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Year-round, food can be an expression of love. At no time, however, does it take on more romantic meaning than on Valentine's Day.
Sure, there are flowers, jewelry, perfume, or other luxuries. But I think that sharing something delicious and sensual beats just about anything else for kindling romance.
Of course, as a chef and restaurateur, I have a personal interest in filling my dining rooms with guests on Valentine's Day. Nevertheless, I would like to suggest that you'll get extra-romantic results if you cook something wonderful at home for that special someone.
What to serve? We've all heard mention of the stimulating powers of foods like oysters or caviar, especially when judiciously accompanied by Champagne or iced vodka. Some people find sharing pasta romantic. (Think of the famous spaghetti scene in the
Then there's chocolate. It has been believed to heighten romance since at least as far back as Mexico's Aztec Empire, more than six centuries ago. And present-day scientists have actually isolated two naturally occurring compounds in chocolate, phenylethylamine and serotonin, that may positively affect our moods.
But who wants to talk about science when the simple fact is that, for reason, chocolate tastes so good and makes so many people happy? What better reason do you need to make a chocolate dessert for your Valentine?
I suggest you make a chocolate dessert that's both simple and incredibly delicious: little donuts, or beignets. Pronounced "ben-yay," these simple deep-fried pastries are an old French specialty that became popular in New Orleans, where tourists and residents alike still enjoy them today.
Beignets are usually prepared with a yeast-leavened dough. But they can also be made much more quickly from a simple, cake-like batter leavened with baking powder, into which it's easy to incorporate a rich chocolate flavor with some cocoa powder. You can even have all the ingredients measured and assembled in advance, ready to stir together while you heat up the oil for deep-frying them.
Don't be concerned about deep-frying your dessert. Cooked at the proper temperature, my recipe will come out perfectly crunchy, tender, moist, and grease-free. A reasonably priced countertop electric deep-fryer, widely available in cookware stores and online, can do the job efficiently and safely. (You can also deep-fry in a heavy pan on the stovetop using a deep-frying thermometer, though that demands more attention.)
Dust the hot-from-the-fryer beignets with a mixture of powdered sugar and cocoa powder, and you have a dessert that just begs to be picked up and eaten. I'll leave it up to you whether you feed yourself or hand-feed them to your loved one.
Chocolate Beignets Recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: Makes 12
Chocolate Beignets Recipe Ingredients
2 extra-large cage-free eggs
1/2 cup milk, plus extra as needed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 cups vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Chocolate Beignets Recipe Directions
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 cup milk, granulated sugar, and vegetable oil. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the sifted flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until thoroughly blended. You should have a thick and scoopable but still moist batter; if the mixture seems a little too dry or thick, stir in a tablespoon or two more of the milk.
Put the oil into an automatic countertop deep-fryer and set the thermostat to heat to 350 degrees F. Or put the oil in a deep, heavy pot and heat on the stovetop to 350 degrees F. on a deep-frying thermometer.
Meanwhile, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a clean, medium-sized mixing bowl. Set aside.
Scoop up the batter in balls measuring about 2 tablespoons each, carefully easing each ball into the hot oil to avoid spattering; if necessary, fry in batches to avoid overcrowding. Fry for 1 minute. Then, with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, turn over all the beignets and fry for 1 minute longer, until evenly darkened and crusty-looking.
With the deep-fryer basket, wire skimmer, or slotted spoon, remove the beignets from the oil to a platter or tray lined with a double layer of paper towels. Fry any remaining batter in the same way.
While still hot, carefully transfer the beignets a few at a time to the bowl of cocoa sugar and, with a fork or spoon, turn gently to coat. Transfer to dessert plates and serve hot.
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