Try these liqueur-based treats for Valentine's Day
BY MARY ANN ANDERSON McClatchy-Tribune
Sunday, February 10, 2013
2/10/13 at 6:07 AM
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. Think the likes of Chambord, Cointreau and Grand Marnier.
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 if not remarkably well with dark and bittersweet chocolate, as Laird suggests. 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 all your recipes? Chambord is a sort of sexy surrogate for vanilla, really adding ooh-la-la to any cookie or brownie recipe. Laird also says that it can be added to marinades for savory dishes such as pork or added to cranberry sauce to accompany turkey dinners.
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 is another sweet favorite liqueur. One of the great things about Valentine's is that 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 is a lovely spirit that brings home golden, fruity warmth.
"Cointreau is not only a key ingredient in making the best cocktails especially for Valentine's Day," said a Cointreau representative, "but also it is a wonderful product for cooking."
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, whether for lobster, scallops or crab, it can be blended with butter for a more savory dish.
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 of it 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 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, and 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 personally 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 CrÃ¨me Yvette, with its subtle flavors of violets and vanilla.
Whether you're cooking or sipping, French-inspired liqueurs make quite the splash.
CHAMBORD BLACK RASPBERRY BROWNIES
Yield approximately 12 servings
1 box Devil's Food cake mix
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Chambord
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick foil.
2. Combine cake mix, eggs, oil, water and Chambord.
3. Fold in semi-sweet chocolate chips.
4. Pour into prepared baking pan and smooth. Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool to room temperature before cutting.
5. Dust with confectioner's sugar (optional) and slice brownies into 3-inch squares. Top with ice cream and 3 to 4 ounces of Chambord.
COINTREAU'S PROSECCO ZEPOLAS WITH DARK HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup Cointreau
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons each of freshly squeezed lemon and lime juices
1/4 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 (optional)
1. 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.
2. For the syrup, cook Cointreau, sugar, juices and zest until liquid has reduced and thickened.
3. Heat oil to about 370 degrees. Make dough according to package directions, substituting Prosecco for water. Form 2-inch-by-1-inch shapes of dough and fry about 8 to 10 seconds or until lightly browned on each side.
4. When cooled, pipe chocolate mixture into center of zepolas. Drizzle top with syrup. Garnish with sesame seeds if using.
GRAND MARNIER CRÃˆME BRULEE
Makes 5 ramekins
5 ounces milk
5 ounce whipping cream
1 vanilla bean
Zest of 1 orange
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
1 1/2 ounce sugar
5 egg yolks
5 ounces brown sugar
1. Finely grate the orange zest and let it macerate in the Grand Marnier for an hour.
2. Bring the milk and cream to a boil. Add the vanilla bean, the Grand Marnier-macerated orange zest mixture and the sugar and let infuse for an hour. Strain to remove the vanilla bean and the orange zest.
3. Add the egg yolks, mixing gently so that the mixture does not froth. Pour into ramekins and cook in the oven following two possible methods:
4. The crÃ¨me brulee is cooked when it is set in the middle and "trembles" when the ramekin is tapped. Remove the cremes brulees from the oven and allow to cool. Place them in the refrigerator.
- At 230 degrees in a traditional oven (heated from both top and bottom) in a double boiler for approximately 50 minutes
- At 175 degrees in a convection or forced convection oven without the double boiler (more difficult) for approximately 30 minutes.
5. Just before serving, sprinkle with a thin layer of brown sugar and caramelize with a blowtorch or under the broiler (more difficult).
6. If the custard cooks too quickly, it will be slightly granular, not creamy as it should be. If moisture has formed on the surface of the crÃ¨me brulee when it is taken from the refrigerator, soak it up with some paper towels before sprinkling with sugar. Serve with a snifter of Grand Marnier or Grand Marnier Louis-Alexandre.
French liquers such as Chambord, Cointreau and Grand Marnier are not only fabulous in cocktails; consider using them to create memorable desserts as well. Courtesy