There is no sweeter gift than a little lovin’ from the oven. Warm, tender bites of homemade happiness please the palate and feed the soul. With food and affection so closely tied, perhaps the best advice for Valentine’s Day comes from the Dalai Lama: “Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.”
If you’re looking for something new to add to your arsenal of baked awesomeness, we have three recipes to share—a rustic three-berry tart, easy-peasy creme brulee, and the best-ever red velvet cake. Each varies in degree of time commitment, but all are simple to execute—even if you’re still learning your way around the kitchen.
So grab an apron and get ready to rock someone’s world.
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This rustic tart is adapted from a recipe for blackberry galette, taken from How to Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. I’ve eliminated some of the fuss by substituting store-bought unbaked pie crust instead of making one from scratch.
RUSTIC THREE-BERRY TART
1 unbaked pie crust, room temperature
1 container blackberries
1 container blueberries
1 container raspberries
1 (8-ounce) container creme fraiche
3 tablespoons sugar—or to taste
Preheat oven to 375° F. Place parchment paper on baking sheet. Unroll pie crust, and place on baking sheet. Arrange berries on top—you’ll have leftovers. Leave a couple of inches of crust free. Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons sugar.
Spoon 3 heaping tablespoons of creme fraiche over the top. Sprinkle with remaining sugar—or to taste.
Take the edges of the crust and pinch them up over top to make a rim. Bake until crust is brown and berries are bubbly, about 20 minutes.
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This recipe comes from Debbie Puente’s cremebrulee.com. It doesn’t take a lot of baking time, but you’ll need to allow a couple of hours for chilling in the refrigerator. I’ve made it several times—it’s deceptively easy and makes a big impression.
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
1/4 cup sugar—for caramelizing the top
Preheat oven to 300° F. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add cream and vanilla, and continue to whisk until well blended. Strain into a large bowl, skimming off any foam or bubbles.
Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in a water bath (large pan filled with 1 or 2 inches of hot water) and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard. For best results, use a small, hand-held torch to melt sugar. If you don't have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts. Rechill custards for a few minutes before serving.
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This recipe for red velvet cake was given to me by my friend Caroline, an extraordinary baker. It’s never failed me. The cream cheese frosting is divine. I went back and forth debating whether to let the secret out and include it. In the spirit of the season, here it is:
RED VELVET CAKE
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 1-ounce bottle)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and eggs in large measuring cup. Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until a smooth paste forms.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary. Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture. Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture, and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds.
Using a rubber spatula, give the batter a final stir. Scrape into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.
For the frosting: With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in vanilla and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.
When cakes are cooled, spread about 2 cups frosting on one cake layer. Top with second cake layer and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.
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