Food & Drink

February 7, 2012

Make your own Valentine Desserts

We’ve really been hooking you up for Valentine’s Day around here; first with the Champagne article, then the South Florida restaurant listing of places serving special Valentine  menus, dishes and desserts; then came the romantic Valentine weekend getaways post and now for those most adventurous, recipes to make your own Valentine Dessert from well known Chefs and Pastry Chefs. Of course there is a lot of chocolate involved but an interesting surprise we’ve thrown into the mix, a dairy alternative dessert: Soy Milk Panna Cotta courtesy of Todd English.

So go pour yourself a fabulous glass of Champagne, read through the recipes; plan your work, work your plan and have deliciously wonderful Valentine’s Day! Featured image credit: Gluten free Red Velvet Cupcake by 

Love the South Florida food scene? Check out our newly published book (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95), Food Lovers’ Guide to Miami & Fort Lauderdale


Soy Milk Panna Cotta with Crushed Blackberries courtesy of Todd English

“I’m constantly driving my team crazy by “Todd-izing” classic recipes.  But I love finding one unique twist on classics.  Soy Milk has never tasted as good as it does in this version of Panna Cotta.  The creamy texture of the soy milk is complimented by the bright, clean flavor of the blackberries.   I love this dessert because it’s so balanced in its sweet and fresh flavors, and it just leaves you with that feel-good, satisfied feeling at the end of your meal.” –Todd English


Vanilla bean, 1 split
Unflavored gelatin, 1 Tbsp.
Unsweetened soy milk, 2 cups
Sugar, ½ cup
Kosher salt, 1 tsp., divided
Plain soy yogurt, 2 cups
Fresh blackberries, 1 pt.
Sugar, 2 Tbsp.
Garnish: crushed amaretti cookies

1.       Scrape seeds from vanilla bean.

2.       Stir together gelatin and ¼ cup water in a small bowl.

3.       Bring milk, ½ cup sugar, ¾ tsp. salt, and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium.  Whisk in gelatin mixture until well blended.

4.       Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, and cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat, and discard vanilla bean.  Stir in yogurt until blended.  Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids.

5.       Divide mixture among 6 (6 oz.) ramekins.  Cover and chill 3 hours or until set.

6.       Stir together blackberries, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and remaining ¼ tsp. salt in a bowl.  Gently crush blackberries against sides of bowl until berries release their juices, using a fork.  Let stand 10 minutes.

7.       Cook berry mixture in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes or until liquid begins to thicken.  Let cool 5 minutes.

8.       Hold each ramekin in warm water 5 seconds; invert onto serving plates.  Top with blackberry sauce.  Garnish, if desired.  6 servings


Chocolate Tart with Chocolate Ganache, Whipped Cream, and Raspberry Sauce courtesy of Judith Choate
Makes one 10-inch tart

“For centuries, chocolate has been used to lift the spirits. Although there are now many medical indications of its benefit to humans, it is the simple pleasure of its sweet, dark, and delicious flavor that entices us. Of course, the ancient belief that it can also be an aphrodisiac makes it even more delightful. This is a very dense, rich tart—so cut very thin wedges, as a little goes a very long way to delight. I have, in a nod to the raspberry pill in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, added a raspberry sauce that, if you wish to make a fancier dessert, can coat the bottom of each plate. Or, if you like, you may just add a few raspberries to the plate.” -Judith Choate

¼ pound fine quality bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup plus 2½ tablespoons sugar
¼ cup cake flour, sifted
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)
Raspberry Sauce, optional (recipe follows)
Unsweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving, optional

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Lightly butter the interior of a 10-inch round springform pan.
Cut a piece of parchment paper into a 10-inch circle and fit it into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Combine the chocolate and butter in the top half of a double boiler over simmering water. Heat, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes or until completely melted and blended. Combine the sugar and flour in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk. With the motor running on low, add the eggs, one at a time.

When all of the eggs have been incorporated, with the motor running, add just a bit of the warm chocolate to the mixture to temper it. Then slowly add the remaining chocolate. Beat on low for about 8 minutes, or until the mixture is very thick and smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. The batter should be no more than 1 inch high in the pan, or the finished cake will not hold together. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.

Open and remove the springform and invert the cake onto the wire rack. Set aside to cool completely then remove the bottom of the pan. When cool, leaving the cake on the wire rack, pour the ganache over the top and, using a spatula, carefully spread the ganache over the entire cake, allowing the excess to drip off. Allow the ganache to set for at least 15 minutes. Transfer the cake to a serving plate. Cut into small wedges and serve. Alternately, if desired, coat the bottom of individual dessert plates with Raspberry Sauce. Place a small wedge of the cake in the center of each plate and garnish with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Ganache

3 ounces fine quality semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Combine the chocolate and butter in the top half of a double boiler over simmering water. Heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until completely melted and blended. Remove from the heat. While the chocolate is heating, place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to just a bare simmer and immediately remove from the heat. Whisk the hot cream into the chocolate, beating with a wooden spoon until smooth and shiny. Set aside to cool slightly before using. Do not let harden.

Raspberry Sauce

1 pint fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup (see page 63)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Combine the raspberries, syrup, and lemon juice in a blender jar.
Process until smooth.
Pour through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula, into a clean container.
Serve immediately or store, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.


Chocolate Truffles courtesy of Judith Choate
Makes approximately 1½ pounds

“Truffles are very rich candies that should be enjoyed with a cup of coffee. Espresso is a particularly good match. They can replace dessert at the end of a meal or be offered as a satisfying tidbit at any point in the day or evening. They are a first-rate contribution to a potluck dinner for up to a dozen people, or a tasteful host/hostess gift” -Judith Choate

1 pound fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, cut into small bits
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract OR 1 tablespoon amaretto, brandy,
Grand Marnier or other liqueur
1 cup sifted Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Set aside.

Combine the cream and corn syrup in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat. Bring to just a bare simmer. Immediately remove the cream mixture from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let rest for about 30 seconds.

Add the vanilla or other flavoring and, using a wooden spoon, slowly begin to beat the liquid into the melting chocolate. Continue beating until the mixture is completely smooth. Set aside to cool.
When cool, cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until firm.

Remove the truffle ganache from the refrigerator.

Place the cocoa powder on a large shallow plate.

Using a small melon-baller (or your hands), scoop up a bit of the Ganache; working quickly so as not to melt the chocolate, form the truffle into a small, even ball. Drop the ball into the cocoa and toss to lightly coat with powder.

When all of the truffles have been made, store in an airtight container, in layers separated by waxed paper, at room temperature.

White Chocolate Mousse courtesy of Claire Robinson

7 ounces white chocolate, very finely chopped
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream and  ¼ cup Coffee-mate Natural Bliss Sweet Cream, combined
12 fresh blackberries, for garnish

-Put the white chocolate in a large glass bowl and set aside.

-Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a small bowl until pale in color.

-In a saucepan, over medium-low heat, bring  ¼ of the cream mixture to a simmer. While whisking, slowly pour the cream into the yolk and sugar mixture to temper. Pour the creamy mixture back into the saucepan, return to medium-low heat, and stir with a wooden spoon until thickened and it coasts the back of the spoon.

-Pour the hot egg mixture through a fine-mesh sieve placed directly over the chopped chocolate. Let stand a few minutes without disturbing and then stir the chocolate until completely smooth.

-In another bowl, whip the remaining cream mixture until soft peaks form. Fold half the whipped cream into the white chocolate mix to lighten and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

-Spoon the white chocolate mousse into four serving cups and refrigerate until set, approximately 1 hour.

-Garnish each serving with 3 blackberries and serve.

Red Velvet Cupcakes courtesy of Chef Max Hardy

“Red Velvet Cupcakes are an all-time favorite dessert to express your love through a sweet treat. When it is time to toast, pair my Red Velvet Cupcakes with a Viognier this way you’ll be a sure way to win your love’s heart.” -Chef Max Hardy

15 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
13 ounces granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red food coloring
1 1/4 teaspoons vinegar (white or apple cider can both work)
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 cup water

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound butter, room temperature
2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions for the cupcakes
Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
-Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

-In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and mix well.

-Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix on low, scraping down sides occasionally, and mix until just combined. Be sure not to over mix, or the batter will come out tough.

-Line a 16-cup cupcake pan with paper liners, scoop the batter into the liners and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

For the cream cheese frosting:
Whip the butter and cream cheese together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamed. Gradually add powdered sugar to the mixture and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
The frosting can be used right away, or stored in the refrigerator up to a week. Frost cooled cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting.


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