The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Chocolate-covered strawberries are the perfect dessert for your special someone. Photo courtesy of Anne Walsh.

Erin Gardner’s Valentine’s Day Creme Brulee 
4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup of raw sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and the egg yolks until combined.
Temper the cream into the egg yolks by adding the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the vanilla bean pod and any cooked egg particles that may have formed. 
Pour into six 8-ounce heart shaped ramekins (use round ones if that’s what you have on hand). Place the ramekins into a large roasting pan. Pour enough water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. 
Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still jiggly in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. 
Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate for at least two hours. 
To caramelize the tops before serving, divide the raw sugar equally among the six ramekins and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar starting around the edge of each ramekin, working your way in concentric circles toward the center. This ensures a nice even caramel coating. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least five minutes before serving. Garnish your creme brûlée with a sliced or chocolate-dipped strawberry.

Decadent desserts
Create delicious Valentine’s Day treats


 Dessert, like love, can comfort us and make our hearts race. What better way to show your loved ones you care than by whipping up some home-baked desserts? Make something on own your own as a surprise or have fun baking with your sweetheart, your friends or your kids.

Hot stuff
Looking for a seriously impressive dessert to make for your special someone this Valentine’s Day? Erin Gardner, owner of Wild Orchid Baking Company and author of the book Great Cake Decorating, said creme brulee will surely warm one’s heart. 
“It’s the fancy dessert I used to make for my husband before we were married,” she said. “Firing up the blowtorch is pretty impressive.”
It’s possible to make creme brulee at home but it’s not something people tend to do every day, which makes it all the sweeter to present for a special occasion. To personalize the creamy treat for Valentine’s Day, bake the custards in heart-shaped ramekins and fan sliced strawberries over the tops. The process takes about an hour, so if you’re planning to serve them after dinner, be sure to make it earlier in the day and then finish with the torching right before you serve them. 
Make it a date
What could be more romantic than joining your sweetheart in the kitchen and helping each other create a decadent dessert? For Valentine’s Day, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a chocolate fondue are the ultimate amorous treats.  
“Strawberries are a romantic fruit that everyone loves,” said Frederick’s Pastries of Amherst Manager Anne Walsh. “Strawberries are usually big and delicious this time of year, and of course you can serve them with Champagne.”
This bite-sized dessert is quick and easy to make. Start with fresh berries and melting chocolate, or even a bag of chocolate chips. Choose your favorite type of chocolate, whether milk, dark, white or a combination. Find a deep, microwave-safe bowl and empty the chocolate into it. Microwave the chocolate on medium heat in 20- to 30-second intervals, taking it out and stirring in between until it’s completely melted. Wash your strawberries and, one by one, hold them by the stem and dip them into the chocolate, leaving a bit of red showing at the top. To avoid a too-hard shell, tap the top of the berry on the edge of the bowl to let extra chocolate drip off. Next, lay the treats on a sheet of wax paper to harden. If you’re feeling fancy, try drizzling a different type of melted chocolate in patterns over the shell. In about 15 minutes, you and your sweetheart have a high-class dessert to, as Walsh put it, “serve after dinner or in place of a kiss.”
Gardner said chocolate fondue is an equally romantic option. 
“It’s perfect for a lot of reasons,” she said. “Obviously with dipping and eating, there is a lot of romantic possibilities there.”
Making fondue is quick and simple. Begin with equal parts chocolate and heavy cream. Use chocolate chips, or break up your favorite bar chocolate into small pieces. Heat up the cream and then pour it over the chocolate, whisking until smooth. You can dip anything from pieces of fruit (strawberries and pineapple work well) to cookie pieces and pound cake. Cut the cake into heart shapes for added Valentine’s Day dazzle. 
Kiddie cravings 
Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovebirds. It’s also a chance to show your children how much they mean to you. 
“For kids I like to keep it really simple and semi-quick because their attention spans can be a little short,” Gardner said, so cookies or rice crispy treats are perfect.
Baking cookies is a step-by-step process that kids can see from beginning to end, Walsh said. They’re versatile and easily wrapped up to be shared at class parties. Sugar cookies can be topped with anything. Try sparkly, edible red and pink glitter or frosting. Kids can even make cookies that mimic candy hearts by using heart-shaped cutters and writing sweet nothings on top with frosting. 
If you opt for rice crispy treats, make them special for the holiday by adding red or pink dye into the marshmallow mix. The same rules apply for topping rice crispy treats as cookies. Add red, pink or heart-shaped sprinkles. And use heart-shaped cutters too. 
“I think when you bake with kids the best thing is to think about the project you’re doing in advance and plot out the parts where they can jump in. If you go in with a plan things will go a little better,” Gardner said. 
Gal-pal goodies
If you’re not in a relationship, or you’re away from your beau, there’s no reason you can’t have a fabulous holiday with a group of friends. So what’s the best Valentine’s Day dessert for a group of friends? Walsh suggests Champagne-infused cupcakes. 
“You can do chocolate cupcakes and infuse them with Champagne and then on top you can do a Champagne-flavored whipped cream,” Walsh said. “Girlfriends would probably like that because you can drink Champagne while making them.” 
Don’t let the fancy word “infused” scare you. Use your favorite recipe (or boxed cake mix) to bake the cupcakes. After they’re done, wait for them to cool down and either drizzle the bubbly party drink over the top, fill a squirt bottle and spray each cupcake, or do both. The Champagne will soak into the cupcakes for moist flavor. To make a Champagne-whipped cream frosting, start with a bowl of whipped cream and slowly incorporate the Champagne, stirring until you find the perfect balance. 
“It’s the fun part to taste the whipped cream as you’re making it. You can use different kinds,” Walsh said. 
As seen in the February 6, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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