This Valentine’s, add some panache with ganache

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Dan Bolyard/courtesy photo A little ganache turns ordinary sweets into something special.

It is that time of year again to do something special for your sweetie. Buy some nice roses and make one of the fine treats below. Telling them you made your gift should get you a few extra kisses.

You don’t have to knock yourself out. It could be as simple as a batch of cupcakes with chocolate frosting, though commercial frosting has such a distinctive taste everyone would know you bought it. Why not make a simple ganache for topping your cupcakes, or other yummy treats?

I wouldn’t buy just any chocolate chips for making ganache, as some brands are an interesting mix of ingredients that may not melt as intended. Go for an unsweetened or semi-sweet style chocolate with a short ingredient list.

Any baked good can benefit with the addition of a little bit of ganache. Dip or spread on part or all of the item. Or, just make up a batch and serve with a spoon.

GANACHE

1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate

Place cream in a saucepan over high heat and bring just to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Meanwhile, chop chocolate into small pieces. Place a damp towel on your counter, place pan of hot cream on the towel then add chopped chocolate to the cream. Beat chocolate and cream vigorously until thoroughly mixed. The mixture will solidify as it cools. Use as a filling between cake or cookies when it has cooled to a spreading consistency. Store in the refrigerator until needed again. Gently warm in the microwave to make it spreadable. Can also be used as a topping for ice cream and brownies while still liquid.

SCONES

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup applesauce

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 1/2 teaspoons strawberry or raspberry preserves

Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease cookie sheet. Beat egg slightly in a bowl. Stir in milk, applesauce, butter and almond extract. Stir in remaining ingredients except preserves and powdered sugar just until moistened. Drop dough by 1/4 cupful about 3 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Pat into heart shapes about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch high, using fingers dusted with flour. Make shallow well in center of each heart, using back of spoon dipped into flour. Place 1/2 teaspoon of the preserves in each well. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while warm. Serve warm.

TARTS

2 1/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

Strawberry preserves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, milk, and sifted ingredients. Mix well. Roll out on a floured surface. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutters. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool. Spread strawberry preserves on each cookie and top with another cookie..

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

6 large eggs, separated

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Completely line a 12x16 jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, set aside. In a mixing bowl, whip the egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar until they are lemon-colored and thick. Slowly add the melted chocolate and the vanilla. Continue whipping until very well mixed. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. While beating, slowly add the last 1/3 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture making sure that all the egg white is mixed in. Pour batter into jelly roll pan, smoothing the top as much as possible. Bake for 25 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cake rest for 10 minutes. Remove pan to a wire rack and let cake cool completely. Cut cake into 4 pieces. Make a double batch of ganache. Mix until the chocolate is completely melted. Place in a mixing bowl and run on medium for at least 5 minutes. Spread a little ganache over 3 pieces of cake, spreading to coat evenly. Let cake cool completely. Stack the pieces on top of each other, topping with the fourth piece of cake that has no ganache. Place stack on a wire rack with a pan underneath. Pour warm ganache generously over the top of the cake, letting more drape over the sides, to enrobe cake completely. Let cake drip until cooled. Extra ganache can be used for other things, just scrape up into the bowl. Serve cake as desired.

KAHLUA CAKE

Cake:

2 ounces white chocolate

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 1/3 cup sifted cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Salt

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar, divided

1 egg

1 separated egg

6 tablespoons milk, room temperature

Kahlua syrup:

3 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup Kahlua

Prepare the ganache before mixing and baking cake to allow it to chill.

For the Cake: Melt chocolate and whipping cream together. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool completely. In a bowl, whisk the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup sugar and the butter. Beat in whole egg, egg yolk, and milk until smooth. Stir in cooled chocolate. In small bowl, whisk egg white with dash of salt until soft peaks form. Whisk in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until very thick and glossy and mixture falls from whisk in heavy ribbon. Gently fold egg white into batter. Pour batter into 8 or 9 inch heart shaped cake pan which has been lined with butter and floured waxed paper.

Bake on center shelf of oven at 350 degrees about 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn out of pan, if necessary, first trim any excess crust away from pan rim, and carefully peel away paper. Cool completely. Transfer cake to serving plate. Using wood pick, poke holes about 1 inch deep and at about 1 inch intervals in top of cake. Frost with ganache.

For the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine water, coffee powder and sugar. Stir over low heat to dissolve coffee and sugar. Bring to boil and pour into small bowl. Add Kahlua and stir to blend. Cool and pour over cake.

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