-in-coffee texture.
The basic cookie has no added fat and bakes up to be fairly crunchy, not tender and crumbly. The cookies aren’t hard – thanks to the relatively high egg content – but they really are meant to be dunked in coffee or tea for optimum enjoyment (although I really do like to eat them plain). Use any kind of chocolate you like for dunking. I opted for dark and white chocolate, but milk would work out very well with these, too. And don’t forget to save some for your sweetheart!
We’re getting down to the wire on Valentine’s Day, but there is still plenty of time to do a little bit of baking for your valentines – whether you have one or many.
Chocolate is the first option on every list. Don’t fight it. I like to opt for smaller or individual chocolate treats because they seem cuter when compared to a huge cake. Dark Chocolate Souffles are delicious, but if you’re craving something with an even richer center, Molten Chocolate Cakes might fit the bill. Flourless Chocolate Cakes are the final mini-chocolate dessert on my list, my last batch (pictured) made even more appealing by using a heart-shaped pan. For something lighter, a lower fat Chocolate Mousse is a good choice.
Speaking of heart shapes, you can use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make just about anything a little more romantic. Heart-Shaped Butter Cookies are a great example, easy to make and festively topped with red sprinkles. Any cutout cookie recipe will work, though.
For something that isn’t chocolate, I like to go with berries for Valentine’s Day. I’m not picky about which kind, but I do think that red berries are a bit more appropriate than, say, blue ones. Strawberry Jam Crumb Coffee Cake is a delicious dish for Valentine’s Day breakfast and a Strawberries and Cream Cheese Tart, while summery, is simple and elegant. Raspberry Mousse is perfectly pink and a sweet-tart Yogurt Panna Cotta isn’t complete without some fresh berries, or a berry puree, on the side.
If you need a lot of Valentine’s – perhaps as a holiday gift to a classroom full of kids, assuming that the school in question still allows homemade goodies – the cookies mentioned above are a good idea, as are cupcakes. Red Velvet Cupcakes are very Valentine’s Day-appropriate and you could easily dye the vanilla half of Black and White Rice Krispie Treats pink with red food coloring.