Some desserts are so decadent, so lavish and extravagant they're reserved for special occasions. What could be better this Valentine's Day than to prepare one for that special person in your life? Ahem, if you're between engagements, this is a good opportunity to be your own valentine and experiment with a deluxe dessert you wouldn't ordinarily sample. Surrendering to sweet temptation is what Valentine's Day is all about. Grab hold of your spirit of adventure, a wooden spoon and a "Kiss the Cook" apron. We're about to explore 10 diabolically delicious Valentine's Day desserts.
Homemade Ice Cream
Making ice cream doesn't involve the hand work (cranking and cranking and cranking) it used to. There are electric ice cream makers that handle the labor while you watch. We've even included a couple of no-churn recipes that don't need an ice cream maker at all, so you can save your money for other things. The old timey appeal of homemade ice cream creates a nice sense of anticipation and almost always delivers the goods once it's plated and served.
Some of the recipes below are labor saving cheats, but the homemade vanilla ice cream recipe is the real deal you may remember from childhood. If you'd like to try something new and different, take a risk with our avocado ice cream recipe. It's wonderfully creamy and thick. If your significant other loves guacamole, this is one way to serve the gooey, green stuff that he'll never see coming. Not only that, avocado is reputed to be an aphrodisiac.
- Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
- Peppermint Crisp Ice Cream
- No-Churn Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe
- No-Churn Brown Bread Ice Cream
- Avocado Ice Cream
Fabulous Homemade Fudge
For many of us, fudge is the king of chocolate candy indulgences. It's dense, rich and incredibly smooth. If you think making fudge is hard, you're so wrong. The trick to good fudge begins and ends with chemistry. Bad fudge is grainy. The gritty texture comes from large sugar crystals that often develop on the interior sides of the pot. When they fall back into the mix, they help form other large crystals in a chain reaction that transforms smooth textured fudge into sandy fudge you'll hate. To produce creamy fudge, keep the lid on the pot while the ingredients heat. Condensation down the sides will form a slick surface sugary crystals can't attach to.
Here's another hint: When the fudge cools from soft ball stage to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, start stirring. The more you stir, the creamier the texture of the fudge will become. Yeah, it's a hassle, but isn't a batch of candy store quality fudge worth a sore shoulder? After you present him with a perfect tin of chocolaty heaven, ask for a back and shoulder rub.
If your honey is into cheesecake, he probably only indulges in this dairy lover's delight on special occasions. You can make Valentine's Day extraordinary and show him you have serious chops in the kitchen by making a rich, smooth cheesecake in your very own work-a-day oven. There are enough simple variations on classic cheesecake to make this dessert a taste sensation every time you prepare it. If you give cheesecake a try, it's sure to be a top pick on his special occasion menu list next year -- and the year after that, too.
Crepes are thin, delicate pancakes prepared in a skillet or special crepe pan. They're then folded or stuffed and rolled to gourmet perfection. You don't have to be a cooking maven to make crepes. They look intimidating, but after you try your hand at a couple, you'll get the hang of it. Making crepes is a bit like making regular pancakes, but with a thinner batter. The first couple of tries look pale and sloppy, but after that, everything evens out and you hit your crepe crafting stride.
Losing the jitters and developing a knack for making crepes could pay big dividends. You can use them in savory dishes as well as desserts, and they're great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They also look beautiful on a plate. Here are some tips:
- Let the batter cool in the fridge for an hour before using it. You'll lose most of those pesky bubbles.
- Don't use recipes that add a leaven; your crepes will end up lumpy.
- Learning to flip crepes without a spatula is worth a few false starts. It's an impressive looking and useful skill. This is how it works: Season a flared, non-stick pan with oil and pour in just enough crepe batter to coat the bottom. Swirl the batter until it sets and the edges start to pull away from the sides. Then give the crepe a shake to loosen it . . . and flip.
- Make a big batch of crepes and keep them warm in your oven until you're ready to roll or fold them.
- You can freeze crepes for up to a month. Layer them between sheets of wax paper before you seal them in a freezer bag, though.
We're offering up a number of crepe recipes to try, including crepes Suzette, the classic crepe dessert flavored with orange liqueur and ignited flambé style. This dessert will finish the meal with a theatrical touch.
Pie is a staple around the holidays, but it often gets overlooked other times of the year. It's a rib sticking dessert that appeals to the meat and potatoes kind of valentine who wants a sweet indulgence with plenty of substance. If pie is your guy's idea of a great dessert, it can be an easy prep choice. Nowadays, you can get frozen as well as refrigerated pie crusts that take the angst out baking. Prepared graham cracker crusts are easy to find, too. The crust is actually the toughest part of baking pie, and with that under control, adding some filling and a pretty topping is so simple you'll have time left over to make a few appetizers, too.
The pie recipes we've selected are either classics or add a quirky twist to varieties you'll recognize. Any one of them is bound to get his attention -- in a good way.
You don't have to exhaust yourself making an elaborate Valentine's Day dessert. Sometimes a few favorite ingredients displayed with care and flair can inspire lustful glances for the dessert -- and you. Parfait is a good example. Start with a tall dessert glass and fill it with alternating layers of gooey, colorful or crunchy ingredients. Ideally, you want something moist like pudding, ice cream or yogurt between layers of dryer ingredients like cake, granola or nuts. Top the whole thing off with whipped cream, fudge or caramel, and you have a quick dessert that looks like you spent much more time on it than you did.
We have some simple parfait recipes that will show you the basics, but you don't really need a recipe for this one. Vanilla ice cream layered with caramel topping and fresh banana slices will taste devilishly good, especially when you have a sneaky secret -- the whole thing took less than 10 minutes to prepare.
There are lots of dessert superstars around like designer cupcakes, Pavlovas, cherries jubilee and baked Alaska, so the simple layer cake really doesn't get much respect these days. It should, though. Building a layer cake is an act of love, and an architectural feat that looks almost as good as it tastes. All those cake layers coated in frosting or filling stay moist for the duration, and the potential ingredient matchups are astronomical. For this holiday, grab a couple of heart shaped baking tins and go to work. A layer cake can look impressive on a pedestal base even without elaborate swirls in the topping or fussy frosting roses. The engineering says it all.
What can you say about a dessert recipe that manages to bake ice cream and still keep it cold? Made with cake, ice cream and a crust of lightly browned meringue, baked Alaska is one of the most dramatic desserts in the lexicon of fancy cookery. You don't have to wait until you finish culinary school to try it, though. One of the tricks to a successful baked Alaska is in chilling the ingredients completely. Another is to cook the meringue in a very hot oven to finish it off fast. We have a step-by-step recipe that produces stunning results. If you want spectacle, this one inspires "oohs" and "ahhs."
- Baked Alaska That You Can Actually Make At Home
- Brownie Baked Alaskas
Ah, this custard with the crunchy sugar topping is a restaurant dessert you can make at home -- really. Crème brûlée is actually a pretty simple custard dish that requires a last minute fireworks display (or branding) to caramelize the sugar topping. In some recipes, this can be accomplished using the broiler. The more professional (and fun) approach is to employ a kitchen blow torch. Fire is so primal, and when he sees you wielding an open flame, he's sure to feel stirrings of . . . admiration. Just a brief caution here: Read and follow the directions for any equipment you plan to use, and have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.
If you're brave enough to give this one a go, it'll be the hit of the evening and a surefire memory maker.
- Espresso Crème Brûlée
- Emeril's Crema Catalana
Maple-Bacon . . . Cupcakes!
Yes, bacon is one of the newest and most popular ingredients used in dessert. Why the surprised look? Haven't you been buying sugar and maple cured bacon for years? Well, now you can sprinkle bacon bits on something other than potato skins and green salad. Use it as an ingredient in cakes, cupcakes, pie and frosting. Bacon doesn't taste like a breakfast refugee. It keeps cakes moist and adds a richer more complex flavor to fruity desserts, too. Our maple bacon cupcakes are delicious, and if this is your first foray into the world of bacon as a sweet treat ingredient, it's super easy, too.
HowStuffWorks looks at some great British Baking terms — and some American ones as well.
- 10 Most Popular Desserts in America
- Cake Decorating
- The Secret Life of Fudge
- Make Your Own Ice Cream
- Top 5 Dessert Recipe Videos
- What's the difference between ice cream, frozen custard, gelato and frozen yogurt?
- How to Make Homemade Ice Cream - Your Teeth Will Thank You Later
- Who Says That You Need an Ice Cream Maker to Make Ice Cream?
- 10 Traditional Cakes from Around the World
- Smash Cakes 101
- Who made the first cake?
- CBS News. "Foods Thought To Act As Aphrodisiacs." 2/13/09. (1/11/12). http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/02/13/earlyshow/main4799238.shtml
- Davidson, Alan. "The Oxford Companion to Food." Oxford University Press. 1999
- De Medici Stucchi, Lorenza "Great Desserts." International Culinary Society New York. 1989.
- Food Timeline. "Candies." (1/11/12). http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcandy.html
- History.com. "Valentine's Day." (1/11/12). http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day
- Science of Cooking. "What's Special About Fudge?" (1/11/12). http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/fudge-story.html