Tag 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

 

KK’s Coconut Cake with Coconut Caramel Filling

valentines day party 1If you have a coconut lover in your life, this cake is the perfect way to declare your love for them. The very first time I had this cake was several years ago. My niece, KK, made it for my mom’s 76th birthday. She was only 10 years old at the time. She has been baking ever since she could grasp a spatula. At her house, half birthdays are celebrated with as much hoopla and joy as full birthdays, so with a five person family, that works out to 10 cakes a year and almost 150 cakes in her short lifetime. She has some mad baking skills!3 slicesa sliceThis is my twist on her cake. I have added a coconut caramel filling to spread between the layers. This filling, known as kaya is created by cooking coconut milk, eggs, granulated and coconut palm sugar and pandan leaves over a double boiler until the sugar becomes caramelized and everything thickens into a beautiful jam-like consistency. I learned how to make kaya from pastry chef Anna Olsen on The Food Network. Kaya is traditionally spread on toast and then dipped in soft boiled eggs for breakfast in Singapore and Malaysia. Clearly I grew up on the wrong continent. All I got for breakfast, when growing up was a bowl of Cheerios!

Pandan leaves are long narrow bright green leaves that grow on a tropical plant known as the Screwpine.  Commonly found throughout Southeast Asia, they have been called, “The vanilla  of the east.” They can be found fresh or frozen in at Asian grocery stores or online. Vanilla extract is a good substitute if you can’t find pandan leaves. 

Making the coconut caramel (Kaya) filling takes time and patience. If you are short of either, just double the amount of buttercream frosting and use it to fill the layers as well as frost the top and sides of this cake. It will still be delicious, but I will say that Kaya pushes this cake further along on the bliss meter.

When you first start cooking the kaya, the pandan leaves will give off a grassy aroma. As they begin to steep in the coconut milk, eggs and sugar, the fragrance becomes more subdued, reminiscent of almonds and sweet cream.double boileringredients for cake 1Although my sister would never do this, I weigh the cake batter to make sure I get an equal amount in each pan. That way, the layers all cook at the same rate. weigh cake batterTo frost the cake, I made an American buttercream. The recipe I used comes from Nila, over at thetoughcookie.com. She is a buttercream wizard. Check out her Battle of the Buttercream posts. She taught me that the addition of a few drops of lemon juice really brighten all the other flavours of the buttercream without making it taste like lemon. Really cool trick!

I piped a border of buttercream around each layer and then filled the center with the coconut caramel filling. The border keeps the coconut filling from oozing out,pipe a boarder of buttercreamcoconut caramel fillingserving a slice

Click here to print recipe for KK’s coconut cake with coconut caramel filling.

cake with candy