Another holiday, another glorious excuse to get together with some of my best blogger pals to entice you with delicious treats. It’s a Valentine’s Day Holiday Food Party, y’all! Hosted once again by the hilarious and talented Jen of Jen’s Favorite Cookies.
I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day although I was when I was younger. It was always a pretty big deal in high school. We had a carnation sale every year where you could buy a carnation in either yellow, white, pink or red and send it to a special someone to be delivered during class time. It was a big popularity contest to see which girl and guy would receive the most flowers. To make ourselves feel better, my friends and I would send flowers to each other. Ain’t no shame in that, right?
One year, a group of us got together and offered singing telegrams. It was so much fun! I don’t think we picked the most appropriate songs (one of them was by Shai. It was either If I Ever Fall in Love or Freak Me. Damn my terrible memory! It couldn’t have been Freak Me. Even I had the good sense not to want to sing that in front of my teachers!). Everything back then was uber dramatic and emotional. Did you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Did you have a date for the Valentine’s Dance? Did your boyfriend get you flowers ‘n chocolates and make you a romantic mixed tape? Or would you have to huddle in a group with your single girlfriends at the dance and try not to stare at the cutest boy in school who picked another equally popular girl to be his date while you cry and stuff your face with cake? NOT that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
I can’t even remember the last time the Husband and I celebrated Valentine’s Day. I think last year I spent Vday mopping up water after our washing machine flooded. Good times! I’m not complaining though. I’m a practical gal – I’d rather save our money than go out to a crowded restaurant and pay a fixed inflated fee for a mediocre menu. Plus, don’t bring me flowers. I’d rather have the cash. Or cake. What am I talking about? Gimme both!
The best part of Valentine’s is the food. We’ve waited too long after Christmas for the next holiday that smiles upon pure indulgence. Let’s revel in the glory that is this list of amazing desserts:
1. Chocolate Dipped Sttrawberry Hi Hat Cupcakes (Gluten Free) from Pineapple and Coconut
2. Frosted Cream Cheese Cutout Cookies from Magnolia Days
3. White Chocolate Mousse with Frangelico from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
4. Chocolate Caramel Pretzel ‘n Chip Tart from Gotta Get Baked
5. White Chocolate Cherry Brownies from The Messy Baker
6. Chocolate Champagne Cupcakes from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
7. Sugar-Free Blueberry Yogurt Truffles from What Smells So Good
8. Strawberry Cheesecake Heart Pie from Hungry Couple NYC
9 Red Velvet Heart Sandwich Cookies from Jen’s Favorite Cookies
10. Chocolate Cannoli Cones from Created By Diane
11. Cherry Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes from Chocolate Moosey
12. Nutella Brownie Cheesecake No-Churn Ice Cream from Cupcakes and Kale Chips
13. Valentines Smores Hearts from Kelly Bakes
14. Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies from Roxana’s Home Baking
Make sure you visit all of my friends and pin/share/squeal and drool over their fabulous, gorgeous, indulgent treats.
What did I make? This faaaaaaah-bulous chocolate caramel pretzel ‘n potato chip tart on top of a brown butter shortbread crust. It tastes like the most addictive, decadent, salty ‘n sweet, crunchy, creamy chocolate bar. I had to give it all away or else I would’ve eaten the entire thing myself.
Aaaaaaand if you’re in the mood, here’s Shai’s Freak Me while you learn how to make this masterpiece!
Brown Butter Shortbread Crust (lightly adapted from Martha Stewart)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Have a 10 inch tart pan nearby. You don’t need to butter it since the crust will be buttery enough.
To brown the butter, cut it into pieces and melt it in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly – the butter will start to foam and you’ll see little brown bits form at the bottom of the pan. As soon as the bits turn amber, remove it from the heat. Watch the butter carefully – it can very quickly go from amber to burnt. Immediately pour the browned butter into a bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer and let it cool. Place it in the fridge until it solidifies. Remove from the fridge and let it soften slightly.
Using a hand mixer or your stand mixer, beat the brown butter until it’s smooth and creamy. Sift in the flour, icing sugar and salt. Mix on low speed until combined.
Transfer the dough to the tart pan and press evenly into the bottom and the sides. I found the dough to be a bit dry but it softened and melded together due to the heat from my hands. Martha’s recipe says to transfer the prepared pan into the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. Oops, I totally missed that step. I don’t think my tart suffered from the omission.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees C. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes to 20 minutes. If the crust is browning unevenly, rotate the pan. Watch your crust very carefully. I actually left mine in a few minutes too long and it burnt a bit. Sigh. Remove from the oven and let the crust cool.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (use the best quality chocolate you can for the best flavour)
1 1/4 cup whipping cream or heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp, cut into one inch cubes
Chop the dark chocolate as fine as you can and put it in a heatproof bowl. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, heat the cream until it comes to a rolling boil and remove from the heat. Pour half the cream into the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Pour in the rest of the cream and stir to combine. Drop the butter in a few pieces at a time and stir until melted. The butter will make the ganache silky and super glossy.
Set the ganache aside to cool to room temperature.
Caramel (lightly adapted from from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours p. 355)
1/2 cup whipping cream or heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temp
1 tsp salt
1 cup pretzels, broken into small pieces
1 cup potato chips (I love rippled Ruffles), broken into small pieces
Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan. At the same time or very shortly thereafter, place a medium skillet (preferably non-stick) over medium heat and sprinkle in about 1/3 of the sugar in an even layer. When it melts, stir it with a wooden spatula (I used a rubber spatula) and sprinkle in another 1/3 of the sugar. When that melts, sprinkle in the remaining sugar. If the sugar is turning amber, that’s ok. That’s what you want. Stir in the corn syrup and let the syrup boil until it reaches a deep caramel colour. If it smokes, that’s ok.
Stand back a bit and stir in the butter. The mixture will bubble and spatter. After the butter has been mixed in, add the warm cream. Your mixture will bubble furiously again. Just keep stirring until everything is evenly incorporated. Lower the temperature and let the caramel boil for another two minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the caramel into a heatproof bowl to cool. After the caramel reaches room temperature, add in the pretzels and potato chips and stir until it’s all covered evenly in caramel.
To Assemble the Tart:
Pour the caramel mixture into the cooled shortbread tart. Using the back of a spoon or your rubber spatula, press it into an even layer. Give the ganache a good stir before pouring the ganache overtop the caramel layer. Smooth the top of the ganache if needed. Place the tart into the fridge to chill for at least an hour before serving.
If you wish, you can either eat the tart immediately out of the fridge or let it come to room temperature a bit if you’d prefer the ganache and caramel to soften.
A few notes: don’t let your crust burn like I did! Also, next time I’m going to double the amount of caramel because one can never have enough.