On Valentine’s Day, Elle Lien Lynch will treat her sweetheart to homemade chocolate truffles. Laurie Brekke plans to serve creme brulee as part of a romantic dinner for two. Julien R. Fielding will break out the madeleine pans to bake her husband his favorite French pastries.
For those Omaha residents and others, Valentine’s Day celebrations will include creating a variety of sweet, tempting treats for their sweethearts. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be spending all day in the kitchen.
With a few readily available ingredients and a little prep work, it’s easy to create scrumptious, sophisticated yet simple desserts and still have plenty of time to spend with your valentine. And even if you’re not a pastry chef, chocolatier or experienced baker, you can still impress your dessert lover.
Making creme brulee is a Valentine’s Day tradition for Brekke and her husband. The sweet, silky custard topped with a crunchy, caramelized sugar crust is perfectly suited for special occasions because it’s elegant yet easy and decadent without being too heavy, Brekke said.
It also has a special significance for the couple because it’s what they had for dessert at their wedding dinner in Mexico.
Though it may seem intimidating, creme brulee is surprisingly easy to make. It calls for just a few basic ingredients, including heavy cream, sugar and eggs. Brekke makes the custard one day ahead and refrigerates it overnight. Her favorite part when it’s time to serve.
“You sprinkle it with sugar and use the cool little torch,” she said. “It’s the most fun part.”
That torch — a mini model made especially for creme brulee and other dishes — melts the sugar into a crackly crust on top of the custard.
Another classic French dessert, madeleines, is what Fielding plans to prepare.
A fan of all things French, she adores the petite sweets with the distinctive golden-brown shell shape and delicate, cakey texture. After purchasing a few French cookbooks several years ago, she was drawn to a madeleine recipe because of its ease. They’ve since become a family favorite.
Despite their French origin and elegant appearance, they are simple to make with ingredients found in most kitchens — flour, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon zest and butter. They can be served warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar, drizzled with chocolate sauce, topped with jam, enjoyed with tea or simply devoured plain.
“They are very light and just seem to hit the spot when you need something sweet,” Fielding said in an email. “I don’t think you can get more romantic on Valentine’s Day than by invoking France. And madeleines are really the quintessential French dessert.”
For Lynch, Valentine’s Day calls for chocolate. She’ll make truffles, one of her husband’s favorite treats. She’s especially enamored of the delectable two-bite morsels because they evoke fond memories of time the couple spent making them.
The vegan recipe, which Lynch adapted from acclaimed chef Charlie Trotter’s cookbook “Raw,” comes together easily, can be customized in numerous ways to create different flavors, and requires no cooking or baking.
The truffles combine a decadent almond-date filling surrounded by rich, chocolaty ganache and a cocoa-covered exterior. Depending on what spices and add-ins you include, you can make a variety of flavors. For Valentine’s Day, Lynch plans to make three versions: salted caramel, curry and Mexican hot chocolate.
Though the recipe doesn’t require a lot of ingredients or special equipment other than a food processor, it does take patience since the truffles are individually rolled and assembled by hand. But it’s worth the effort.
“It’s that much more special when you make them yourself,” Lynch said.
For those who are short on time, however, there are several baking shortcuts.
Delicious and easy to make, shortbread cookies are a great option if you’re busy, said Janet Mar, chef-instructor at the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Omaha’s Metropolitan Community College.
They’re among the simplest treats, made with only flour, sugar and butter. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter, then after they’re baked and cooled, dip the cookies in dark or white chocolate.
Other quick and easy Valentine’s Day desserts include frosted cupcakes topped with sliced, fresh strawberries or candy hearts, molten lava cake or strawberries dipped in melted chocolate. After rinsing the berries clean with stems intact, make sure to dry them thoroughly or the chocolate won’t stick, Mar said.
– By Niz Proskocil / WORLD-HERALD CORRESPONDENT
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Omaha.com
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