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Be My Valentine

by Flo Braker

The most irresistible valentines are luscious homemade sweets from your kitchen. Here are two unforgettably delicious desserts that say "Be My Valentine."

All of these sweet offerings are unique. The Double Kisses aim to surprise. A delicious, simple chocolate-nut shortbread wraps around a chocolate candy. The balance of ingredients makes it possible for the cookies to hold their kiss shape after baking. Individual foil-wrapping makes these cookies all the more fun and special, and perfect for handing out to your friends or packing in a decorated box to give to your favorite valentine.

Ground nuts add delicate flavor to Tiffany's Heart, a dense chocolate cake that tastes even better than it looks. Though it can be baked in an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan, for this occasion it is only fitting to make it heart-shaped. Simply, but elegantly decorated with strawberries and roses, this cake is a seriously sweet way to say you care.

Double Kisses
makes 3 1/2 dozen
Give your sweetheart a tin of these double chocolate cookies for a very special remembrance. You'll not only surprise your sweetheart with chocolate cookies with chocolate candy inside, but you can also convey a loving message with a paper strip tucked inside the foil wrap.

1-1/2 cups (210 grams) unsifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (25 grams) unsifted cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 ounces (1/4 cup) toasted hazelnuts, finely ground to yield 1/3 cup
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
42 milk chocolate candy kisses, foil removed

Adjust rack to lower third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, blend flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and ground hazelnuts briefly with a wire whisk; set aside. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, cream butter in a large bowl until smooth, about one minute. Increase mixer to medium, add the sugar, then the vanilla and mix until well combined and slightly fluffy. Lower speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, scraping down the sides and combine ingredients thoroughly.

Using two level teaspoons of dough, form a flat disk in palm of hand. Center a candy kiss on the dough disk and bring dough up to cover completely, keeping kiss upright. Pinch dough on top to resemble kiss shape. Space an inch apart on baking sheet.

Bake 12 minutes or until the cookies are no longer shiny, but dull and the bottoms are chocolate brown in color. Don't overbake. Place baking sheet on a wire rack, lift cookies from parchment when completely cool. The cookies' structure remains fragile only while warm.

To make individual kisses, center each cookie on a 5-inch aluminum foil square, bring up edges and twist them to enclose cookie completely. If desired, before twisting the foil, insert a name or personal message on a narrow paper strip for each cookie.

Tiffany's Heart
serves 14
This stunning, simple cake, decorated with fresh strawberries and red rosebuds, is for the incurable romantic. It's the freshest box of candy you'll ever eat.

For a decorative short-cut to transform an everyday simple cake into a Valentine Special: Arrange store-bought chocolates, still in their ruffled dark brown candy papers, on top of any single layer frosted cake.

3/4 cup (2 ounces) ground pecans
1/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup each granulated and light brown sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon rum, optional
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 pint fresh raspberries, optional

Adjust rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8-inch heart-shaped pan and line with waxed paper or parchment.

In a small bowl, mix nuts and flour. Melt butter and chocolate in small saucepan over low heat. Blend in water until smooth. Transfer warm chocolate mixture to a large bowl, stir in the sugars. Cool five minutes, blend in yolks, then rum, then stir in nut-flour mixture. Whip whites with one teaspoon sugar to soft, white peaks; stir-fold into chocolate mixture. Spoon batter into pan and smooth evenly. Bake 25 minutes, or until soft but not liquid in center. (Chocolate firms as it cools.) Remove from oven, cool 15 minutes, invert on rack. Peel off paper.

Chocolate Glaze

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

Place everything in a bowl that fits snugly over saucepan. Fill pan half full with 130 degrees F water, set bowl on top. Stir occasionally until mixture is smooth, shiny and liquid. Place cool cake on cardboard on rack over jelly roll pan. Pour glaze onto cake, spread with long metal spatula. If desired, decorate the edges of the cake with fresh raspberries.

Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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