One of the legends behind Valentine's Day is of the execution of a Saint Valentine, who wrote a love letter to the jailer's daughter before his execution, signing it "From Your Valentine." Pretty romantic, even if it is just a legend. I've always been a sucker for romance, even the cliched kind. What can I say? I read a lot of Harlequin romance novels in my 20s.
In elementary school, I remember the teachers emphasizing that everyone got valentines from all their classmates so no one got left out or got their feelings hurt. So it took a lot of thought, going through those boxes of valentines, deciding who would get "You're Sweet", "Be Mine" or "Hug Me", and of course, hoping the boy you didn't like, the one who always wore the smelly brown plaid pants, wouldn't read between the lines and see a crush that wasn't there, and that maybe, just maybe, the one you did like would realize it from that cryptic little phrase chosen especially for him.
Throughout junior high and high school, this cutesy Hallmark holiday seemed to me an exclusive thing, meant only for the pretty cheerleaders dating the guys on the football team, and not for girls with braces, frizzy hair and frumpy clothes (although of course now, I'm grateful for those braces...). At my high school, you could buy flowers for someone and have them delivered during class, and one year I got a rose from an "anonymous admirer". I didn't have a boyfriend, just lots of crushes, and not knowing who the flower was from was pretty much torture. Not getting any flowers at all was almost better than wondering if it was from any number of creepy guys who I didn't want flowers from, since I didn't think I could dare to hope it was from someone I liked. Later I found out it was from my best friend - she meant well, wanting me to feel special that day.
Since my awkward high school days, I came to realize that we don't need a day to tell us when to show our love for the people in our lives, and it's so much more special when it's said impulsively, from the heart, at the moment you feel it. But even so, I like to celebrate the day, even with all its hearts and cupids, pink and red, and of course, chocolate...
For our first Valentine's together, Jamie and I were still living 60 miles apart and only saw each other on weekends; he called me to tell me the sad news that his grandma had passed away, so we changed our plans so he could go back home for her funeral. When he flew back to Denver, I was on my way to go meet him, when not five minutes on the road someone rear-ended my car, totaling it (with just one payment on my car loan left, I might add!). He came to see me that weekend, and then we had our belated but very romantic Valentine's dinner a few weeks later.
Although it's not Valentine's quite yet, I want to share this classic and romantic dessert for two - chocolate pots de creme - simple and quick to make with just a few ingredients, it's the perfect dessert to share on a romantic evening.
At first glance, it looks like nothing more than chocolate, but when you dip your spoon in, all the way to the bottom, you find a rich pool of caramel. I knew Jamie would LOVE the gooey caramel layer.
Chocolate Caramel Pots de Creme
- 2 tablespoons caramel topping
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 ounces unsweetened, good-quality chocolate, chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Spoon the caramel topping (if you'd like to make your own, go for it - I used the storebought stuff) into the bottom of two 8-ounce ramekins and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the cream bubbles, remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk together the cream and chocolate until thick and smooth.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla. Temper the eggs by whisking in as small amount of the chocolate cream, then whisk the eggs into the chocolate cream. Pour the custard into the ramekins, on top of the caramel.
Place ramekins in a baking dish. Pour boiling (or very hot from the tap) water into the baking dish, so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes - the edges should be set and the centers should still be jiggly. Carefully, remove the ramekins from the water and set on a wire rack to cool for an hour. Place in the refrigerator to cool for several hours before serving (or you can serve them warm, whatever you prefer). If desired, top each serving with fresh whipped cream and berries.
Yields 2 servings.
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen.