February food column as it appeared in Satellite Magazine
Let's assume for a moment that Valentine's day wasn't created by card makers to get them through the lean period from Christmas to mother's day. Let's assume you're not going to spend Valentine's day in a bleak, cramped apartment listening over and over to "If You Don't Cry" by The Magnetic Fields. Let's assume you want to establish a dash of romance in your life and do something nice for your Valentine. Take her to dinner. Treat him to a day at the spa or a nice massage. Let's assume you've decided to forego the cellophaned box of chocolates in favor of puff pastries drizzled with a milk chocolate sauce.
Puff pastry ingredients
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons butter (yes, use butter) cut into small, uniform cubes
- 3/4 tablespoon sugar (you'll want to sweeten to your own tastes)
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 2 eggs, kept separate (to be added later)
Chocolate sauce ingredients
- 1 + 1 cups Chocolate chips
- 1 cup milk or cream
- Medium sauce pan
- wooden spoon
- large mixing bowl
- cookie sheet
- parchment paper
Add the water, sugar, salt and butter to a medium sauce pan over medium-high to high heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and add all the flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. It should form pretty naturally into a ball. Dump the dough into your mixing bowl and let it cool for about five minutes. While the dough cools, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and cut the parchment paper to fit the cookie sheet.
Once the dough has cooled, stir in one egg. Here, you might thing you've ruined evertying. The egg will break apart and turn the dough into a soupy mess. But keep stirring! The egg will incorporate and the dough will come back into a nice ball after a while. Then add the other egg and repeat the process.
Once you have incorporated the eggs, the dough will be very soft. Spoon it into a plastic bag (if you have a cake bag and round decorator's tip, all the better, but you can get away with a standard, zip-top sandwich bag), cut a pea-sized hole in one corner of the sandwich bag and pipe the dough out in small mounds about the size of a ping-pong ball. Keep them about two inches apart. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the stovetop.
During those 20 minutes you can make your chocolate sauce. Mix 1 cup milk and 1 cup choloate chips in your mixing bowl. Microwave for approximately 45 seconds, until the chips begin to soften. Mix the two together vigoursly with a wire whisk. At this point, the sauce will be pretty runny. To thicken up the sauce and make it more chocolately, stir in small handfuls of the remaining chips--if its consistency and flavor suit your tastes, however, then you don't need to add any more chips. . Use the whisk to drizzle the chocolate over your bite-size pastries.
You'll have a ton of chocolate sauce left over. What you do with it is up to you.
Anyone can schlep out to the local pharmacy and buy a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a cheesey card (If you decide to go that route--the box of chocolates route--at least visit one of the local chocolatiers. There's no sense in paying good money for 30 - 40 waxy little nuggets filled with fruit-flavored pastes of different consistency). Be different. Cook for the person you love. Cook for the person you want to seduce (it can often get you a lot further than the heart). Or just cook for yourself. It's calming, and it'll make The Magnetic Fields that much better.