Some adjectives are just made for Valentine’s Day: luscious, rich, sexy, sweet, decadent, intimate.
With that in mind, here are some recipes that are made to order for this holiday of love: a rich and decadent chocolate pie, sexy and luscious caramel flans, and some sweetly intimate madeleines.
The chocolate pie is a straight-up celebration of cacao, with shards of bittersweet stirred into a warm custard until it all blissfully melts together. You can pour this filling into a quick crust of saltine crackers — the salty-choco pairing is heaven — but if you’re truly crunched for time, a store-bought graham cracker crust will do just fine.
The pie is meant to chill overnight, so that’s one less task to do on Valentine’s Day, leaving you more time to spend on creating the proper ambience.
A caramel flan is unexpectedly sexy, with its silken texture and luscious spill of burnished syrup that will have you licking your fingers. Plus, it lets you indulge in a bit of drama as you place a plate over the dish of custard, turn it head over heels and feel the dessert release.
Flans also are meant to chill overnight. And if you never get around to dessert, think of them as eggs for breakfast.
Madeleines, on the other hand, are slightly more chaste.
You’ll need a special baking pan for the small, shell-shaped spongecakes. But they offer a bit of playfulness as you take the pan from the oven, turn it upside down and give it a sharp rap on the counter. If you’ve buttered your molds well, the cakes will tumble out, ready for a shower of powdered sugar.
As for intimacy, madeleines are a perfect food to feed to each other.
And isn’t nurturing a loved one what Valentine’s Day is all about?
Note: You will need a madeleine mold to make these. From Kim Ode.
• 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus 1 tbsp. for pan
• 3/4 c. flour, plus more for pan
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• Pinch of salt
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla
• 1 tsp. orange flower water, optional
• Powdered sugar
Melt 6 tablespoons butter in saucepan over medium heat; set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.
In small bowl, combine beaten eggs with vanilla and orange flower water, if using. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients until just blended.
Add melted butter and mix slowly but thoroughly until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to a day.
Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and, with a small brush, coat the inside of each mold with butter. Dust lightly with flour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place oven rack in middle position. Fill each mold about half full with a generous spoonful of batter. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes or until cake springs back when gently pressed with a finger.
Over a clean cloth, rap the edge of the pan to release madeleines. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 128 Fat 7 g Sodium 55 mg Carbohydrates 15 g Saturated fat 4 g Calcium 19 g
Protein 2 g Cholesterol 51 mg Dietary fiber 0 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1 ½ fat.
Note: You will need small ramekins or baking dishes to make individual flans. From Kim Ode.
• 2 tbsp. water
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1 tbsp. light corn syrup
• 3 egg yolks, room temperature
• 2 eggs, room temperature
• 1 1/2 c. low-fat milk (1 or 2 percent)
• 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 325 degrees. Place a double layer of paper towels in the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch pan, then arrange six (6-ounce) ramekins or other glass baking dishes in the pan without letting them touch each other.
For the caramel: Pour 2 tablespoons water in a small, heavy saucepan, then pour the sugar into the center of the pan. Add the corn syrup and gently stir just to moisten the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook without stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until it begins to look golden. This will take about 3 minutes. As the mixture continues to cook and darken, swirl or stir gently so it caramelizes evenly. When it’s a dark amber, quickly divide the caramel among the 6 ramekins. (You can eyeball this; they don’t need to be perfect.)
Let the caramel cool and harden.
For the custard: In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks and eggs, whisking to thoroughly combine, but not so vigorously that the eggs become frothy; this keeps bubbles from forming in the custard. Whisk in the milk, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until well-mixed. For the smoothest flan, pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a 4-cup measure or another bowl. Divide custard evenly among the ramekins.
Being careful not to splash water into the ramekins, pour enough hot (not boiling) water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides.
Bake the flans for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the centers look just set. Remove dishes from water bath and cool completely on a wire rack.
Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or up to 48 hours.
To serve, run a knife around each dish to loosen the flan. Place a small plate over the top and flip over to release the flan onto the plate. (Some caramel will remain in the ramekin. Fill with hot water to soak.) Garnish with fresh fruit, if desired, and serve.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 340 Fat 10 g Sodium 140 mg Carbohydrates 52 g Saturated fat 5 g Calcium 280 g
Protein 11 g Cholesterol 180 mg Dietary fiber 0 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 milk, 2 ½ carb, ½ medium-fat protein, 1 ½ fat.
Chocolate Pie With Saltine Crust
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: This filling is adapted from “The Pioneer Woman.”
• 32 saltine crackers
• 3 tbsp. plus 3/4 c. sugar, divided
• 5 tbsp. butter, melted
• 2 tbsp. cornstarch
• Pinch of salt
• 1 1/2 c. milk
• 2 egg yolks
• 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped in quarter-inch pieces
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1 tbsp. butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place crackers in a heavy-duty sealable bag and crush with a rolling pin into crumbs that resemble sand, leaving some larger crumbs for texture.
Pour into an 8-inch pie plate. Mix in 3 tablespoons sugar, then pour melted butter over all. With a fork, slowly blend the crumbs and butter until mixture is uniformly moistened. Press mixture firmly evenly across bottom and up the sides of pan. Pressing with a small measuring cup (the one you used for sugar) helps pack the crust and makes a smooth, even surface. Bake for 15 minutes.
While the crust is baking, prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together milk and yolks and add to dry ingredients. Over medium heat, and stirring constantly, cook mixture until bubbles appear around the edge. Cook for 20 more seconds as it begins to thicken. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, stirring until it’s melted. Stir in vanilla and butter.
Pour filling into warm pie crust. Cool completely on wire rack, then carefully cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.
Nutrition information per each of 8 servings:
Calories 340 Fat 17 g Sodium 230 mg
Carbohydrates 44 g Saturated fat 9 g Total sugars 31 g
Protein 4 g Cholesterol 70 mg Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 2 carb, 3½ fat.