Divine chocolate for Valentine’s Day

Chocolate, one of the world’s greatest flavours, is also the aphrodisiac of choice for Valentine’s Day. There is no better escape from the winter doldrums than a rich chocolate treat, especially shared with loved ones.

Here is a selection to put a smile on your face and say without words that you care!

Decadent Chocolate Brownie

An ideal recipe for the beginner cook, this super easy square can be made in minutes with the most luscious results. Serve warm from the oven with a sprinkle of icing sugar and a spoonful of quality ice cream. It is definitely for chocolate lovers.

1 cup (250 mL) butter, melted

3 cups (750 mL) lightly packed brown sugar

1½ cups (375 mL) all- purpose flour

3/4 cup (175 mL) sifted cocoa

3 eggs

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

Sifted icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 13 by nine-inch (3 L) pan with parchment paper. In large glass bowl melt butter (microwave works well for this), then gradually stir in brown sugar, all-purpose flour and cocoa until well blended. Beat in eggs, vanilla and salt. Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread smoothly to the edges (using dampened hands works well for this), making sure everything is the same thickness.

Bake in preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes; centre will still be soft. Cool on cooling rack before sprinkling with icing sugar and cutting into 12 dessert-sized pieces or 36 fingers. Brownie freezes well in plastic wrap over wrapped in foil, for up to 3 months.

Chocolate Almond Torte

A very special torte for a very special occasion, this is truly good to the last spoonful – if you could lick the plate, you would! For best results, use quality imported chocolate.

1 lb (500 g) imported semi-sweet

2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream, divided into 1/2 cup and 1½ cups

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter

2 tbsp (25 mL) imported orange-flavoured liqueur or Amaretto (optional)

Candied Almond Praline Topping:

1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (50 mL) water

2 tsp (10 mL) corn syrup

2 tsp (10 mL) sea salt

1½ cups (375 mL) blanched almonds, coarsely chopped

Garnish (optional):

1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream, whipped

1/4 cup (50 mL) sifted icing sugar

Line bottom of nine-inch (23 cm) springform pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Chop chocolate in half-inch (1.2 cm) pieces. Place chocolate with 1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream and butter in mixing bowl over saucepan of simmering water. Allow chocolate to melt, stirring in cream and butter until smooth. Remove chocolate from heat; cool. Meanwhile, using electric mixer, whip remaining cream until stiff, beat in liqueur if using. Fold whipped cream into cooled chocolate mixture, spread evenly into prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

Praline: Meanwhile, line baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside. In medium saucepan or frying pan, cook sugar, water and corn syrup together over medium heat. Cook until a deep golden brown. Immediately stir in salt and almonds, stirring to coat almonds in sugar mixture. Pour out in even layer into prepared pan. Allow to cool and harden.

When ready to serve, whip cream with electric mixer until peaks form; gradually beat in sifted icing sugar. Set aside.

Coarsely crush the hardened almond mixture (praline) and sprinkle evenly over torte. Remove sides of springform pan; move torte to serving plate. Using a thin, wet knife, cut torte into 12 wedges and serve on dessert plates. Garnish each plate with a spoonful of whipped cream. Serves 12.

Chocolate Studded Shortbread Hearts

An all- time classic, these are perfect to take to Valentine’s parties of all sorts.

2 cups (500 mL) all- purpose flour

1/2 cup (125 mL) rice flour (if necessary)

1 cup (250 mL) soft butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (125 mL/3 oz) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into quarter-inch (6 mm) bits

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In mixing bowl, stir together flours; set aside. In separate bowl using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy; gradually beat in chocolate and flour. Knead with hands until smooth.

Roll out between two pieces of parchment paper until 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Cut out with heart shaped cookie cutter. Arrange on baking sheet leaving one inch (2.5 cm) between each cookie. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until a pale golden brown on edges. Cool on cooling rack. Store in cookie tin for a week or freeze for up to three months. Yield depends on size of cookie cutter.


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer – janmainskitchen@yahoo.ca

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