Chocolate, flowers and cards have been associated with Valentine’s Day since the day of love was taken from the Pagans hundreds of years ago, and renamed Valentine’s Day by the Christian church of that day. Ever since, these three have tended to hang out together where there is love and why not?
We all know chocolate is an aphrodisiac. It contains an endorphin called phenylethylamine, which in the brain has been linked to falling in love. Chocolate has been used as a gift since the days of the Aztecs, who believed it to be a source of spiritual wisdom, energy and higher sexual prowess.
Flowers became associated with love in the 1700s when Charles 11 of Sweden brought the Persian poetical art known as the “language of flowers” to Europe, which listed the symbolic meanings of different flowers. The red rose was believed to be the favoured flower of Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love, and has come to represent romantic love ever since.
The giving of cards originated with the conversion of the Pagan fertility rituals to Christianity when Roman males of the day refused to accept the ideas of the Church. In the end they established their own custom of sending written greetings of affection to the young ladies of their fancy.
Since chocolate is the only food of the three, I’m offering two very delicious recipes for you to try.
Valentine Chocolate Brownie Tart
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3-1/4 cups (20 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
3 extra-large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts
2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Grease and flour a 9-inch tart pan with removable sides. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a bowl set over simmering water. Add 2 cups of the chocolate chips, remove from the heat, and stir until the chocolate melts. Set aside to cool completely.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, coffee and vanilla on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cooled chocolate.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the walnuts. Fold the flour mixture into the batter until just combined. Pour into the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the centre is puffed (the top may crack). The inside will still be very soft. Cool to room temperature before removing the sides of the tart pan.
Melt the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips with the heavy cream and drizzle on the tart.
Extreme Chocolate Lover’s Cake
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup boiling water
6 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 (9 inch) pans.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the top of a double boiler, heat 6 ounces chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the melted chocolate.
Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Make the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: In the top of a double boiler, heat 6 ounces chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.
In a large bowl, whip the butter for about 10 minutes until it is super fluffy, beat in egg yolk. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar, alternating with 2 tablespoons vanilla and 2 tablespoons cream, then blend in the melted chocolate. Beat in the softened cream cheese.
Make the Ganache: In a large saucepan, combine chocolate chips and 1 cup heavy cream. Heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
Assemble the cake: When cake is completely cooled, cover the bottom cake layer with as much ganache as desired. Refrigerate for 5 minutes, or until ganache has set. Spread frosting over the ganache. Cover with top layer of cake. Frost top and sides with buttercream, and garnish with more ganache.
Serve with fresh raspberries if desired.
Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.