Valentine’s Wrap-up (30, 31, 32, 33, 34)

A lot of people have issues with Valentine’s Day (it’s too commercial, we should celebrate love every day, etc.) – and while I can agree, I still like to celebrate it. I think that we should use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to celebrate love (and friendship, for without friendship love won’t last). For the past few years, I’ve really enjoyed making a nice dinner at home, rather than going out to restaurants. It’s always busy when you go out, and I do like to get away from the commercialism of the day. It’s also generally cheaper took cook than to go out to a restaurant (unless you’re grabbing a heart-shaped pizza).

I spent most of the day Saturday in the kitchen since I wanted to do the bare minimum of food preparation on Sunday so that we could watch movies all day. Part of Saturday was spent making Saturday meals (blueberry pancakes, lamb) and doing a little kitchen organizing, but after dinner I got down to some celebratory cooking.

After I did some Sunday prep, I made some (#30) shortbread cookies to take when we went out with friends for drinks that same night. I’ve only made shortbread twice – once in high school (over ten years ago, and I don’t remember the recipe), and once about five years ago. I used this recipe from the 2000 Betty Crocker Cookbook because I wanted something plain that I could frost with my leftover pink cupcake frosting – and I wanted to use my heart cookie cutter for the first time.

I think it’s the nature of shortbread, and not just the recipe, to be tough. The recipe is 2 cups flour, ¾ cup butter, and ¼ cup sugar. I considered the best way to mix these, and decided to cut the sugar and then the flour into the butter with my pastry cutter (like I would for pie crust). Unlike pie crust, which you add water to, there’s nothing else to bind this together. I tried kneading it together by hand, which I’ve had luck with for Mexican Wedding Cookies, but it was still just too crumbly. The recipe said I could add another tablespoon or two of butter, and after I added one, it started to come together. Even so, it took a fair amount of pressure to get it to stick together, although it rolled out nicely after it was a dough.

Shortbread Hearts with pink buttercream frosting – because I love my friends, too

They turned out pretty well. They were delicious out of the oven, and frosted, but they certainly hardened as they cooled. I generally like my cookies a little softer, but they went well enough with a beer.

The next cookie I made was a new recipe for (#31) spritz. I’ve made spritz often using the recipe from the aforementioned Betty Crocker, but I thought I’d try something slightly different, from the Pillsbury Best Cookies Cookbook. [Edit 2017: this is still one of my favorite cookie books, and one that I didn’t downsize when I moved.] This recipe took powdered sugar instead of regular, more sugar, and a little more flour than my usual one. I usually pull my cookie press out for Valentine’s Day or our anniversary (because then I can make little heart cookies without having to roll out dough), but it’s been frustrating to use the past time or two. I’m not sure when I last used it before Saturday.

The dough was very sticky, which naturally makes it fun to get into the cookie press. I realized that I probably just needed to put a little less dough into the press to make the cookie-making process go more smoothly. I mostly have problems with the dough continuing to ooze out, making the dough stick to it instead of the baking sheet. I had some luck with tilting the press to the side to pull it off instead of lifting straight up, and with twisting it a little to cut the dough.

Spritz hearts – because I love sweet little cookies

I should probably make my regular Spritz recipe to compare, but I think I prefer it over these spritz. These were a little fluffier and sweeter than I prefer.

*****

I made us (#32) Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce for breakfast on Sunday morning, but I did almost all of the prep work the night before. The only thing I had to do in the morning was actually cook the crepes. The recipe said to blend the batter and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, so even that was done! I used part-skim ricotta for the filling (“yogurt cheese” that they call for sounds disgusting). I took a break from the kitchen while making the orange sauce, and forgot about it until 10 minutes after I should have removed it from heat. It became much more like orange caramel/brittle mixed with water after the fact. Chocolate sauce was too thick, but still tasted good.

The directions for cooking the crepes were pretty accurate. I tried making crepes a few years ago, and I still can’t shape them particularly well. The crepes were also pretty easy to assemble. It was really nice being able to pull the containers out of the fridge ready-to-go, rather than having to mix everything together right then.

Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce

The orange sauce complimented the mimosas pretty well, although it was grainy from me over-cooking it. I spread out the chocolate sauce globs as I ate. I think this recipe’s a keeper. I think it’s meant to be a dessert, but it works pretty well if you’d like something sweet for breakfast!

Dinner was leftover broccoli soup with garlic bread (from the country loaf I made last week), followed by roasted fennel and steak seasoned with a spice rub (that I made a long time ago and can’t remember exactly what I put in it). I didn’t take pictures of any of this, because none of it was a recipe. None of this was prep-intensive, either. I was happy that I did broil the steak so that it was a good medium-well and not over-done, though.

For dessert I made (#33) Poached Figs with Ricotta. I poached the figs in champagne with a dash of brandy, and used what was left of the container of part-skim ricotta. This was a particularly easy recipe to prepare. I mixed the ricotta, sugar, and vanilla the night before. The figs were easy to quarter and I could leave them to simmer on the stove without having to check on them. I skipped out on the almonds because we were full enough.

Poached Figs with Ricotta

I’m not that good at food photography, so it looked much more delicious than it does here. I’d wanted figs for a long time, and so I really enjoyed this. I would definitely make this again.

I’d planned on having a chocolate fondue in the evening too, but we slept in so late that we didn’t have “breakfast” until almost 1pm! For just such a contingency, I had pulled out a couple of hot cocoa recipes I had wanted to try. I chose (#34) Ginger Spiced Hot Cocoa. You briefly infuse milk with fresh ginger, then mix with a cocoa-sugar-water paste. It was a subtle ginger flavor, but that may be because my ginger was a little old. I think I might use more cocoa powder and ginger than it calls for if I made it again, but I also like my flavors to be stronger. I might make it again!

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