Valentine's Day Treats - 3 (Somewhat) Easy Recipes
Posted on 29 January 2016
Valentine's Day is coming quick. Whether you love this holiday, or begrudgingly tolerate it (lately, I've been leaning more towards the former), it's likely you will need to come up with some fun and/or unique gifts for people in your child's life.
I will be honest with you...I've spent the last month collaborating with crafty friends and scouring Pinterest for cool DIY projects you can do with your little explorer. These included a homemade peppermint sugar scrub from Love Grows Wild, and a darling hand-decorated gift box, from Lizzie Harte (one of my favorite yoga practitioners / art teachers). But it dawned on me that I probably wouldn't do any of these myself, with my completely insane (but in a genius-sort-of-way), short-attention-spanned, 2 1/2-year old.
Sorry to admit that here, but I'm realizing to better connect with my audience that I need to write as Angela and not necessarily as what I think the voice of Chocolate Milke should be. They certainly relate...but for now and future blogs, you'll be hearing from me directly.
The truth is, I'm a super-busy mom, and I'm also a pretty good chef (at least by my own estimation.) I have a few recipes that are total show-stoppers and very appropriate for our upcoming celebration of love. It's up to you how much you include your little Explorer in this process. Fortune favors the brave, right?
Dark Espresso Chocolate Truffles
My chocolate truffles are just as luxurious as an amazing body scrub, but slightly less personal. These are what I'll be making for Finley's teachers at school. They pair perfectly with a glass of red...or bubbly (just saying.)
The trick to good truffles is simple: always use high quality chocolate. Mid-level brands like Hershey's, use wax. Lindt and Scharffenberger work great but Varhola is my favorite. It's made with cocoa butter, which gives the final candies a rich, buttery texture.
3 1/2 ounces good bittersweet chocolate
3 1/2 ounces good semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbsp Coffee Liqueur (I recommend Kahlua, but for this recipe I used Seagram's Espresso Flavored Vodka; Grand Marnier also works well)
1 Tbsp prepared Espresso (or super-dark coffee)
1/2 Teaspoon Good Vanilla Extract
Optional: Confectioners' Sugar
Chop the chocolates finely and place in bowl.
Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it boils. Immediately pour the hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl with the chocolates.
With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. (If the chocolate doesn't melt completely, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir for a few minutes JUST until it melts.) Whisk in the Coffee Liqueur, espresso and vanilla. Cover and chill for 45 minutes to an hour until pliable but firm enough to scoop.
With two teaspoons, make dollops of the chocolate mixture and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until firm enough to roll into rough spheres.
Roll in cocoa powder and chill. Truffles are best when they're allowed to set overnight in the refrigerator.
If so desired, roll in confectioners' sugar. Serve chilled or at room temp.
Traditional Sugar Cookies
These were Finley's request. They take some time to do, but are great for fine motor skills (she loved helping to roll out the dough, cut out the cookies and decorate them...although I did have to wrestle the spatula away from her several times, as she tried to lick the icing off after every cookie.) Conversations about sanitation with your 2-year old to be covered in a separate post.
Make the dough the night before and chill in the fridge. Let it warm up for about 15 minutes, at room temperature, before rolling out.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pre-bought Icing Tubes from the store (if you want to make your own, About Food has a great, easy recipe.)
Place flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Use a whisk to "sift" ingredients together. Put butter, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Let disk of dough stand at room temperature just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to just under 1/4 inch thick, adding more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking.
Cut out cookies with a 4- to-5-inch cookie cutter, transferring shapes to parchment paper-lined baking sheets as you work (I love Silpats, if you have them.) Roll out the scraps, and repeat. Repeat with remaining disk of dough. Chill cookies in freezer until very firm, about 15 minutes.
Bake, switching positions of sheets halfway through, until edges turn golden, 15-18 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. To decorate, tint icing with food coloring (if you made your own). I like to lay out a range of sprinkles as well. For my 2 1/2-year old, I would put a little icing on a cookie and allow her to use a small cheese-spreader to spread the icing. Then she could customize (aka completely drench) each cookie with her own selection of sprinkes. Also, Finley selected green icing for her Valentine's day hearts. So the effect was a big more Christmas-y...but the process was still (mostly) fun.
Shortbread Hearts with Dried Cranberries and Dark Chocolate Chunks
The shortbread is an old post from my cooking blog: Shit I Bake (no really.) I modified a Martha Stewart recipe to add chocolate (if you aren't a fan or have a chocolate allergy, replace the chocolate with additional cranberries.)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with rack in center. Put butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, flour, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir together with a wooden spoon until combined but not too creamy. Stir in dried cranberries.
Press dough evenly into an 8-inch square baking pan. Bake until firm and pale golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, about 20 minutes.
Run a knife around edges; remove shortbread and transfer, right side up, to a work surface. Cut out hearts with a 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. Trim away any bits of cranberry from edges with a pairing knife.
Please let me know your feedback on these recipes! If you love them, please give a share on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and/or Instagram.