Valentine's Day Desserts

The executive pastry chef of Gracie's shares recipes starring our favorite ingredient: chocolate.

You could, of course, bestow your sweetie with a box of candy or a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day, but why not whip up something personal, something you both (ahem) can enjoy. We asked Melissa Denmark, executive pastry chef at Gracie’s in Providence, to share her dessert recipes using chocolate, her favorite ingredient (and ours too, for that matter).
“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like it,” she says. We couldn’t agree more.


DARK CHOCOLATE MARQUISE WITH RED CURRANTS AND COFFEE ANGLAISE

Gracie’s has a three-course dessert tasting menu; why didn’t we think of that?

 

Dark Chocolate Marquise

½ cup heavy cream       
¼ cup granulated sugar   
3 eggs, separated    
¼ cup water           
1/3 cup chopped butter           
1 ¾ cup 64% dark chocolate    
1 ½ tsp cocoa powder   
½ tsp salt
    

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place 8 individual ramekins in baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until needed.  Bring a medium size pot of water to a boil. Shut off the heat. In a small bowl whisk together half of the sugar, egg yolks and water. Place bowl over the pot of water; be careful water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Using the steam as a heat source, warm the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly about 5 minutes. Mixture should become very frothy and thicken to “ribbon stage.” If you allow some of the egg mixture to flow off the whisk into the bowl, and a ribbon of the mixture stays visible for several seconds before disappearing, you are there.

Melt together the butter, chocolate, cocoa powder and salt and whisk into egg yolk mixture. In a mixing bowl, whip remaining sugar and egg whites on high speed until medium peaks form. Fold meringue into chocolate mixture in two stages; don’t over mix. Fold in whipped cream until mixture is combined. Spoon into ramekins, filling about ¾ of the way up. Fill baking dish with hot water about 1 inch up the side of the ramekins. Bake 20 minutes or until marquise is puffed in the center and springs back when you press on the center. Cool 10 minutes in baking dish.

Serve warm topped with fresh red currants (or other seasonal berries) and a side of coffee anglaise (see below), which can be poured into the center of the marquise, if desired.
 

Coffee Anglaise

7 egg yolks           
2 cups heavy cream           
2 tsp ground coffee beans
1/3 cup granulated sugar       
¼ tsp salt                

Place egg yolks in a medium bowl, set aside. Heat cream, coffee beans, salt and half the sugar to a simmer. Whisk together the remaining sugar and egg yolks until smooth. Add a small ladle of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Continue to add hot cream a little bit at a time until half the mixture is incorporated. Pour everything back into the pot and heat on a medium-low heat. Whisk constantly until mixture begins to nap, or thicken, and thinly coats the back of a wooden spoon without running off. Strain into a clean bowl, removing the flecks of coffee bean. Cool over ice bath and store in airtight container until ready to serve. Serves 8.
 

 

CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE WITH MATCHA BUTTERCREAM AND ROSE GANACHE

Nasturtiums and Johnny jump-ups add pops of edible color.
 

Chocolate Layer Cake

2 eggs, room temperature   
1 cup granulated sugar       
6 Tbsp butter, melted           
2/3 cup all purpose flour       
¼ cup corn starch           
½ cup cocoa powder       
1 tsp baking soda           
½ tsp salt               
½ cup buttermilk         
1/3 cup brewed coffee, cooled       
1 tsp vanilla extract       
   

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush 2 6-inch cake pans with melted butter or pan spray, then cut out a 6-inch circle of parchment paper and press into bottom of each pan. Place on a sheet pan and set aside.

Using mixer, whip together eggs and sugar at high speed for several minutes until mixture becomes thick and fluffy. Turn mixer down to medium speed and stream in melted butter.
Sift together flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Whisk together buttermilk, coffee and vanilla extract.

 On low speed alternate adding 1/3 of dry ingredients with 1/3 of wet ingredients. Continue until everything is combined. Don’t over mix. Finish mixing by hand with a spatula. Divide mixture in half between two cake pans. Smooth out the surface with an offset spatula and lightly tap out any bubbles by hitting cake pan on the counter with two taps.

Bake 20 minutes, then rotate the pan in the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes. Cake should be done slightly in the center and spring back when you press on it lightly. Use a cake tester or toothpick to test that the center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in cake pan, then run a knife around the edge and flip out onto a cooling rack.  Cool completely before decorating. Cake can be baked one day ahead. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Serves 8.

Matcha Buttercream (Swiss Meringue)

6 egg whites            
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar       
¼ teaspoon salt               
1 pound butter, room temperature   
3 Tbsp matcha tea powder       
 

Place egg whites, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, then shut off heat. Place mixing bowl on top of the pot of water and whisk vigorously until mixture becomes frothy and sugar begins to dissolve.  When mixture is about 130 degrees and sugar is dissolved, remove from heat. Whip with an electric or stand mixer until medium peaks form. Turn down to medium speed and add the butter in two stages. Continue to whip until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Buttercream will sometimes appear broken before it comes together. Be patient. If the mixture doesn’t come together, place it back over hot water bath for 10 seconds and warm up the butter, then whip again.

Add matcha tea powder, whip until very smooth. If you like a stronger matcha flavor, add additional tablespoon.
 

Rose Ganache

1 cup 64% dark chocolate, chopped   
½ cup milk chocolate, chopped       
1 ½ cups heavy cream               
1 tsp rose water      
         

Place chocolates in medium bowl. In a small pot, heat heavy cream until it begins to steam and bubble around the edges. Pour over the chocolate, let sit for 1 minute. Stir with rubber spatula until completely mixed and very shiny. Add rose water and mix until combined. Refrigerate 1 hour or until it reaches a pipable consistency. This can be made a day ahead and pulled from the refrigerator about 3 hours before you decorate your cake. Use a spatula to work the mixture to desirable consistency.

To assemble, use a bread knife to trim top layer off each cake so you have a flat, even surface. Slice each cake into two even layers. Place the first cake layer on cake cardboard or cake plate. Use a piping bag to pipe an even layer of rose ganache about ¼ inch thick on the first layer of cake. Smooth out with an offset spatula. Use the same method to pipe a layer of matcha buttercream on top, about ¼ inch. Smooth out with an offset spatula. Place another cake layer on top. Repeat until you have filled the cake and have a final, top layer of cake.  Using an offset spatula, frost outside and top of cake with remaining matcha buttercream. Decorate with edible flowers and chocolate shavings. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving.

 

 

CHEWY CHOCOLATE GINGER COOKIES WITH CARAMELIZED WHITE CHOCOLATE

The secret ingredient is slivers of white chocolate.
 

¾ cup butter, room temp                    
½ cup light brown sugar           
½ cup dark brown sugar           
1 egg                   
1 egg yolk               
½ cup molasses              
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda               
½ tsp salt                   
1 ½ tsp ground ginger               
1 tsp ground cinnamon           
½ tsp ground clove               
¼ cup cocoa powder           
¼ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped               
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated       
½ cup caramelized white chocolate pieces
Granulated sugar as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On medium speed, cream together butter with light and dark brown sugars until pale and fluffy. Add egg and yolk and mix until fully combined. Scrape down sides of bowl. Turn mixer down to low speed and add molasses. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Add dry ingredients, fresh and crystallized ginger and caramelized white chocolate pieces (recipe below). Mix until combined. Scoop with a cookie scoop and place in bowl of granulated sugar. Toss to coat. Place on parchment lined sheet pan, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake 12 minutes or until edges brown slightly and tops puff up. The cookies should not appear wet in the center. Makes one dozen.
 

Caramelized White Chocolate

½ cup high quality white chocolate, chopped  

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place white chocolate on a silpat or parchment lined sheet pan. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir with a spatula. Chocolate will begin to brown around the edges and melt slightly.

Return to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes. Stir again. Repeat this process until chocolate is golden brown. Allow to cool completely, then place in a food processor and break up into small pieces. Make a big batch and store in an airtight container.

 

 

CHOCOLATE TOFFEE PUDDING WITH OLIVE OIL CHANTILLY AND TOASTED HAZELNUTS

Pudding never looked so elegant.
 

Chocolate Toffee Pudding

¾ cup dark brown sugar    
1 Tbsp molasses        
3 Tbsp butter            
¾ cup heavy cream        
1 cup whole milk        
½ tsp salt           
1 Tbsp granulated sugar        
3 egg yolks       
¼ cup cocoa powder   
½ cup 68–70% dark chocolate, chopped       
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
 

In a medium size pot, heat dark brown sugar, molasses and butter until butter melts and sugars begin to boil. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Once the mixture has boiled about 2 minutes and appears smooth and shiny, add the cream, milk and salt. Return mixture to a boil then shut off the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with 1 Tbsp sugar. Ladle a small amount of hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Add the hot cream mixture slowly to avoid cooking the eggs. Add a total of 3 ladles of hot cream to the egg mixture, then pour all of the egg and cream mixture back into the pot of hot cream.

Add cocoa powder and return to a boil. Cook over medium heat 3–5 minutes, whisking constantly. Mixture should thicken but will continue to thicken as it cools. When it’s the consistency of a pourable pudding, take off the heat. Once thickened, add dark chocolate and vanilla. Whisk until incorporated, then pour into individual ramekins or glasses.
Cover with plastic wrap to avoid forming a skin. Chill 4 hours or overnight. Serve chilled with olive oil Chantilly (recipe below) and toasted hazelnuts. Serves 8

Olive Oil Chantilly

2 cups heavy cream                
2 tsp granulated sugar           
3 Tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil  
Toasted hazelnuts
 

In a cold medium size bowl, whisk together the cream and sugar, until mixture begins to thicken. Add olive oil and whisk until medium peaks form. Spoon on top of chilled chocolate pudding and sprinkle with hazelnuts.
 

 

BLACK COCOA ICE CREAM WITH HONEY MISO BUTTERSCOTCH

New on Gracie’s menu and one of Melissa’s favorites.
 

Black Cocoa Ice Cream

½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt 
4 cups whole milk           
1 cup heavy cream           
¼ cup honey
¾ cup 64% dark chocolate, chopped 
½ cup + 1 Tbsp black cocoa powder

In medium size pot, heat sugar, salt, milk, cream and honey on medium heat until mixture begins to steam and sugar has dissolved.

Place dark chocolate and black cocoa powder in a large bowl; pour cream over the chocolate and let sit one minute.

Whisk until chocolate has dissolved.

Strain and chill to 40 degrees over an ice bath. Process in an ice cream machine based on manufacturer’s instructions.
 

Honey Miso Butterscotch

1 ½ Tbsp honey            
1 cup butter            
1 cup granulated sugar    
3 Tbsp water           
3 Tbsp white miso        
1 cup heavy cream       
½ cup butter           
¼ cup honey           
½ vanilla bean, scraped   
    
In a heavy bottomed, medium size pot, bring first 4 ingredients to a boil. Do not stir. Allow to caramelize to the color of a brown paper bag.

Heat remaining ingredients in microwave or on the stove until butter is melted and mixture is hot. Set aside.

Remove butterscotch from heat immediately after this color is achieved. Slowly whisk in warm cream mixture. Butterscotch will bubble and boil, so go slow. Once everything is combined, allow mixture to cool slightly. Remove vanilla bean and spoon over ice cream.
 

 

BAKED HONEY MERINGUE FILLED WITH CHOCOLATE SABAYON MOUSSE

A version for two debuts on Gracie’s menu in February.
 

Baked Honey Meringue

½ cup granulated sugar       
½ cup honey
1 Tbsp water               
½ tsp salt               
4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Bring sugar, honey, water and salt to a boil, in a small pot. Whip egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Once honey mixture comes to a boil, very slowly stream into the whipping egg whites. Be careful not to pour into the center of the whip or it will spray onto the sides of the bowl instead of in the egg mixture. Turn up to full speed once all ingredients are combined. Whip for several minutes until stiff peaks form. Place in a piping bag fitted with small round piping tip.

On a silpat lined sheet pan, pipe meringue into a beehive or swirly shape. Each meringue should be about 2 ½ inches in diameter and spaced an inch apart. Dry out in the oven about 3 hours. Optional: Torch lightly with a brulee torch or broiler to get a toasted appearance before drying out in the oven.
 

Chocolate Sabayon Mousse

¾ cup 70% dark chocolate, chopped   
¼  cup milk chocolate, chopped       
1 ¾ cups heavy cream               
4 egg yolks               
2 Tbsp sherry wine               
¼  tsp salt                   
¼  cup honey

Microwave the chocolate together in 30-second intervals until melted. Set aside. Whip the heavy cream into soft peaks, and refrigerate until needed. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. In a medium size bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sherry, salt and honey.

Place bowl over the pot of water, but be careful that water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Using the steam as a heat source, warm the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly about 5 minutes. Mixture should become very frothy and thicken to “ribbon stage.” If you allow some of the egg mixture to flow off the whisk into the bowl, and a ribbon of the mixture stays visible for several seconds before disappearing, you are there.

Add melted chocolate to sabayon mixture. Fold with rubber spatula until mixture is almost completely combined.

Add whipped heavy cream in three stages. The first stage, mix well until everything is smooth. The next two stages, fold carefully and gently. Place mixture in piping bag and refrigerate 1 hour. This can be prepared up to two days ahead.

To assemble, use paring knife to cut a 1-inch circle in the bottom of each cooled, dried meringue. Using a small spoon or knife (a grapefruit spoon works great for this), create a cavity about 2 inches tall, 1 inch in diameter. Pipe the chocolate mousse into meringue cavity to fill.

Use a small offset spatula, or butter knife to remove the excess mousse and smooth out the bottom. Serve immediately. Makes 6 meringues.

 

CHOCOLATE COVERED CHERRIES WITH MARZIPAN

The almond accent is a bonus surprise.
 

24 fresh bing cherries, pitted       
1 7-ounce tube marzipan  
1 cup 70% dark chocolate, chopped              
½ cup toasted, ground almonds

Using a cherry or olive pitter, remove pits from cherries. Insert tool into the side of the cherry (horizontally) and leave the stem intact for easy pick up. Set aside.

Break off a small piece of marzipan (marble-size) and knead in your hands. Shape into a small log and insert into the center of the cherry. Flatten any excess on the sides of the cherries to keep cherry smooth and round.

Melt dark chocolate very slowly in 20 second intervals, in microwave, until melted but not hot. Dip each cherry into chocolate mixture using stem as handle. Leave a little bit of red cherry exposed for contrast.

Dip chocolate covered cherries in ground almonds about halfway up.

Place on a plate or sheet pan and refrigerate 10 minutes, or until serving, same day. Makes 24 cherries.