February is all about Love

Yes, February is gray and cold, but Valentine’s Day gives us a reason to shake off winter’s grip and redirect our attention, creativity, and love toward the special one in our life. The purpose of my blog is to inform and get you familiar with some of the neat culinary gadgets that are out there – tools that make cooking fun, easy, and interesting. With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s time to start thinking about a really special dessert to make, and the tools you might need.

I’ll begin with something simple that needs no preparation. Maybe your Valentine is a wine lover. For oenophiles (yes, that’s a word!), perhaps it’s a favorite bottle of wine, or buying the best wine corkscrew in the world. That distinction, hands down, belongs to Monopol. Yes, they’re pricey, but they’re worth it. The best-known Monopol bar tools are the Bacchus and the Barolo. Each is a study in the beauty of design and magnificent engineering. I invite you to take a look. Two things need to be said about these corkscrews. First, Monopol corkscrews are serious barware for the serious wine lover…someone who instantly recognizes the name “Monopol”, or someone who loves their home bar as much as they love their life. Second, I need to insert a word of caution: If you are price shopping in Internetland, and find the price of Monopol on a site that seems too good to be true, it’s usually because it is. Quality item like these German-made wine tools have been copied and are not authentic. Enough said.

Back to Valentine’s Day. Since we’re a website for foodies, I want to focus on food: this month, desserts. Since it’s the Month of Love, getting you comfortable enough to tackle a dessert or two that you might have thought was a challenge…a dessert that might evoke a response from your Valentine, like – YOU DID THAT FOR ME?! – is what I want to accomplish. Planning a special Valentine treat is a great time to advance your culinary skills to a whole new level.

A Valentine’s Day favorite that is a must-try is a creamy, dreamy, heart-shaped dessert called Coeur a la Crème. There are no serious challenges here…it’s so easy and pretty inexpensive. What you will need is a heart-shaped mold, cheesecloth, and a few very simple ingredients. The recipe can be found on the web page for the Coeur a la Crème mold. This dessert is delicious, beautiful, and very special! You’ll see that there is a large mold – perfect for a small group – and individual molds. What makes this dessert so scrumptious is serving it topped with fresh fruit and a fruit sauce so that every bite has something creamy and fruity. The contrasting flavors are divine.

Moving on to another Valentine’s dessert heart throb, there isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t love crème brulee. There are hundreds of recipes for this crowd pleaser that all share the same basic ingredients of cream, eggs, and sugar. Variations in flavor can include infusing just a bit of lemon zest, Amaretto, or lavender flowers into the custard, being careful not to overdo it. Recipes for every variety of crème brulee can be found in books or online, and are so simple to make.

Part of the allure of crème brulee is the crunchy carmelized sugar topping, so delicate that it will shatter at the touch of your spoon. By the time you’re ready to think about carmelizing the top of your crème brulee, your custard should be set. To carmelize sugar you’ll need a culinary torch. Do some research on the number of uses for a culinary torch. There are quite a few, from melting cheeses to putting finishing touches on meringues.

Remember that carmelizing the sugar on the top of the crème brulee happens right before serving. The custard should be set before sprinkling the sugar on top. Don’t be too sparing with the sugar. It takes more than just a pinch in order to carmelize. If you see that you haven’t added enough, don’t be shy — add more and torch. Be patient as you use your culinary torch. It will take the sugar a few moments to carmelize, but keep a close eye on it, because it will go quickly.

Both the Coeur a la Crème and Crème Brulee desserts will make you want to rush through dinner. I hope you don’t do that. Enjoy your meal with a nice glass of wine, knowing that good things (great things!) are worth waiting for. Bon appétit!