Planning to make a special Valentine’s Day dessert? How about a rich, chocolate dessert paired with a glass of Villa del Monte wine?
The following recipes, provided by Susan Ward Tarner, host of a featured cooking show on Helena Civic Television called Cooking with Susan, Slow Food, Montana Style, go from easy to a little more difficult. Try one with your favorite Villa del Monte Merlot or Pinot! Regardless of which one you make, it will truly be a special Valentine’s Day!
Smokehouse Almond Brownies
½ cup (1 stick) of butter
½ cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped smokehouse almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8x8x2 inch pan with the butter that remains on the butter wrapper. Melt stick of butter in large glass bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Remove bowl from microwave, and add sugar, cocoa, eggs, and extracts. Mix well. Add flour and salt until well blended. Spread brownie mixture into prepared pan and add chopped almonds on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cut into squares to serve.
8 oz. almond paste, cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
¼ cup egg whites (about 2)
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Use an electric mixer to combine the almond paste and sugar. Add egg whites and beat until smooth. Batter should be stiff enough to hold its shape but still able to pipe into circles using a piping bag. If batter is too stiff, add a little more egg white, one teaspoon at a time, until you have the right consistency. If too soft, add a bit more sugar.
Put batter in a piping bag fitted with a large, round decorating tip. Squeeze batter onto parchment-covered baking sheet into one-inch rounds. If you do not have a piping bag, you can spoon a rounded tablespoon of dough for each cookie on the baking pan and flatten the tops slightly. Bake in 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Watch that they do not brown. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes and lift carefully from the pan.
- Add food color to make cookies more festive.
- For Valentine’s Day, tint batter with red food color to make a light pink color and pipe heart shapes.
- Make sandwich cookies by spreading your favorite buttercream frosting between two cookies. Place in fluted paper cups (use cupcake liners) and serve to your special someone.
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
8 oz good quality white chocolate, melted
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar at high speed until well blended. Slowly pour in melted chocolate and continue beating until blended. While mixer is still on high speed, beat in eggs one at a time until thoroughly blended.
Spoon chocolate mixture into 8-10 individual dishes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Before serving this dessert, garnish with whipped cream.
Suggestion: Decorate with pink meringue hearts. To make hearts, whip 2 egg whites at high speed with a pinch of salt and a couple drops of red food coloring. Slowly add in ½ cup of sugar and continue beating until egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Pipe heart shapes onto baking sheet covered with parchment. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees, remove from oven, and cool before gently peeling the heart shapes off parchment paper.
½ cup (1 stick butter) at room temperature
½ cup sugar
3 egg yolks
7 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons finely ground hazelnuts
2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur
⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 egg whites
2 tablespoons sugar
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate cut into pieces
½ cup (1 stick) butter
4 teaspoons honey
For the cake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a round cake pan and lightly dust with cocoa, or line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment and butter the sides. Beat butter in mixer until fluffy. Gradually add in ½ cup sugar and beat well. Add yolks and beat for about one minute. Stir in melted chocolate, ground hazelnuts, vanilla, and hazelnut liqueur.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into separate bowl. Set aside. Beat egg whites with mixer until soft peaks form. Add in sugar one tablespoon at a time and beat until stiff.
Sift 1/3 of flour mixture over batter. Add 1/3 of whites and fold in gently. Repeat until thoroughly mixed. Turn mixture into pan. Bake 15-18 minutes. Edges will be done, but middle should still be somewhat uncooked. Set on rack to cool. As cake cools, it will sink in the center. Push down on the edges to make it as even as possible. Chill cake at least 6 hours before unmolding from pan.
For glaze, combine chocolate, butter, and honey in top of a double boiler; melt over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool.
Remove cake and unmold. Trim outer edges of cake to even it out. Cake will be lower in the center. Place trimmed cake on a round cardboard cake round and place on a wire rack. Place a baking sheet underneath the wire rack to catch chocolate glaze. Pour glaze over the top of the cake, covering it completely. Let drain for about 15 minutes, and then lift glazed cake onto a cake plate. Decorate cake with chopped or whole hazelnuts around the edge of the cake and on top as desired. Refrigerate to set glaze 2-3 hours. Lightly cover cake with plastic wrap only after glaze is set. Let cake come to room temperature (about 5 minutes), and then slice and serve with whipped cream lightly laced with hazelnut liqueur. Yum!
While growing up in Georgia, Susan Ward Tarner learned to cook from an expert, her “mama.” She now lives in Montana with her husband and teenage daughter where she enjoys combining food history and culture with locally grown and produced ingredients. Susan hopes to inspire everyone to challenge their cooking abilities and palates.