3 recipes to show some sweet love on Valentine's Day

Saskatoon food columnist and blogger shares some of her Valentine's Day ideas

Saskatoon's Renee Kohlman shares some of her top sweet treats

Saskatoon's Renee Kohlman said Valentine's is a great time to get together and cook up some treats. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

You don't have to be in a relationship to enjoy the sweet delights of Valentine's Day, according to a Saskatoon pastry chef.

Renee Kohlman, a columnist for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and a food blogger, is already whipping up ideas for loved ones to bite into over the holiday.

"Sometimes it's just really great to get together with your girlfriends and have have have a dessert party or if you're in love with someone it's a great time to get together and be inside and make food together," Kohlman told CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend.

Part of the inspiration behind making treats is knowing your audience's tastes, whether that's a love for chocolate manifesting in an oozing lava cake, or love for a lighter lemony taste made into a cake filled with tangy lemon curd.

For her nieces, she'll be making heart-shaped Rice Krispie treats decorated with heart-shaped sprinkles, but for her partner, who loves chocolate, she'll be cracking together something chocolatey instead.

Kohlman shared with CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend three of her Valentine's Day recipe suggestions from her 2017 book, All the Sweet Things.

Chocolate Marshmallow Pie

Renee Kohlman's first suggestion is a chocolate marshmallow pie. (Submitted by Renee Kohlman)

Ingredients

  • 1 disc of your favourite pie dough
  • ½ cup chopped (½ inch chunks) dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp. Granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 20 large marshmallows (use a good brand)
  • 1 ¾ whipping cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the rack in the lower third of the oven.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a 12-inch circle and place it in a 9-inch pie plate.
  3. Trim and flute the edges.
  4. Line the pie crust with aluminum foil or parchment paper, making sure it's snug against the edges but not overlapping the top of the pie, and fill it with pie weights or dry beans, being sure to push the beans up the sides. This prevents the sides from sagging and the bottom from puffing up as it bakes.
  5. Place the pie crust on a baking sheet and bake for 12–15 minutes, until the fluted edges of the crust are beginning to turn golden.
  6. Remove the pie crust from the oven.
  7. Remove the foil and weights.
  8. Return the pie crust to the oven (it's still on the baking sheet) and bake for another 8–9 minutes, until the bottom looks lightly golden and dry.
  9. Remove the pie crust from oven and take it off the baking sheet. Let it cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
  10. To make the filling, melt the chocolate, sugar and salt in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until smooth, stirring constantly.
  11. Stir in the milk and marshmallows, and increase the heat to medium.
  12. Stir the mixture constantly, until the marshmallows have completely melted. This does take some time, about 10 minutes, so be patient.
  13. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  14. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the cooled marshmallow mixture until no white streaks remain.
  15. Scrape the chocolate marshmallow filling into the prepared pie crust.
  16. The back of a spoon is great for making it look all swoopy and pretty.
  17. Refrigerate the pie, uncovered, for 1 hour before serving.  

This pie is best eaten the day you make it, but it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day.  

Brown Butter Spelt Brownies

Second up, Brown Butter Spelt Brownies. (Submitted by Renee Kohlman)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 11/4 cups chopped (1/2-inch pieces) dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup spelt flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the rack in the centre of the oven.
  2. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 facing sides. Butter the parchment paper as well.
  3. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  4. The butter will froth and bubble and then turn golden. (It's okay to give it a bit of a stir.)
  5. When it starts to brown and smell nutty, remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate and both sugars until smooth.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition.
  7. The batter will be shiny. Stir in the cocoa powder, salt and vanilla. Mix in the spelt flour just until combined.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it, 25–30 minutes.
  9. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  10. Lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper.
  11. Cut the brownies into 16 squares.

Store the brownies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.

Chocolate Espresso Date Cake

(gluten-free and vegan) 

Third, a gluten-free and vegan chocolate espresso date cake. (Submitted by Renee Kohlman)

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups packed, pitted Medjool dates
  • 2 1/4 cups very strong, hot brewed coffee
  • 2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Topping - Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • 2 cups chopped (1/2-inch pieces) dark chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut cream (from two 14 oz cans of premium full-fat coconut milk)

Instructions

  1. Place the pitted Medjool dates, coffee and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  2. Let them rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, line the bottoms of two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
  4. Grease the bottoms and sides with canola oil or coconut oil.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the rack in the centre of the oven.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, sift in the cocoa (to prevent lumps), then add the flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.
  7. Stir well to combine.
  8. Pour the coffee/date mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process for 1 minute, then scrape the sides of the bowl.
  9. Process for another minute or until the mixture is completely smooth.
  10. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and process until it forms a smooth batter.
  11. Remember to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  12. Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with a mini offset spatula.
  13. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cakes spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the centre of one comes out clean.
  14. Remove and let cool.
  15. Once they're cool, wrap them in plastic until you're ready to ice and assemble the cake.
  16. The cakes can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated.
  17. To make the ganache, scrape the thick coconut cream (not the coconut milk liquid) from the
  18. cans into a medium saucepan—this should be about 11/2 cups.
  19. Reserve the coconut water, as you may need it later.
  20. Bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat.
  21. In a medium bowl, place the chopped chocolate. Pour the hot coconut cream over the chopped chocolate and let it rest for a few minutes.
  22. Stir well, making sure it's very smooth with no lumps.
  23. Chill, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 1–2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.
  24. You want the ganache to be thick enough to spread on the cake. If it gets too thick, place the ganache in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat it with a tablespoon or two of the reserved coconut milk. You want a nice, spreadable consistency (but you don't want it so thin it slides off the cake).
  25. Place 1 cake on a platter or cake stand.
  26. Smear some of the ganache on the platter or cake stand to help the cake stay in place while icing it.
  27. Spread a fair amount of ganache over the cake.
  28. Top with the second cake and completely cover the whole thing with ganache.
  29. Chill the cake for 2 hours before cutting.
  30. Garnish with fresh seasonal fruit and flowers if you're feeling fancy.
  31. Serve it with whipped coconut or dairy cream.

The cake keeps well wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

With files from CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend