All Aboard the Culinary Love Train
Quick! According to the greeting card authorities, by next Wednesday, Feb. 14, we're all supposed to be blissfully and hopelessly in love. With only six days away to a life of eternal happiness, we had better get busy.
To help you gear up for love and its many splendored ways, I've got a six-day plan that will guarantee some kind of love. Beginning today, I'll offer recipes, love potions and the many ways we can all board the culinary love train. I'll be your conductor, your cruise director, your witch doctor -- whatever you need me to be in time for Cupid's arrival.
First thing's first. Chocolate. It is possibly one of (if not the most) important ingredient of a luscious Valentine's fete. It hardly matters in which form it materializes -- store-bought hearts, frou-frou truffles, a soufflÃ© for two -- but chocolate should be part of the love equation. I'm partial to a home-spun chocolatey affair. Whether you're the baker or the recipient, there's something about a homemade treat that screams romance from a tall building. It's heart to mouth resuscitation.
To get started, try on these brownies (below) for size; they're gooey, fudgy and love to be molded into cutesy heart shapes (available at Sur La Table), if you're so inclined. I've got a few favorite brownies in my recipe vault, but I love this version for its addition of cherries, particularly at this time of year with childhood associations of chocolate-covered cherries in the box.
Don't worry that cherries are out of season; a bag of unsweetened frozen fruit, thawed and thoroughly drained, does the job beautifully. So, chop, chop, on with your luscious self -- and get into the kitchen!
Black Forest Brownies
Adapted from "A Passion for Desserts" by Emily Luchetti
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
8 ounces (about 24) sweet red cherries (Note: With fresh cherries out of season in February, I used a bag of unsweetened frozen bings, thawed and drained well)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon kirsch, Chambord or almond extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
In a double boiler, melt chocolates together with the butter, until smooth and fluid. While chocolate is melting, cut cherries into dice.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg. Whisk in chocolate mixture and kirsch. Mix in flour, salt and baking powder. Gently mix in the cut cherries. Spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out almost clean, but still with a little batter on it, up to 40 minutes. Let brownies cool in the pan.
When ready to serve, place a plate or cutting board on top of the pan. Invert and carefully peel off parchment paper. Cut brownies into two-inch squares or cut into shapes depending on your mood.
Makes about 16 2-inch brownies.
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