Retail stores change quickly right after Christmas, with employees stocking card racks and shelves with Valentine’s Day items.
Many believe, including me, that seeing this transition offers a hint of spring, much needed after last week’s frigid weather.
Love will be in the air Feb. 14, with the 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards that are sent expressing love and good wishes, according to the U.S. Greeting Card Association.
The ritual of exchanging confections, especially chocolates, is thought to be because of chocolate’s aphrodisiac qualities.
Another reason, according to “Food Timeline,” is the valentine candy phenomenon is just a clever scheme developed by confectioners to promote products in the seasonal lull between Christmas and Easter.
Whatever the reason, what better way to show your valentine and loved ones how special they are on Feb. 14 than with a gift of chocolate or other confections you made for them?
Checking out seasonal cookbook displays, I browsed through several books to see what new titles will help make delectable treats for your valentines.
After reading the introduction of “Hello, Sugar! Classic Southern Sweets,” by Beth Branch (2018, Globe Pequot, $27.95), I felt this is the one. Branch writes, “Baking with and for other people is the sweetest gesture, literally and figuratively. You are saying, ‘I made this with my hands. With my time. With my heart. I made this for you.’”
Some of her recipes have been passed down through her family. She has a box of her grandmother’s old and tattered recipe cards, something I wish my grandmother had done. She concluded her introduction saying, “there is just something so special about making those recipes — gifts that keep on giving. That is what I hope this book can do for you.” Now, isn’t this love and what Valentine’s Day is all about?
Check out these decadent chocolate desserts from Branch’s book. For her recipe for Death By Chocolate Mousse Cake, visit https://bit.ly/2MIOQO8.
The headnote says, “This is the dessert you should make when you’re craving something rich and decadent. The salty pretzel crust perfectly balances the sweetness, and there’s even whiskey in the whipped cream!”
To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the crumbs and butter, stirring until all crumbs are coated. Press the crust mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the springform pan. Set aside.
To make the cheesecake: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the yogurt, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt; mix well. Add the chocolate and whiskey, and mix until completely incorporated. Pour the cheesecake batter over the crust in the pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until the edges of the cheesecake are set and the center is still slightly jiggly. Turn off the oven and crack the oven door; let the cheesecake sit in the oven until the oven is cool. This helps prevent cracks in your cheesecake. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours, or overnight.
To make the whipped cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, combine the cream, confectioners’ sugar and whiskey. Whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the chilled cheesecake. Store covered in the refrigerator or cut into slices to serve. Serves 12.
The headnote says, “No, this is not the fruity kind of cobbler. This indulgent dessert is similar to a sticky cake with a gooey sauce on the bottom. Serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and ice cream!”
To make the cobbler: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the milk, butter, vanilla and peanut butter. Stir until the ingredients are well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spread the batter in a greased 8-inch baking dish.
To make the topping: Stir together the cocoa powder and brown sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pan. Pour the boiling water over the top of the batter, but do not mix.
To make the cake: Bake 35-40 minutes, or until the top looks crackled and the center is almost set. Remove from the oven, and cool for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm dusted with confectioners’ sugar or with a scoop of ice cream, if desired. Serves 8.
Febtoberfest craft beer festival: Feb. 7, 6-9 p.m., Mattatuck Museum, 144 West Main St., Waterbury, 203-753-0381. Enjoy tastings of local beer, wine and spirits. $35 in advance, $40 at the door. Snow date is Feb. 21. For tickets https://bit.ly/2ScF8ZF
Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner: “Stupid Cupid” Feb. 8, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489 or https://bit.ly/2O3TQzQ, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a three-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. When invitations are sent to the wrong people by mistake, the results are deadly. Dress in red to compete for a prize.
“Bubbles for Valentine’s Day” Feb. 14, 6:30-8 p.m., Wine101,1220 Whitney Ave., Hamden. 475-202-6657. $40 per person includes class, light cheese and crackers to accompany the tasting and $20 gift certificate to purchase wines after the class. This is a wine appreciation class to further educate your palate by tasting a variety of wines in a professional manner. We’re pouring champagne and everything like champagne. Must be at least 21. Tickets at www.wine101hamden.com/