With Valentine’s Day around the corner, consider baking your way into someone’s heart.
Some say it with flowers, others with jewelry. Then there are those who shift to the oven to turn up the heat. We’re talking, of course, about love and the biggest day to show it (at least commercially).
If you’re not a baker but love one, you may want to wrap up “Everything Chocolate,” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen, or ATK, (366 pages, $35), and give it to your sweetie.
The book provides recipes from the simple (Chocolate Turtle Cookies and Chocolate Zucchini Cake) to the classic (Pots de Creme or Chocolate Souffle), from the contemporary (Vegan Fudgy Brownies or Chocolate Avocado Pudding) to the spectacular (Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake and Hazelnut-Chocolate Crepe Cake), with too many sweets in between to name (but including DIY candy bars).
However, if you are a baker, then by all means find this book and stock up on chocolate. Your loved ones are waiting.
To get the baker started, we offer three options to prepare for the big day, all of them manageable for someone busy.
The first is the Hot Fudge Pudding Cake, a comforting puddle of goodness, warm, rich and kind of messy, not unlike love itself. Make it in a cast-iron skillet and serve it up hot.
ATK tinkers with the classic recipe for a pudding cake in order to increase the chocolate flavor, using both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, as well as that secret ingredient of brewed coffee.
Like your love served chilled? Then Chocolate Cream Pie may be more your style. America’s Test Kitchen offers its twist on this age-old recipe by intensifying the chocolate with both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, then adding a bit of butter to create a silky filling. If you don’t have the time or interest in making your own pie crust, reach for the frozen substitute.
Our third option for this chocolaty day is from another baker, Alison Roman, whose recipe for a certain chocolate chip cookie once went viral.
Her new cookbook “Nothing Fancy” (320 pages, $32.50) dips into a snack that could well keep the recipient of this gift happy at least 24 times, or less if shared. The Tiny, Salty, Chocolatey Cookies are just that, salty bites to end the meal, or maybe the day.
Tiny, Salty, Chocolatey Cookies
Note: This is the time to stock up on some high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, since that’s the dominant flavor, along with browned butter. The cookies can be baked up to two days ahead, wrapped tightly and stored at room temperature, or freeze them for the future. From “Nothing Fancy,” by Alison Roman.
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
2½ cups powdered sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (see Note)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 egg whites plus 1 whole egg
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 67% cacao), chopped
½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans or walnuts, optional
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat, swirling, until starting to foam and brown, 3 to 4 minutes (whisk the butter from time to time so that the solids don’t stick to the bottom of the pot). Let cool.
Whisk the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl, ridding it of as many lumps as possible (if you prefer, sift).
Using a spatula, mix in the egg whites, whole egg and browned butter, stirring until you’ve got a good, smoothish mixture (any small lumps will take care of themselves), followed by the chocolate and any nuts you may want to add.
Using a spoon, drop quarter-sized blobs (yes, this small) of dough (the texture is really somewhere between a dough and a batter), spacing about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet (they spread a lot). Sprinkle with flaky salt and bake until the cookies have flattened considerably and look baked through and a little wrinkled, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool before eating so they can firm up.
Nutrition information per each of 24 cookies: 155 calories, 9 g fat, 190 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrates, 4 g saturated fat, 14 g added sugars, 2 g protein, 16 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 2 fat.
Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: Make this in a cast-iron skillet if you want to serve the cake hot (and you definitely should serve it that way). But if you don’t have one, use another heatproof pan. From “Everything Chocolate,” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
¾ cup (3¾ ounces) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed (21/3 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar, divided
1 cup brewed coffee
1/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
Whipped cream (below) or ice cream, if desired
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter, chocolate and 1/3 cup cocoa together in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat, stirring often, until smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in bowl.
Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and remaining 1/3 cup cocoa together in second bowl, breaking up any large clumps of brown sugar with fingers.
Combine coffee and ½ cup water in third bowl.
Whisk milk, vanilla, egg yolk and remaining ⅔ cup granulated sugar into cooled chocolate mixture. Whisk in flour mixture until just combined. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over top, covering entire surface of batter. Pour coffee mixture gently over brown sugar mixture.
Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cake is puffed and bubbling and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the skillet, about 35 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Using potholders, transfer skillet to wire rack and let cake cool for 15 minutes before serving. Top with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
Nutrition information per each of 8 servings without whipped cream: 330 calories, 14 g fat, 210 mg sodium, 51 g carbohydrates, 8 g saturated fat, 35 g added sugars, 4 g protein, 47 mg cholesterol, 4 g dietary fiber
Exchanges per serving: ½ starch, 3 carb, 2½ fat.
Chocolate Cream Pie
Serves 8 to 10.
Note: Avoid 1% or skim milk, as the filling will be too thin. From “Everything Chocolate,” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen.
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust (homemade or commercially made)
1/3 cup (21/3 ounces) sugar
¼ cup (1 ounce) cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups whole or 2% low-fat milk (see Note)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 recipe Whipped Cream (below)
Put dough in a 9-inch pie plate, edges crimped, wrap loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line chilled pie shell with double layer of aluminum foil, covering edges to prevent burning, and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet until edges are set and just beginning to turn golden, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Remove foil and beans/weights, rotate sheet, and continue to bake crust until golden brown and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer sheet to wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Whisk sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt together in large saucepan. Whisk in milk until incorporated, making sure to scrape corners of saucepan. Place saucepan over medium heat; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbling over entire surface, 8 to 10 minutes. Cook 30 seconds longer; remove from heat.
Add chocolate and butter, and whisk until melted and fully incorporated. Whisk in vanilla. Pour filling into cooled pie crust. Press lightly greased parchment paper against surface of filling and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Refrigerate until filling is firmly set, at least 2½ hours or up to 24 hours. Spread whipped cream attractively over chilled pie and serve.
Nutrition information per each of 10 servings: 375 calories, 25 g fat, 190 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrates, 14 g saturated fat, 12 g added sugars, 6 g protein, 44 mg cholesterol, 3 g dietary fiber
Exchanges per serving: 2 carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 4 fat.
Makes about 2 cups.
Note: Whipping the ingredients on medium-low speed to start ensures that the sugar, vanilla and salt are evenly dispersed in the cream before you increase the mixer speed to achieve soft peaks. From “Everything Chocolate,” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen.
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Using a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, sugar, vanilla and salt on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.
Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. (Whipped cream can be refrigerated in fine-mesh strainer set over small bowl and covered with plastic wrap for up to 8 hours.)
Nutrition information per 2 tablespoons: 47 calories, 5 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrates, 3 g saturated fat, 1 g added sugars, 0 g protein, 17 mg cholesterol, 0 g dietary fiber
Exchanges per serving: 1 fat.