Category Archives: Valentines Day

Hazelnut Praline Truffles

Happy Valentines Day to all of you who celebrate this Hallmark holiday. Guess I just revealed my bias. My husband and I are not even going to be in the same city together tomorrow. And if I were to make him treats, it would not be chocolate. Anything apple is the way to his heart.

Truthfully, I  just made these truffles to have something beautiful to shoot and put on my Instagram feed and blog. I have been delving deep into learning food photography and editing on Lightroom with Rachel Korinek. I have learned so much from her and feel very grateful she has decided to devote time to teaching. She is a natural educator and her passion is evident.

I am not what you would call a romantic person. But I do love beautiful things and these chocolates are stunning. I was inspired by Carla Hall on The Chew when I saw her make these truffles.

I decided to flavour mine with hazelnut praline. Toast some hazelnuts and set them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cook some sugar with a few tablespoons of water to a deep amber colour (360°F) and pour it over the hazelnuts. Let harden and then blitz it it to a powder.
Use good quality chocolate, for the best results. I bought a big bar of Trader Joe’s Belgian 72% Chocolate. 
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. While it is melting, get your candy molds ready. I used square and round silicone mini ice cube trays. I decided to make my truffles extra fancy by using a bit of edible gold leaf on top. I had a jar left over from another project. You need just a tiny bit to really make a statement. You will need to use tweezers to put the gold into the bottom of the molds, as the gold will just stick to your fingers.
Once the chocolate is melted, add some coconut oil, to make the truffle mixture extra creamy, the hazelnut praline and some salt. To make your life easy, transfer the truffle mixture into a disposable piping bag. Trying to pour or spoon it into the tiny molds will only end in a mess and cursing.
Chill for about an hour and then pop them out of the molds. Because the chocolate was not tempered, they need to be stored in the fridge. They will keep for several weeks.

Click here to print recipe for Hazelnut Praline Truffles

 

Blood Orange Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then I qualfy as insane. You might also say that I am a slow learner, and don’t always see the obvious clues that others spot so readily.

Last March I bought this beautiful heart shaped Bundt pan. I patiently waited 11 months to use it in a Valentines Day post. I decided to make a blood orange poppy seed cake. I used Ina’s recipe for Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Cake as my base and adapted it so that I could celebrate blood orange season.

My pan was heavily buttered and greased and I followed the directions very carefully. I baked it for 45 minutes, cooled it in the pan for exactly 10 minutes. Holding my breath, I gingerly inverted the cake to release it from the pan. Half of it stuck to the pan. I cursed, chopped the broken pieces up and froze them for future snacking and hustled off to the store for more blood oranges and cake flour. Before starting again, I did a quick google search to see what went wrong. The King Arthur website advised me that buttering and flouring was not the way to go. I followed their tips and tricks and baked the cake again, and again and again. My freezer is now full of lots and lots of broken cake for snacking. Come on over!

I finally realized that this heart shaped pan was the problem. I’m not quite sure why. Nordicware baking pans are usually so reliable. But, slow as I am, I was not about to try this pan for a 5th time. I pulled out my trusty round fluted Bundt pan.Fifth time’s the charm! After a brief 10 minute cooling period, the cake slid out like a boss! Cue the fireworks.

While the cake cools, make a blood orange simple syrup. Pour this all over the warm cake to really intensify that blood orange flavour and keep your cake super moist.Once the cake is totally cool, it gets a final drizzle of the most gorgeous pink glaze. I adored this cake. Dense, but in the best possible way, buttery and bright, slightly tangy and not too sweet. A perfect ray of sunshine on a cold February day. Celebrate Valentines Day with this luscious love letter to blood oranges.

Click here to print recipe for Blood Orange and Poppy Seed Bundt Cake.

 

Painted Brown Sugar Cookie Hearts

be mine 5I first learned about cookie painting when I saw the cover of the Bon Appetit December 2013 issue. When I looked inside and saw what was possible, my brain exploded with the possibilities. Who knew you could paint right onto the cookie, with an actual paintbrush? Kind of rocked my world.
BonAppetit_December2013_cover-530x398Bon Appetit Painted Cookies 3
I have never been exactly skilled with a paintbrush, but I figured even I could manage stripes. I began with the most delicious sugar cookie recipe I know, which uses brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar. Bake cookies and let cool completely.cutting heartsMix up a bach of royal icing. Pipe an outline onto the baked hearts. Mine was a bit too thick. I’m sure you can do better than me.piping outlineThin some of the royal icing with a few drops of water to make a thinner consistency and fill in the hearts. Let them dry completely, preferably overnight. Consider this your blank canvas.Hearts filled inTo paint the cookies, you will need some clean paintbrushes in assorted sizes, gel food colouring (I like the Americolour brand) and some vodka. (Not for drinking, just to wet your brush with and mix with the gel food colouring to thin it out). Any clear extract (lemon or a clear vanilla) would also work. The reason for using alcohol is that it evaporates very quickly, meaning that the paint will dry quicker.

The Bon Appetit cookies were painted with luster dust, mixed with a bit of alcohol or extract. It comes in tons of colours. If you want to use luster dust to achieve that shimmery effect, here is a great tutorial on how to do it. I decided to do mine with just regular gel food colouring instead of the luster dust.  ready to paintSqueeze a blob of each colour you want to use onto an artist’s paint palette or a dinner plate. (I used a ceramic egg holder) Have a small glass of vodka ready for dipping your brush into. Dip the brush into the vodka or extract and then into the food colour gel. Have some paper towels ready to test the colour and adjust the amount of paint you have on your brush. Make sure you wash and dry the brush really well, before you change colours.painted stripes1I decided to up the adorable factor and write a message on my cookies. I used a thin tip paintbrush. Be Mine CircleSuch a sweet way to declare your love this year. be mine 2

Click here to print recipe for Sugar Cookies with Brown Sugar

Click here to print recipe for Royal Icing Recipe.

be mine 1

Sweet Talk Shortbread Hearts

assorted hearts 1I have been wanting to make the cookie equivalent of those candy conversation heats for some time now. You know the ones I mean, they have the taste and texture of chalk, but are kind of cute.necco conversation heartsWhen I went to buy some for the photo shoot, I discovered that SweeTarts also make a version of conversation hearts, and if you’re a fan of that mouthwatering fusion of sweet and tart, you’ll love them. SweeTart HeartsI was thinking of doing an iced cookie, and piping the messages on them, but my fine motor skills aren’t precise enough for detailed piping and besides, my #1 valentine doesn’t like iced cookies. So, onto plan B. I remembered seeing these cookie letter stamps online.

Even though these are a novelty cookie, I still wanted them to be as delicious as possible. I thought I would try making them with a shortbread cookie dough. I used Mindy Segal’s recipe from her exciting and edgy new book, Cookie Love. After making the dough, I rolled it out using my new precision sticks. These have changed my life. I have always had difficulty rolling dough evenly, and then I was reading an article by cookie maven Dorris Greenspan. She was talking about these dough rolling sticks. They come in 1/4 inch, 1/8 inch and 1/16 inch thicknesses. They are genius in their simplicity.Measuring dough strips rolling pin guidesAfter rolling out dough between 2 sheets of parchment, I froze the sheet of dough before cutting out the hearts. cutting out heartsI stamped the cookies with their messages before baking, but as soon as they were done I realized that would not work. The cookies puffed up a bit during baking and the letters were not crisp and clear anymore. I decided to try stamping the cookies immediately after baking, before cooling, while they were still soft. To make it manageable, from a timing perspective, I only baked 6 cookies at a time, so that the cookies would not harden before stamping. cookie stampsThese cookies are both adorable and delicious. I was thrilled with the results.hugs xoxo

Click here to print recipe for Sweet Talk Shortbread Hearts.

assorted hearts 2

 

Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

xoxoxo 2I love surprises. Well, I should clarify. I like good surprises, like finding out the sex of my babies, at the moment of their birth. Three of the greatest surprises of my life! It makes me sad that people have reveal parties and choose to forgo that moment of awe. A little too much over-sharing for my liking. Ok, social media rant over. Onto more important things.

Happy Valentines Day! We don’t make a big deal out of Valentines Day in our house, but I’d never say no to a little sweet treat. While many people believe the day should be marked with chocolate, I’m much more of a coconut –caramel kind of girl. But sometimes a little bit of chocolate is necessary.cookies on little heart towel 625 sqThese cookies contain a little surprise. Along with the usual chunks of bittersweet chocolate, I mixed a big handful of  Valrhona chocolate pearls into the dough. Little nuggets of crispy rice cereal enrobed in milk chocolate are totally unexpected but very welcome in a chocolate chip cookie. I ordered mine online. Callebaut also makes chocolate pearls. Their salted caramel crispearls  are kind of astonishing (crunchy biscuit bits coated in salted caramel). If you can’t find them, chopped up maltasers or whoppers would make an excellent substitute. My friend Marla would love them!Chocolate pearlsCan we talk about butter for a minute? Specifically, what does “room temperature” butter mean? How long a rest on the counter are we talking about here? When I’m baking, I’ll take the butter from the fridge first, slice it into 1/4 inch pieces. By the time I’ve gathered all the other ingredients, the butter will be perfect for creaming. Ten minutes is really all it takes. You want it to still be cool, but pliable. The whole point of creaming the butter with the sugar is to beat air into the dough. If your butter gets too warm, it won’t hold that air and you will end up with flat cookies.ButterAn ice cream scoop makes for even sized cookies.scooping cookiesA light sprinkling of sea salt on top of each cookie before baking, because that’s how we roll around here. This is salt and serenity after all!sprinkling saltstacked on red cake plate 2

Click here to print recipe for Crunchy Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

cookies on big heart towel 2