501 Life Magazine | Let's have a 'heart to heart'
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Let's have a 'heart to heart'

by Don Bingham

It’s time to celebrate Valentine’s Day! The Christmas decorations have been put away and time has given us a breather with the “cleaned out” look. Now is the time to add a little touch of red, pink, nostalgia and romance and maybe even enjoy the return of a few calories. If we have been diligent in getting off the extra pounds from Christmas, maybe we can afford an elegant dessert for the Valentine table!

Valentine season decorating is really much simpler to produce than you might think — it’s a grand time to pull out old photos, candy jars, family heirlooms and wedding albums.

Select one or two focal points in your home that you and guests will often pass by, and decorate those table tops or areas with relics that speak of the true meaning of the things we hold dear and love.

This is a great opportunity to place wedding photo albums on coffee tables — those of yourself or your children. It can be a lovely trip down memory lane of happy times.

It’s also a perfect time to display vintage Valentine cards, letters, jewelry, china tea pots, potted plants and any of those little treasures that may be collecting dust in a closet. Place them in “display case” style in various heights on top of books, etc. There should be no cost to walk through the cabinets and closets to find those cherished items that, collectively, are fun to see and remind us of the really important things in life. Even set your unused dining table with the china, crystal and silver that you keep stored away. You’ll enjoy looking at it during this season in anticipation of the celebration of things past and present.

On the more extravagant side, you might want to place fresh floral arrangements in each room for the Valentine season. A living plant or fresh flowers is always a perk to a tired decor, and they make wonderful gifts to pass on to others.

Consider building your own candy store by using apothecary jars and candy dishes that are clear to display a collection of all things sweet in red, pink and white. What fun it is for visitors to visit and graze on their favorite sweet confections! Place the containers on a sideboard, a buffet table or even in the center of your favorite dining space — they will be a “pick me up” day and night during the Valentine season.

Budget in time to create that special dish to treat that special someone. Plan ahead, grocery shop, bake and budget in those few minutes to sit and enjoy another’s company over a delicious, delectable dessert. It is still a gift that costs little but says so much!

Although there are many culinary treats that say “I love you,” chocolate remains at the top of the list for Valentine’s Day! The Boule de Neige has been one of our favorites through the years! It is a rich, flourless, dense chocolate-fudgy type dessert that is hidden beneath the folds of sweetened whip cream. It sounds a bit intimidating to make, but really is not difficult. Using the food processor simplifies the work — just make certain you allow the baked delicacy to cool and refrigerate before trying to mold the chocolate treat into your desired shape. If you have the need to “guild the lily,” you might want to pass a container of chocolate sauce for guests to adorn the already extravagant dessert!

Boule de Neige

Chocolate Snowball

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, each cut 

   into 6 pieces

4 large eggs

1 tbsp. cognac or rum

DECORATION:

1 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

2 tsp. cognac or rum

Line a five-cup charlotte mold or souffle dish with double thickness of foil. Place chocolate, broken into pieces, and sugar into bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade — turn on/off four times to get mixture started, then let machine run until chocolate is finely chopped. With machine running, add boiling water through feed tube. Let machine run until mixture is thoroughly mixed and chocolate is melted. Add butter and process to combine until butter is blended completely into chocolate. Add eggs and cognac/rum. 

Let machine run 10 seconds.

Pour mixture into prepared mold; bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes until a thick crust has formed on top. The mixture will recede as it cools. Let cool. Wrap airtight and refrigerate. Will keep up to two weeks and may also be frozen.

TO SERVE: Peel off foil (mixture will look sticky and irregular). Whip cream until thick with electric mixer, sweeten and flavor. Fill pastry bag fitted with a medium size star tube; cover mold, bottom side down, completely with rosettes so no chocolate shows. Chill until served. Cut in small slices. Makes 8-12 servings.

Godiva Chocolate Mousse Cake< /strong>

4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate (preferably Godiva)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 egg whites

1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. confectioner’s sugar

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of an 8-inch spring form pan.

Combine chocolate and 1/2 cup butter in double boiler. Heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and cool.

Beat egg yolks and granulated sugar in large bowl until it is light and lemon colored. Add cooled chocolate mixture; stir to blend thoroughly. Beat egg whites in medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Stir half the egg whites into chocolate batter to lighten; fold in remaining whites.

Pour batter into prepared pan — bake until wooden pick inserted into center of cake is withdrawn clean, about one hour. Remove to wire rack; let cool 15-20-minutes. 

Remove sides of pan; invert cake onto serving plate to cool completely. While cake is cooling, make chocolate icing. Spread chocolate icing evenly over top and sides of cake, using thin, flexible metal spatula. Sieve cocoa powder evenly over cake; seive confectioner’s sugar evenly over cocoa powder.

CHOCOLATE ICING:

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3 egg whites

Combine chocolate and butter in double boiler; heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat; let cool.

Beat egg yolks and sugar in large bowl until light and lemon colored. Add cooled chocolate mixture, stirring to blend thoroughly.

Beat egg whites in medium bowl until stiff peaks form. 

Beat half the egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten; fold in remaining whites. Use immediately.

Baked Chocolate Pudding with Sour Cream

SOUR CREAM TOPPING:

3 1/2 cups whipping cream

4 tbsp. buttermilk

PUDDING:

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup nuts, chopped (preferably macadamia nuts or walnuts)

2 tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter, melted

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup cold water

FOR TOPPING: Combine 2 cups cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk in 1-quart jar with tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. Add remaining cream and buttermilk and stir to blend. Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, three to four hours. Cover and shake again. Refrigerate mixture for 12 hours.

FOR PUDDING: Generously grease 8-by-3-inch round baking dish. Combine flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in large bowl and mix well. Stir in chopped nuts and melted butter. Add milk and vanilla and stir until well blended (batter will be thick). 

Pour into prepared baking dish.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine remaining
sugars and cocoa in medium bowl and blend well. Sprinkle over batter. Pour 1 cup cold water over top. Bake until pudding is set, about one hour. (Can be baked early in day and reheated in 325 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.)

Shake sour cream well. Pour quantity desired into mixing bowl and beat as for whipping cream. Invert hot pudding onto platter. Serve immediately with sour cream topping (may be served cold). Serves eight.

Creamy Chocolate Truffles 

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped powdered unsweetened cocoa, cinnamon, grated chocolate or ground nuts (for rolling)

In a large heavy saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over moderately low heat. Boil, stirring constantly, until reduced by half to 3/4 cup, about 10 minutes. 

Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until smooth. Scrape into a shallow container and refrigerate, uncovered, until firm, four to five hours.

For each truffle, form about 2 teaspoons of the cold chocolate mixture into a rough ball. Roll the truffles in the coating of your choice and refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. (They keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or they may be frozen for several months.)

These creamy truffles may be rolled in powdered cocoa, cinnamon, grated chocolate or nuts. They are best made with top-quality chocolate. For a special treat, serve them with coffee. Makes about two dozen.

Black and White Truffles

PASTRY:

1 cup butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

With steel blade in food processor bowl, mix butter, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Add flour and press until ball forms on blade. Divide into 40 pieces on a baking sheet. Wrap and refrigerate while making filling.

BLACK TRUFFLES:

8 oz. almonds

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate 

2 egg whites

Using steel blade in the work bowl of a food processor, finely grind almonds and chocolate. Add egg whites and process until holds together. Divide mixture into 40 pieces, using 1 tablespoon for each. Roll to form a round ball.

Remove pastry from refrigerator. Flatten in palm of hand. Wrap it around truffle. Roll into a ball. Place on ungreased baking sheet one inch apart. Bake 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees until lightly brown. Cooled cookies may be sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar or ground chocolate. Makes about two to three dozen.