Setting romance aside for a moment, isn’t it really all about the chocolate? Whether you are the giver, the receiver, or both, I’ve got three surefire, heartwarming, quick-and-easy treats that will earn you plenty of points today.
Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches
These are definitely doable for supper tonight if you have a few basic ingredients on hand, or have a minute to drop into the grocery store on the way home.
Those small 100-calorie thin chocolate bars are perfect for this — just break them into pieces to fit the bread. Alternatively, use any chocolate you like, chopped into smallish pieces.
If you’ve already planned dinner out, this would be perfect for breakfast in bed. Consider leaving off the maple syrup, though, because it's really hard to get out of the sheets.
This recipe makes two sandwiches.
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. soft butter or margarine, divided
4 large slices soft white bread
4 oz. chopped chocolate
1/4 cup maple syrup
Whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla in a large shallow bowl. Using about half the butter, lightly coat the insides of the bread slices — that’s four surfaces to butter in all. Distribute chocolate evenly over two of the slices and press their matches firmly on top to trap the chocolate.
Melt remaining butter in a non-stick pan and when it is foamy, add the sandwiches. Brown on one side then flip carefully; brown on the other. Remove from pan and let sit a few minutes to firm up. Cut each sandwich in half and top with maple syrup or serve the syrup on the side for dipping.
Mocha Hazelnut Brownies
Whether you’re cooking at home or eating dinner out tonight, maybe you’d like to consider that perfect chocolate bite to end a perfect evening.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. espresso or regular instant coffee
2 cups chocolate chips
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped hazelnuts or whatever nuts you like
Combine sugars, butter, water and coffee and microwave until boiling; stir at least twice to make sure mixture is well combined. Pour over chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth — a few pieces of chocolate left in the mixture will be fine.
Whisk together eggs and vanilla and stir into chocolate mixture. Whisk together and add all at once flour, baking soda and salt.
Stir just until there are no streaks of dry ingredients. Fold in nuts and spoon into a well-greased 9- 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool in the pan as long as you can resist before cutting.
Chocolate Chip Breakfast Buns
If you're still in a romantic mood tomorrow morning, these are your go-to breakfast treats. They're easy but delicious and great for sharing over a pot of coffee in front of a fire.
If you don’t have cake-and-pastry flour on hand, don’t pass on this recipe. Instead of 2-1/2 cups use 2-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour and add 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Be sure to whisk or sift the flour and cornstarch together thoroughly to lighten the result and to make sure there are no little dots of cornstarch in the final product.
This recipe makes 16 regular buns or 8 large scones. Serve with canned cream — if you can find it — or soft butter and good quality raspberry jam.
2-1/2 cups cake-and-pastry flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, but into small pieces
3/4 cup half-and-half, coffee cream or whipping cream
1 tbsp. vanilla
1-3/4 cups good quality chocolate chips
2 tbsp. coarse sugar, preferably turbinado (optional)
Sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or the tips of your fingers.
If you’re confident you can stop the food processor before you have made the butter bits too small, then by all means bring out the machinery, but if you overdo it, you can’t come back.
Whisk together cream, eggs and vanilla and take out 1 tbsp. of this mixture. Set aside to brush the tops of the scones.
Add the rest all at once to the flour mixture and toss a couple of times with a big spoon. Add chocolate chips and continue mixing until there are no big streaks of dry ingredients, although a few raggedy bits won’t hurt.
Without working the dough too much, pat into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a cookie cutter or small glass dipped in flour. Gather the scraps and as gingerly as you can reshape them and continue cutting.
If you prefer you can form two circles and cut the dough into the traditional triangular scone shape.
Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and brush the tops with remaining egg and cream mixture.
Sprinkle the coarse sugar evenly on top and bake at 400 F for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
You don’t want to overbake these or they will dry out, so start checking early and remove them from the oven as soon as they are golden. You may have to sacrifice one to test for perfect doneness, then eat it yourself. Oh well.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her
c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.