Hallmark holiday or not, I love Valentine's Day. The Blond and I got engaged on Valentine's Day, and we make a point of celebrating it every year with a special dinner and various treats. The one thing we skip? Roses. Flowers in general don't always go well in a house full of cats. But ever since that special Valentine's Day when he cooked me a nice dinner (it was several years before we became vegetarians, and the main course was chicken of some sort. In a plum sauce, if I remember correctly). The proposal came after dessert (chocolate mousse, most likely), with our cat (there was only one at that time, if you can believe it) as a witness. My perfume that night? The original Tiffany, which was what I wore on our first date.
These days you will not get me to marry you with a chicken dinner. Neither the husband nor I can even stand the smell of chicken. Stove-top mac&cheese with a blend of really good cheeses (must have Appenzeller, and preferably some smoked Gouda) will improve your chances greatly. My other favorite treats are all sweet: chocolate dipped candied orange peels, Turkish delight, marrons glacés. It's no wonder that these sinful little things are well-represented among my favorite perfumes. Aftelier Cacao is a brilliant chocolate and orange fragrance, and for Turkish Delight there are several brilliant loukhoum options. I'm craving the one by Ava Luxe right now. However, I have yet to find a marron glacé perfume. Do let me know if you have a suggestion.
It doesn't matter if you're planning a romantic dinner for two or need a treat for yourself, few things are easier yet satisfying as really good chocolate brownies. I'm sharing my recipe ahead of time, so you can make it on Valentine's Day or any night you wish. We all need something to take the edge off in this weather, after all. I adapted the recipe from one by Jack Bishop that originally appeared in the 1995 book "Cooking With Friends" (another sweet link to the Blond's and mine early years together), and I make them for him when I see that he can use a pick-me-up.
These brownies rely on the quality of the ingredients, mainly the chocolate. Use the best pure unsweetened chocolate you can find. The brand we buy at our local Whole Foods is the Belgian Callebaut, but there are several good ones. A good vanilla extract is also essential, and I also add a few drops of Aftelier Chef's Essence in Wild Sweet Orange, though I plan to experiment with other ones (Jasmin Sambac? Rose?).
Gaia's Perfect Brownies
8 tbs (1 stick or 114 grams) unsalted butter
2 ounces (57 grams) unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar (you may increase to 2/3 cup if you have a very sweet tooth)
2 large eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
3 drops Aftelier Chef's Essence in Wild Sweet Orange
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate together (I use the microwave), and stir until smooth. While it cools down slightly-
3. Sift together flower, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
4.Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture, add the vanilla and the Chef's Essence. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork and add them into the chocolate.
5. Fold the flour mixture into the chocolate. The batter will look glossy and its consistency becomes almost gel-like.
6. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, just until the cake becomes firm enough. The magic of these brownies is that they're not dry.
7. Let cool (at least a little), cut into squares. Devour.
For more Valentine's Day specials please visit Perfume Shrine, where Elena brings us a literary angle, and Chemist in a Bottle who brings us interesting facts about the chemistry of love.