Romantic homemade Valentine desserts

This Valentine's Day, why not treat your loved one to a special homemade dessert, rather than the usual candy or champagne?

In "The Early Show"'s "Five-Minute Cooking School" Monday, cooking teacher and cookbook author Tori Ritchie showed how to make easy, tasty desserts for your valentine.

"The Early Show" partners with specialty home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma for the Five-Minute Cooking School segments. Ritchie teaches them in Williams-Sonoma's flagship store in Manhattan.

Ritchie suggests custards, which she raves about, saying they're not just a breeze to make, they're also fun and elegant to serve.

These recipes are perfect for anytime, she says, but Ritchie put a Valentine's Day spin on them by using beautiful pink and red-colored ramekins.

FOOD TERMINIOLOGY:

Custard is a family of preparations based on milk and eggs, thickened with heat. Most commonly, it refers to a dessert or dessert sauce, but custard bases are also used for quiches and other savory foods. It's a pudding-like dessert that can either be baked or stirred on a stovetop. Custards require slow cooking and gentle heat in order to prevent separation, and may be enhanced by using chocolate, vanilla, fruit, and so on. A classic custard recipe is a pot de crème.

Pot de crème, also called petits pots de crème, has two meanings: It is a rich, creamy custard as well as the name for the container it is normally served in. Pot de crème is extremely convenient for special occasions, because it can be made a few days ahead. What makes it so rich and creamy are the egg yolks that are used rather than the whole egg. These custards are noted for their smooth silkiness.

RECIPES: Petit Pots de Crème au Chocolat, Crème Caramel, and White Chocolate Crème Brulee

Petits Pots de Crème au Chocolat

Before our present obsession with chocolate mousse, lovers of French cooking were filling individual porcelain pots with intensely rich, dense chocolate custard. Although this marvelous dessert looks very sophisticated, there is no great secret to success. Just start with the right kind of small, heatproof cups and a good-quality French, Swiss or Belgian bittersweet chocolate such as Callebaut, Valrhona, Tobler or Lindt.

Mix the ingredients following the recipe instructions precisely, then strain the mixture to rid it of any lumps. Baking the filled pots in a water bath provides the gentle, moist heat the custard needs to thicken properly.

1 cup heavy cream
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs. sugar
1 to 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

Pour the cream into a saucepan over medium heat and heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted and well blended. Let cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Using a whisk, beat until pale yellow and thick enough to fall from the whisk in a lazy ribbon, about 5 minutes. Slowly stir in the warm chocolate cream and add the vanilla extract, to taste.

Place six 1/4-cup pot de crème pots with lids or ramekins in a baking pan. Pour the chocolate mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the pots or ramekins, dividing it evenly. Pour boiling water into the baking pan to a depth of 1 inch. Cover the pots with their lids or the ramekins with a single sheet of aluminum foil. Bake until the custards are just set at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. They should still tremble slightly.

Remove the baking pan from the oven. Place the pots or ramekins on a wire rack, remove the lids or aluminum foil and let cool at room temperature. When cool, cover again and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to 2 days before serving.

Serves 6.

Adapted from "Celebrating the Pleasures of Cooking," by Chuck Williams (Time-Life Books, 1997).

For Ritchie's other two recipes, go to Page 2.

  • Brian Dakss

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