Treats for Your Valentine

Say “I love you” with these wonderful new treats served to your family and loved ones for Valentine’s Day. Not all treats have to be full of sugar or chocolate, but I have to have my chocolate since it is my comfort food.

Tenderest Cardamom Pancakes

In “Yogurt Culture” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), author Cheryl Sternman Rule uses yogurt to transform a simple whisk-up batter into the lightest, fluffiest, most tender and magical pancakes imaginable. Any extra batter keeps nicely in a covered jar in the fridge for two to three days.  Cheryl suggests for the best pancakes ever, invest in a cast-iron griddle or skillet since non-stick pans won’t come anywhere close to helping you reach true pancake nirvana!

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (not Greek)

1 1/2 cups milk, whole or 2%

4 large eggs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus additional butter for the griddle maple syrup and/or additional yogurt for serving (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt and milk until smooth. Then whisk in the eggs, followed by the butter. Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry. Switch to a large silicone spatula and combine thoroughly, sweeping the sides and bottom of the bowl; do not over mix. The batter will be a bit lumpy but should have no powdery pockets.  Set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat a cast-iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. When a drop of water on the griddle sizzles and evaporates, coat the griddle with butter.  Dragging your spoon or scoop in a round (this creates thinner pancakes), distribute about 3 tablespoons batter per pancake onto the griddle. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until deep golden. Work in batches, slicking the griddle with more butter as you go. Serve with maple syrup and additional yogurt if desired.

Makes 30 to 40 pancakes.

Root Vegetable Gratin

Unlike most gratins, which are usually weighed down with lots of cream and cheese, this one delivers rich flavor with just a little dairy and the sharp, nutty taste of Gruyere.  From local cook and author Jonathan Bardzik, this recipe featured in “Seasons To Taste: Farm-Fresh Joy for Kitchen and Table” is the perfect light note in the middle of a heavy holiday meal and reheats easily for a covered dish supper.

1 celery root, peeled

2 turnips, peeled

2 rutabagas, peeled

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese + 2 tablespoons for the topping

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

4 tablespoons chopped thyme

salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 cup vegetable stock

2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cut celery root, turnips and rutabagas into 2-inch wide chunks.

With a knife or mandolin, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Coat the inside of a 9-x9-inch baking dish with butter. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and turn dish to coat bottom and sides.

Place a single layer of celery root in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with one-third of the Parmesan, Gruyere and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Add a layer of turnips and repeat with cheeses, thyme, salt and pepper. Next, add a layer or rutabagas topped with cheese, thyme, salt and pepper. Repeat layers until the dish is filled. Pour the stock over the gratin and sprinkle top with remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Remove gratin from oven and uncover. Drizzle cream over gratin and return to the oven uncovered. Bake 30 to 45 minutes longer until vegetables can be easily pierced with a knife.

Remove from oven and let rest 5 to 10 minutes while vegetables absorb the remaining liquid.

Valentine’s Day Share A Heart

If you need a great Valentine’s Day gift for someone who loves to bake, then Dorie Greenspan’s new book “Dorie’s Cookies” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is perfect. Dorie’s book is loaded with fabulous recipes for any holiday or occasion, gorgeous color photos, tips, hints and techniques that everyone needs to know to make the best possible baked goods.

This big cookie is “great for this celebration, not just because it’s shareable but because it’s so easy to decorate with anything from a dusting of sugar to XOXOs made from candy or a fancy filigree picked out in royal icing. It’s the proverbial blank canvas.”

Makes 2 large hearts plus a variable number of smaller cookies.

Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces

1 cold large egg yolk

1 tablespoon ice water

Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Icing (optional)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons water

Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

Sanding sugar, sprinkles or small candies, for decorations

To make the cookies

Put the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in a food processor
and pulse to blend. Scatter over the chunks of cold butter and pulse until they
are cut in and the mixture looks grainy. Lightly beat the yolk and water together
in a small bowl and add a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Then
process in 10-second pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds. Pinch the
dough and it should hold together—if it doesn’t, pulse a few more times.

Turn the dough out onto the counter, divide it in half and shape each piece
into a disk.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, put it between pieces of parchment
paper and roll into a circle, turning the packet over frequently and lifting the paper often so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and create creases. Try to get a circle that’s about 9 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick, but a little thicker is fine. Slide the rounds, still between the paper, onto a baking sheet (you can stack the slabs) and freeze for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 350° F.

Again working with one sheet of dough at a time, peel away the top and bottom pieces of paper and then replace them. (If you don’t loosen them, the dough may buckle during baking.) Using a pencil, draw a large heart on the top paper and use a sharp knife to cut out the heart. Lift off the top paper, remove the excess dough (save the scraps) and slide the heart, still on the bottom piece of paper, onto a baking sheet. If you don’t plan to decorate the cookies, you can sprinkle them with sanding sugar, if you’d like.

Bake the hearts for 19 to 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back after 10 minutes or until they’re dull, a little crinkled, set around the edges and almost firm at their centers. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies rest for 5 minutes, then carefully slide them, paper and all, onto the racks to cool completely.

While the big hearts are baking, gather the scraps together, re-roll them, chill and then use small heart-shaped cutters to cut out additional cookies; bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until done, as above.

Prepare icing if using.

Mix the confectioners’ sugar with 1 tablespoon water. If it’s too thick to run off the tip of a spoon and form a ribbon, add more water drop by drop. If you want chocolate icing, scrape some of the white icing into a small bowl and stir in as much cocoa as you need to get the color you like. Use an offset icing spatula or a table knife to cover the cookies with icing and then decorate any way you want. If you’re using sanding sugar, sprinkles or small candies, sprinkle them over the icing while it’s still wet.  Allow the icing to set at room temperature.

Tip: The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to two months; you can work on it directly from the freezer. Without icing, the cookies can be kept in a covered container at room temperature for about four days; with icing, they’re best served the day they’re made. If they haven’t been decorated, the cookies can be packed airtight and frozen for up to two months.

Editor’s Note: For more edible delights by Sheilah Kaufman, go to www. cookingwithsheilah.com.

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