I'm not especially thrifty, and I'm not a homebody, but I'd just as soon stay in with my husband, David, on Valentine's Day.
I'll pick up a nice cut of meat — our favorite is rack of lamb — and a bunch of asparagus. I'll spring for a bottle of bubbly and maybe a little smoked salmon to start. I keep it simple. But dessert can be a little more of a challenge, which is why I'm offering up three special Valentine's Day desserts for two.
If you think you have to start from scratch (or even open a boxed mix) to make your own personal chocolate-cherry cakes, check out this recipe. It starts with dessert shells or shortcake cups. These little cakes were once only available during berry season, but I see them year-round now, usually in the produce department near the fresh berries or in the bakery section. I stack an upside-down dessert shell over a right-side-up one, then stuff it with a simple cherry filling and glaze it with a chocolate and cream ganache — but there are so many different filling and frosting options, including jams, curds and fresh fruit for the middle and chocolate-hazelnut spread, citrus glazes and simple cream cheese frosting for the outside.
You can always just serve a dish of plain vanilla ice cream, but why be ordinary when it's so easy to class it up? One of my favorite desserts is lemon curd ice cream, which is as easy to make as streaking good quality vanilla ice cream with store-bought lemon curd. Spoon it into your best goblet and splurge on some fresh raspberries. It's Valentine's Day, after all.
And then there's Bananas Foster, which I adore but often avoid because of the high butter content. I've recently discovered that it doesn't have to be so rich: You can get away with just 1 tablespoon of butter for two people. Don't leave out the pecans — they're good for you and they add great flavor and texture to this very appealing dessert.
Personal Chocolate-Cherry Cakes
- 10 ounces frozen dark sweet cherries (2 cups), halved
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 4 shortcakes, also known as dessert shells
- 2 tablespoons chopped roasted almonds, plus a few whole for garnish
- Bring cherries, sugar and water to boil in a medium saucepan. When mixture starts to simmer, whisk in cornstarch mixture. Continue to simmer until mixture thickens to sauce consistency. Off heat, stir in extract and let cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, mix cream and chocolate in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup or other microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power until cream is just hot enough to melt the chocolate, 45 seconds to a minute, whisking to make a smooth glaze.
- Place 2 of the shortcakes on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Fill each well with as much of the cherry filling as will fit. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of almonds. Cap with remaining cakes, well side down.
- Pour glaze over each cake, letting chocolate cascade down the sides. Remove rack from baking sheet, scrape chocolate back into measuring cup, set rack back on baking sheet, and repeat pouring chocolate over cakes until they are completely coated. Let cakes stand until chocolate sets. Can be loosely covered with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature overnight.
- Set a cake on each dessert plate. Garnish with cherries and almonds and serve.
(There will be a little leftover cherry sauce, which is excellent served warm over pancakes or waffles or served chilled over ice cream or yogurt.)
Lemon Curd Ice Cream With Fresh Raspberries
- 1 cup premium ice cream, softened slightly
- 3 tablespoons prepared lemon curd
- ½ cup fresh raspberries
Spread softened ice cream to loosen in a medium bowl. Smear lemon curd over the ice cream and lightly fold. Spoon ice cream into goblets and sprinkle with raspberries. Serve immediately.
Bananas Foster With Toasted Pecans
- 1 cup premium vanilla ice cream
- ¼ cup pecans
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 banana, sliced on the diagonal
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- Spoon ice cream into goblets or serving bowls and set in freezer.
- When ready to serve, heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add pecans and toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly colored, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn onto a cutting board and chop coarsely.
- Melt butter in the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add sugar, shaking pan until it melts and starts to bubble. Add bananas; continue to cook until warmed and sauce starts to coat them, a minute or so. Stir in a few teaspoons of water and then the rum; simmer to burn off the alcohol, and reduce to a thick sauce consistency, less than a minute. Top ice cream with chopped pecans and a spoonful of sauce. Serve immediately.
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