Is dessert worth having if it's not chocolate?
We don't think so.
With Valentine's Day approaching, chocolate is definitely on our minds, and probably on yours, too.
Needless to say, you can run the chocolate gamut when it comes to Valentine's. Your dessert can be very simple, like a plate of well selected Belgian chocolates (we're partial to Leonidas, which you can order online).
Or it can be as elaborate as you can imagine. There's a Cocoa Nib, Chocolate, and Citrus Dacquoise in the February Bon Appétit that looks positively stunning. But it's essentially five recipes in one -- including meringues, a chocolate chiffon cake and a blood orange marmelade -- and it looks like it would take the better part of a weekend to prepare.
We found a sweet spot -- pun intended -- with these Soft Chocolate Cookies with Grapefruit and Star Anise.
These cookies are very simple, but the addition of the grapefruit and star anise gives them a kicky little twist. It's like a citrus lightning bolt zinging through the murky, dark chocolate flavor. And the liquorice taste of the anise isn't really strong enough to detect on its own, but it adds another exotic grace note to these little morsels.
They make for a delicious dessert after a Valentine's Day meal: perfect, light, fun little bites. And, of course, they're chocolate.
A note: To keep these cookies soft and chewy, make very sure you don't overcook them. We baked them for the recommended 10 minutes, and that was probably a hair too long. Check them after 8 minutes, and you'll be much happier.
UPDATED: We forgot to mention this initially, but we doubled the amount of grapefruit zest here. Two teaspoons just didn't seem like enough once we mixed the batter all together. We're glad we did. It wasn't overpowering at all. In fact, we wonder if the grapefruit might just get lost if you only use the amount that's actually called for.
If you're not into the idea of these cookies, we have a few other suggestions.
First, revisit the recipe for Profiteroles with Coffee Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce that we made last March.
Profiteroles are impressive, delicious and much easier than they look.
We have yet to make them again ourselves, but this Valentine's might be just the occasion to do so.
If a pastry/ice cream combo isn't your thing, or you're looking for an easy, no-fail Valentine's dessert, you can't find anything easier than Milk-Chocolate Creams.
They only require 5 minutes of prep, 6 ingredients, and then just an hour to cool in the refrigerator.
Serve them in a martini glass with some fresh fruit as a garnish and your Valentine's date is sure to be impressed.
One last thing: Below is our homage to the Bon Appétit photo of the Soft Chocolate Cookies with Grapefruit and Star Anise. We don't usually try to recreate a magazine's photo so directly, but it was such a great photo, we had to give it a try.
Other ideas for Valentine's Day desserts? Leave them in the comments!
Makes about 40
* 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
* 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced
* 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup sugar
* 3 whole star anise
* 1/4 cup all purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 large eggs
* 2 tablespoons honey
* 2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit peel [we doubled this. See note above]
Combine chocolate and butter in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 10-second intervals until chocolate is almost melted; remove and stir until melted and smooth. Finely grind 1 teaspoon sugar and 3 star anise in spice mill or small coffee grinder. Transfer to small bowl; whisk in flour, cocoa, coarse salt, and baking powder.
Beat remaining 1/4 cup sugar, eggs, honey, and grapefruit peel in large bowl until thick and smooth. Fold in chocolate, then dry ingredients. Cover bowl; chill batter until cold and firm, at least 45 minutes and up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing mounds 2 inches apart.
Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until dry-looking and tester comes out with moist crumbs still attached, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheet 3 minutes, then transfer to racks and cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper.