What is black and white and red all over and comes in the middle of February? It isn’t a sunburned penguin, nor is it an embarrassed skunk. It’s also not a zebra running through a strawberry patch. Give up? It’s my annual column with recipes for Valentine’s Day. (Black-on-white print in the newspaper that is read all over…)
Sometimes it is hard to write about themes that recur year after year. This is the thirteenth time I need to come up with something for Valentine’s Day. Finding recipes is not difficult; after all, there are numerous sources ready to supply me with ideas for tasty treats. Since there is no one at my house that should ingest chocolate (I am allergic to it, and it is harmful to cats), I usually ignore recipes that include it unless there is something I can use for a substitute. What I find challenging is coming up with something different that I haven’t told previously.
I have already written about my childhood memories of Valentine’s Day. I have informed my readers that my late husband was not a romantic type of guy. He often ignored this holiday altogether. The year I received a balloon bouquet tied to a candy-filled mug, I wondered who in the world had sent it and was totally surprised when I read the card and found out it was from Bob. He usually blamed his lack of interest in Valentine’s Day on the fact that my birthday was later that same month. But I have related all that before.
I did try two new recipes this year; maybe I should write about them. I am on an email list from King Arthur Flour. Recently, one of their communications featured ideas for Valentine’s Day. Intrigued by a couple of their suggestions, I visited their website and printed the recipes. I debated on whether or not to make them; however, a snowy Sunday afternoon provided me a chance to do just that.
Lemon Love Buns are made with yeast. I made the dough in my bread machine (which should be no surprise), but there are directions for using a mixer or kneading them by hand. The dough was surprisingly easy to work with, even when I chose the heart-shaped option. I had to check the website for instructions, as they were not included in the printed recipe. I explained them as best I could in the directions below. The buns turned out exceptionally well; they even looked professional. They are not very sweet, yet they have a wonderful flavor, and the sugar topping is a big plus. The only problem I had with them is keeping myself from eating too many!
The other King Arthur recipe I tried was for Candied Cherry and Almond Biscotti. How could I pass up something that included two of my favorites – cherries and almonds? A couple of months ago, I located some candied dark cherries in a jar of flavored syrup and decided to use them in my biscotti. Although not as colorful as the usual bright red ones, the difference in flavor was remarkable. I put them in a strainer to drain off the syrup and spread them out to dry a bit since candied cherries don’t come in liquid. I halved the cherries before adding them to the dough. As I hoped, the biscotti were scrumptious! They are supposed to be dipped in bittersweet chocolate or to have it drizzled over them. So far mine are plain, but I intend to melt some white morsels and use them instead of chocolate.
Now I have managed to write another Valentine’s Day column. Either one (or both) of these recipes (which are slightly adapted) would make a wonderful treat for your sweetie!
Lemon Love Buns
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk (reserve white for topping)
Zest from 1 medium-to-large lemon (or 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
1/3 cup coarse white sparkling sugar
Combine all dough ingredients in large mixing bowl; stir to form a cohesive dough.
Knead dough by hand, mixer, or bread machine, until it’s smooth, soft, and supple. Avoid adding much flour. If using a stand mixer, use flat beater for 2 minutes, then switch to dough hook and knead an additional 5 minutes. (For bread machine, put ingredients into bread pan and use the “Dough only” cycle; skip next step.)
Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for about 1-1/2 hours. It should be puffy, but may not be doubled in bulk.
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface (no flour). Divide into 16 equal pieces.
To make round buns, round the pieces into balls. To make hearts, roll each piece into a 10-to-12-inch rope. Pick up ends; curl into a capital “G” shape, making an extra tag on both ends instead of just one. With ends side by side, make them touch the center of the opposite side. Pick up the opposite side and slide ends underneath to form a heart shape.
Space shaped buns on two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover and let rise for about 1-1/2 hours or until nice and puffy.
While buns are rising, combine egg white and water. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brush risen buns with egg white mixture; sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake buns for 20 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from oven; transfer to racks to cool. Serve warm or store in airtight container until ready to serve. Makes 16 buns.
Candied Cherry and Almond Biscotti
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1 cup candied cherries
Bittersweet chocolate, for coating
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.
Beat butter and next five ingredients until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs.
Stir in flour; dough will be smooth and sticky.
Stir in almonds and cherries.
Turn dough out onto baking sheet; form into a flattened log about 13-by-3-inches. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes; let cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
Slice the log diagonally into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces. Place cut side up onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven; cool on baking sheet.
When biscotti are completely cool, melt the chocolate. Dip ends of biscotti in melted chocolate, or drizzle chocolate over each one. Yield: 12 to 18 biscotti.