French liqueurs sweeten Valentine's Day dessert recipes

Valentine's Day should be something special, way beyond a box of chocolates or a bouquet of roses. Perhaps a memorable dessert is just the magic ingredient for love.

Creating unforgettable sweets for your sweetie on the sweetest day takes a little ingenuity, and for this we turn to a few extraordinary French liqueurs.

Chambord

Chambord, made in the fertile and rich Loire Valley, is a luscious black raspberry liqueur infused with red raspberries, blackberries and currants and is finished with notes of vanilla, honey and ginger.

"With the flavors of berry, vanilla, honey, herbs and sweet aromatics, Chambord lends itself to a host of desserts and savory dishes," says Tim Laird, chief entertaining officer for Brown-Forman, one of America's largest wine and spirits companies. "Anything chocolate such as cupcakes, brownies or truffles make for perfect pairings."

The ambrosial characteristics of Chambord's top notes of raspberry are delicious as an aperitif or digestif for a romantic dinner, but it also pairs perfectly with dark and bittersweet chocolate, Laird says. That means when it comes to baking it can be used in a number of ways.

If your recipe calls for rum, or gin-soaked raisins, for example, substitute Chambord instead. Tired of vanilla flavoring in your recipes? Chambord is a sexy surrogate for vanilla, really adding ooh-la-la to any cookie or brownie recipe. Laird also says it can be added to marinades for savory dishes such as pork or added to cranberry sauce.

Adds Laird, "One of the easiest desserts is to add a little Chambord to whipped cream as a topper for cakes, pies, tarts or fresh fruit. I also like to use Chambord when making a raspberry sauce. Simply blend together fresh or frozen raspberries with sugar to taste and add Chambord. The Chambord takes the raspberry flavors to new heights."

Cointreau

Cointreau is another sweet favorite liqueur. One great thing about Valentine's Day is it is still winter and the prime season for fresh citrus and citrus flavors like Cointreau. Blended with both sweet and bitter orange peels, Cointreau brings home golden, fruity warmth.

Of course, like most French liqueurs, Cointreau pairs well with decadent chocolate desserts, but with both sweet and salty undertones, it can be sprinkled with a touch of olive oil on a citrus-based salad. And for your next seafood dish, it can be blended with butter for a more savory meal.

Grand Marnier

Then there's Grand Marnier, an elegant floral and fragrant orange peel-based cognac from France. Both sweet and strong, Grand Marnier is long on citrus with hints of oak and brown sugar. It's a real burst of flavor, a smidge more robust than Cointreau, so a little goes a long way.

While it dazzles in desserts, try mixing it with butter and marmalade for a quick spread that's delicious on crusty French bread — or use it as a base with peanut butter for a surprisingly good adult-style PB&J. Or add just a touch — a teaspoon or two at the most — in butter-cream frostings, cupcakes, muffins and fruitcake. It works well as a glaze for poultry, too.

Now for the Valentine's Day finish: Cap off your amorous evening with a half ounce, maybe an ounce at the most, of Chambord, Cointreau and Grand Marnier trickled into the bottom of a flute glass, then top it with good, no, make that great Champagne.

Other French liqueurs that work well with Champagne — and in cooking — and of which I have sampled and adore, are Benedictine with its unusual and exotic blend of 27 plants and spices, St.-Germain with its incredible elderflower scent and floral sweetness, or the rare Creme Yvette, with its subtle flavors of violets and vanilla.

Whether you're cooking or sipping, French-inspired liqueurs make quite the splash.

>>easy

Chambord Black Raspberry Brownies

1 box devil's food cake mix

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup oil

¼ cup water

¼ cup Chambord

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

¼ cup confectioners' sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick foil. Combine cake mix, eggs, oil, water and Chambord. Fold in semisweet chocolate chips. Pour into prepared baking pan and smooth. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool to room temperature before cutting. Dust with confectioners' sugar (optional) and slice brownies into 3-inch squares (makes 12). Top with ice cream and 3 to 4 ounces of Chambord.

>>moderate

Chocolate Chambord Souffle

3 large egg yolks

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons Chambord

2 cups heavy cream, divided

3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place egg yolks in large mixing bowl. Combine the sugar and water in a small pan and boil for 1 minute. Pour the sugar mixture over egg yolks, then mix well. Add Chambord. Set aside.

In separate bowl, whip 1 cup of heavy cream to medium peaks. Using a mixer, whisk the egg and Chambord mixture until thick and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time. Remove bowl from the heat and let cool until tepid.

Fold the egg mixture and whipped cream into the chocolate mixture until just combined. Spoon into favorite stemware, or serving bowl. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Can be made a day ahead. Before serving, whip remaining heavy cream with confectioners' sugar until stiff peaks form. Garnish with whipped cream and mint sprigs.



>>moderate

Cointreau's Prosecco Zepolas

With Dark Hazelnut Chocolate

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

¼ cup hazelnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons heavy cream

¼ cup Cointreau

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons each of freshly squeezed lemon and lime juices

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Zest of 1 orange

Canola oil for frying

2 cups boxed beignet or doughnut mix

Prosecco, about 7 ounces, to be used as a leavening

All-purpose flour for rolling dough

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Make a thick ganache by stirring together chocolate, hazelnuts and cream over a double boiler on medium-low heat. Fill pastry bag with chocolate and attach a small round tip.

For the syrup, reduce Cointreau, sugar, juices and zest.

Heat oil to about 370 degrees. Make dough according to package directions, substituting Prosecco for water. Form 2- by 1-inch shapes of dough and fry about 8 to 10 seconds or until lightly browned on each side.

When cooled, pipe chocolate mixture into center of zepolas. Drizzle top with syrup. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Serves 10 to 12.

French liqueurs sweeten Valentine's Day dessert recipes 02/12/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 5:35pm]

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