Valentine's Day is a day of indulgence and decadence, of romance and flowers. Chocolate is the ambrosia of Valentine's Day gifts, and it's also the mother lode of ingredients in delectable desserts. The Aztecs referred to chocolate as the "nourishment of the Gods," and it's thought to have powers of l'amour as well. Chocolate is a well-known aphrodisiac, which is perhaps why it's found just about everywhere on the most romantic day of the year. If you wonder why chocolate makes you swoon, it's more than just the to-die-for taste. Chocolate actually releases endorphins into your body that give you a natural high. Some women reportedly get a bigger charge out of eating chocolate than kissing their mate. But don't let that stop you from preparing your sweetie a chocolatey treat this Valentine's Day.
This is a dessert that's super easy to make with a lot of variations for delivering the delish melted chocolate to your mouth. If you're looking for a lighter bite, fruits such as strawberries, apples, banana slices, pineapple chunks and seedless grapes are perfect for chocolate fondue. Just be sure to drizzle some lemon juice over the apple and banana slices to keep them from browning. You can also add chopped nuts, such as almonds or pecans, to give the fondue a little texture. Or, if you want to make it more dessertlike, you can use angel food cake, cookies or even marshmallows and graham crackers for a variation on s'mores. If you're in a pinch, you can melt the chocolate over a double boiler, but a fondue pot will keep it hot while allowing you to take it out of the kitchen.
- dipping food of choice
- 16 ounces dark, sweet or semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 1/2 cups light cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pound chocolate bar into smaller pieces and add them to fondue pot.
- Pour in cream and stir constantly until the mixture is melted. This will keep the chocolate from getting lumpy.
- Add vanilla extract and give it a good stir.
[source: Extreme Chocolate]
These bite-sized truffles are a bit labor intensive, but they're a fun project with exquisite tasting results if you have some time. If you really want to set the scene, present them to your Valentine in a gift box. They're guaranteed to make any chocolate lover swoon.
- 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- finely chopped nuts and/or toasted coconut for coating truffles
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
- Melon baller
- Heating pad
- Powder-free vinyl or latex gloves
- candy thermometer
- parchment paper
- ice cream scoop
- Finely chop all chocolate into small bits.
- Combine the 10 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and the butter in a glass mixing bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat.
- In a small saucepan, combine cream and corn syrup over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Turn off heat and pour into melted chocolate mixture. Let it sit for about two minutes, and then stir gently, folding the mixture until it's smooth and creamy.
- Add brandy and stir, then pour into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Get out your melon baller and scoop chocolate onto sheet, and then put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Line a large bowl with a heating pad turned to medium heat and place the medium glass mixing bowl inside. Put the other 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate in mixing bowl. Insert candy thermometer and stir chocolate periodically, keeping an eye on the temperature. Once it heats up, try to keep it at a constant 90 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 33 degrees Celsius), but don't let it rise above 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius). Adjust heat control accordingly.
- Take the chocolate balls out of fridge and roll between your palms to shape into little bowls. You can use the gloves for this if you don't want sticky hands.
- Put your coating ingredients into separate dishes. Then, using your ice cream scoop, take a big scoop of the melted chocolate and roll the truffle around in it until it's completely coated. Then drop into cocoa powder, coconut or nuts and roll the truffle around to coat it. Leave it there for about 15 seconds, then put on a different parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Allow to cool for at least an hour. Truffles are ideally served at room temperature, but can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
The cupcake craze hasn't died down yet, and cupcakes, with their pleasing individual portions, are the new slice of cake. These red velvet cupcakes have a chocolatey twist to make them Valentine's Day-worthy confections. The traditional cream cheese icing has been replaced with chocolate, which is a perfect companion to the red velvet cake.
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces of 62 percent dark chocolate
- 1 cup butter
- 1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Line cupcake tins with baking papers and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176.6 degrees Celsius).
- Combine food coloring, cocoa and vanilla in a small bowl.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar and butter and beat well on medium speed. Stir in the egg yolks and then the cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Alternate adding buttermilk, salt and flour into the mixture.
- Mix the baking soda and vinegar in a separate bowl, and then add to main mixture, stirring until combined.
- Fill cupcake tins with approximately 3 tablespoons of batter.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Tops should bounce back when touched.
- Cool in the pan, and then on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before frosting.
- While the cakes are cooling, it's time to make the frosting. Combine milk, flour and salt in small saucepan over medium heat. In one to two minutes, the mixture will thicken and begin to bubble. Take off heat and pour into a bowl to cool.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and let cool.
- Combine butter, confectioner's sugar and cocoa and beat until fluffy. Add chocolate, milk mixture and vanilla extract and beat until combined. The texture should be smooth and fluffy. Ice the cupcakes immediately.
And what would Valentine's Day be without a decadent chocolate mousse served as a follow-up to a delicious dinner?
- Finely chop chocolate into small bits and dice butter into smaller pieces.
- Pour cream into mixing bowl and using a whisk, whip it into soft peaks, and then stick it in the fridge.
- Assemble double boiler and add chocolate, butter and espresso, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and warm. Chocolate needs to be warm to combine with other ingredients. It should be slightly warmer than body temperature, which can be tested on your lower lip.
- Whip egg whites in a mixing bowl with a whisk until they foam and are able to hold a shape. Sprinkle in sugar and whip into soft peaks.
- When the chocolate reaches the optimal temperature, add yolks and stir. Then stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream. Separate the egg whites into halves, and then gently fold in the first half, then the second half, then the rest of the whipped cream.
- Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and serve in individual dishes, topped with raspberries and whipped cream.
Chocolate may not be your thing (gasp!) but fear not, there's still plenty of Valentine's Day dessert decadence to partake in. With butter, brown sugar, carmelized bananas and rum as the main ingredients, this rich dish is certain to appease many a sweet tooth. Take note, it requires a flambé, so be sure to wait for a nip of rum until after the fire is out.
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 bananas
- 1/4 cup dark rum
- Barbecue lighter
- Peel bananas and cut them in half length-wise. Do this at the last minute to keep from browning.
- Put stick of butter in a large pan and melt on medium heat.
- Add brown sugar and stir well until fully incorporated.
- Turn heat to medium-high and add bananas. Cook until they're well-caramelized.
- Turn off the stove and add the rum, then light it with the barbecue lighter. Be sure to stand back because the flame will rise out of the pan.
- Wait for the flame to subside, and then serve over vanilla ice cream or a slice of pound cake.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "Chocolate Fondue Recipe." Extremechocolate.com, 2010. http://www.extremechocolate.com/chocolatefonduerecipe.html
- "Chocolate Mousse." Simplyrecipes.com, October 21, 2005. http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chocolate_mousse/
- "Chocolate Truffles." Foodnetwork.com, 2004. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/chocolate-truffles-recipe/index.html
- "Foods Thought To Act As Aphrodisiacs." Cbsnews.com, February 13, 2009.http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/02/13/earlyshow/main4799238.shtml
- "Paula's Bananas Foster." Foodnetwork.com, 2010. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/paulas-bananas-foster-recipe/index.html
- "Red Velvet Cupcakes." Countryliving.com, 2010. http://www.countryliving.com/recipefinder/red-velvet-cupcakes
- "Valentine's Day Desserts." Joyofbaking.com, 2010. http://www.joyofbaking.com/other/ValentinesDayDesserts.html