Galentine's Day Dessert

A good friend of mine threw a Galentine's Day party last week. a.k.a. a Valentine's Day for girlfriends which, quite frankly, sounds way more fun than just plain old Valentine's Day. Ammi right? She had a need for an array of tasty desserts for the occasion, so she kindly asked me to take on the job.

She and I brainstormed about the menu and color palate and decided on black and white and to incorporate some <classy, not cheesy> romantical hearts in the mix because, you know, Valentine's Day. As for the menu we landed on a Vegan Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, Vegan Cashew TigerBark, Heart-Shaped Chocolate Sandwich Cookies and Cheesecake Bites with Chocolate Hearts. Nice little chocolate medley.

Luckily there were no baking disasters <whew!> and the party went off without a hitch. And may I just say, my friend knows how to throw a gorgeous party, holy cow. The other attendees were all fantastic too, all blogger gals doing amazingly creative things. #girlpower For more deets on the fabulous party and the fabulous attendees, check out my friend's blog post here.

If you're feeling like getting festive with your baking tomorrow, I've got 5 solid desserts for you to choose from. Whether you're baking for your lovah, a friend who you'd like to be your lovah or perhaps just for your platonic friend, any of these desserts is sure to light their whistle!

Vegan Cashew Tiger Bark
Recipe adapted from View From Great Island
Yield: 12-15 pieces

Dessert Fiend Note: these were the easiest dessert out of the bunch! Easy and pretty is a win-win if you ask me.

1, 12-ounce package (about 2 cups) white chocolate chips
1/3 cup cashew butter
1 cup dark chocolate chips

1.  Line a standard baking sheet with a silicone mat, parchment, or foil.
2.  Melt the white chocolate and the cashew butter in a bowl over a bain marie on low heat- make sure your water isn't boiling, just steamy so you don't burn your chocolate- and heat until smooth.
3.  Melt the dark chocolate chips in a bowl over a bain marie on low-medium heat until smooth.
4.  Pour the cashew butter mixture out onto the baking sheet. Spread it out with an offset spatula until it is approximately a 8x12 rectangle. Don't stress over the exact size, your bark can be as thick or thin as you like.
5.  Drizzle the dark chocolate over the cashew layer in long stripes.
6.  Take the pointed end of a chopstick and swirl the layers together. Pro tip: I followed this technique roughly and it did the job!
7.  Let the chocolate sit until completely firm or pop in the fridge to harden faster.
8.  When the bark is solid, remove it from the silicone or foil, and cut it into pieces. Keep chilled until ready to eat.

Pro Tip- To Cut Bark:
Using a chef's knife, dip it in a glass of hot water and wipe dry before cutting. Repeat every 2 cuts or so. Start by trimming the edges to square off and then I recommend using a ruler and lightly mark where your cuts will be so your squares are consistent in sizing.

Heart-Shaped Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Yield: roughly 2 dozen sandwich cookies
Recipe adapted from Flour by Joanne Cheng

Dessert Fiend Note: Ever had gourmet Oreos®? Well these are it! These puppies require an extra hour to let the dough sit/chill so be sure to keep that in mind.

Ingredients – Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ingredients – Vanilla Cream Filling
1/2 cup (1 stick/114 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups (230 grams) confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
Pinch of salt

Directions – Cookies
1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla and chocolate. Add the egg and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
2.  In another medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture.
3.  Divide the dough in half, and shape into two discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4.  Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5.  Taking only one portion of dough out of the refrigerator at a time, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pro Tip: Use your dutch-cocoa powder instead of flour, if you have some left, in order to retain the darkest color. Roll the dough to 1/8 – 1/4-inch thickness. Use a <heart> cookie cutter (approximately 2 inches in diameter) to cut out cookies and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet.
6.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the touch. Check them frequently after 8 minutes, poking them in the middle. As soon as they feel firm to the touch, remove them from the oven. You can’t judge by color because they start out black.
7.  Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack to room temperature. While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting.

Directions – Filling
1.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until completely smooth and soft. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until the mixture is perfectly smooth. Add the milk and salt and again beat until smooth.
2.  Scoop about 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of 1 cookie. Top with a second cookie, bottom side down, then press the cookies together to spread the filling toward the edges. Pro Tip: I used a pastry bag which was a bit more controlled and faster, so use one if you have it!

Cheesecake Bites with Chocolate Hearts
Yield: 3 dozen

Dessert Fiend Note: This cheesecake recipe is an old favorite standby of mine. Also, feel free to half this recipe, unless you're looking to serve this to an army of cheesecake lovers.

Graham Crust
Recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar
Note: You will have extra crust but it freezes beautifully!

Ingredients - Crust
370 g (3 cups) graham cracker crumbs
40 g (1/2 cup) milk powder
50 g (4 tbs) sugar
6 g (1 1/2 tsp) kosher salt
110 g (8 tbs) butter, melted, or as needed
110 g (1/2 cup) heavy cream

Ingredients - Filling
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups (one pint) sour cream, room temperature
4, 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate Sauce (store-bought or make my version here)

Directions - Crust
1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2.  Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients.
3.  Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute.
4.  Scoop about 1 tablespoon of mixture into each muffin tin and pack it down using the back of the tablespoon or a fork.
5.  Bake for 5ish minutes until the crust starts to set. Cool on wire rack while you make the filling.

Directions - Filling
1.  Position the baking rack in the center of the oven; preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sour cream until well blended.
3.  In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese with the butter until smooth and creamy. Add this to the egg-sour cream mixture and beat until smooth. 
4.  Add the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and beat thoroughly, about 2 minutes. 
5.  Pour batter into tins until about ¾ of the way full.
6.  Drop 2 dots of chocolate sauce about 1 inch apart in cupcake. Drag the tip of a toothpick down through centers of dots to create a heart. Note: You might have to finesse the heart with toothpicks until you get the right shape.
7.  Bake 15-20 minutes, the edges will appear to be set, but the center will still have a little jiggle to it. Pro Tip: How to know when it's done? Jiggle test! Knock the side of the tin, if it jiggles and then stops right away, then it's done (center will firm as they cool).
7.  Let stand at room temperature on a cooling rack until completely cool, then transfer to fridge until well chilled. For best flavor and texture, these cheesecakes are best chilled overnight.

Vegan Chocolate Cake
Recipe adapted from Joy The Baker
Yield: 1, 9-inch chocolate bundt cake

Dessert Fiend Note: I haven't made a ton of vegan desserts, but this one tastes just like the real deal egg version I've made. Score! It also requires little effort. Double score!

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm coffee
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
handful of chocolate chips

1.  Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch bundt pan with cooking spray, oil or butter and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together coffee, oil and vanilla.
3.  Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
4.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
5.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes
Yield: 50 cookies

Dessert Fiend Note: This is a classic, chewy, chocolate cookie (say that three times fast). Another easy one, but requires you to chill the dough for an hour or so. This recipe can also be halved since it makes a bajillion.

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beat by hand with a wooden spoon) beat together the cocoa powder, white sugar, and vegetable oil until it comes together into a shiny, gritty, black dough of sorts.
2.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds each. Add the vanilla and beat in thoroughly.
3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and espresso powder if using.
4.  Mix into the chocolate mixture on low speed until just combined.
5.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill the dough for 1 hour or overnight.
6.  Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioner's sugar in a wide bowl.
7.  Using a rounded teaspoon scoop clumps of the chilled dough and roll them into 1-inch sized balls using your hands.
8.  Roll the balls in the confectioner's sugar and place on the cookie sheets (you should be able to get 12-16 on each sheet).
9.  Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool a minute or two on the sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

And that's all she wrote! Happy Galentine's-Valentine's Day y'all!

Huge shout-out to Hamee Ha for all the ridiculously good looking photos!

Recipe: Romantical Chocolate Hazelnut Pots De Creme

My first Valentine's Day with my boyfriend (now hubs) was slightly dreadful. Not the company of course <shifty eyes>, but it was the whole Valentine's Day experience. We had reservations at a French restaurant and when we waltzed in, we noticed that the place was chalk full of couples...wearing pink and red...and we were one of them. We were living in a cliché and frankly, I was kinda grossed out. We were squeezed into a table, side-by-side with the couple sitting next to us, and served a below average, rushed meal. We couldn't wait to get outta there. Never, never again, we told ourselves. Since then, we've done much better usually staying in for the night, avoiding pink and red in our faces.

Remember Valentine's Day back in elementary school? It was definitely more acceptable to be clichéy...and there was more candy and crafts too. We had to give everyone in class a Valentine card and it was a delicate process figuring out which Valentine/candy hearts went to whom. You never want to give someone the wrong impression with a too forward candy heart ya know.

For this Valentine's Day, the husband is out of town for work, but I'm luckily spending it with my girlfriends. I've made us Chocolate Hazelnut Pots de Creme by the domestic goddess Martha Stewart, mostly because I'm obsessed with choco hazelnut right now and I've never made pot de creme. It should pair nicely with the RomCom I've picked out too.

Chocolate Hazelnut Pots de Creme
Recipe from Martha Stewart
Yield: Makes 4 Servings

1 1/4 cups half-and-half
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon hazelnut-flavored liqueur, such as Frangelico
Whipped cream, for serving

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bring half-and-half just to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes.
2.  In a large bowl, stir together yolks, vanilla, cocoa, salt, and liqueur if desired. With a fork, stir chocolate mixture until smooth, then gradually stir into yolk mixture. Pour through a fine sieve into a glass measuring cup.
3.  Place 4 custard cups or ramekins (3 to 4 ounces each) in a shallow roasting pan, and divide chocolate mixture among them. Pour hot water into the pan so it reaches halfway up the sides of cups. Pro Tip(s): Line a towel on the bottom of the pan to keep the ramekins from sliding. Also, have a tea kettle ready with the hot water and pour in with the pan pulled out on the oven rack.
4.  Bake until custards are almost set in centers, about 30 minutes Pro Tip: How to know when it's done? Jiggle test- grab a ramekin and hit the side, if it jiggles and then stops right away, then it's done. (custards will firm as they cool). Carefully remove cups from hot-water bath; let cool slightly. Yet another Pro Tip: Use a spatula to lift the ramekins out of the pan.
5.  Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate. Just before serving, dollop with whipped cream, if desired.

The result? I was pretty happy with how it turned out. My only disappointment was that I couldn't taste the hazelnut at all. I think I'll try to work in some finely chopped hazelnuts into it next time.

Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours!