This year, Valentine's Day is on a Saturday so families can celebrate the day of the cupid with a brunch while couples might opt for an intimate at-home dinner.
And as chocolate and sweethearts just go together, here are two recipes using the ingredient from "Chocolate for Breakfast" by Barbara Passino (Hoberman).
Chocolate Banana Strudel
30 ml (2 tbsp) butter for the bananas
4 bananas peeled and split lengthwise
8 sheets phyllo dough
50 ml ( 1/4 cup) melted butter for phyllo
50 ml ( 1/4 cup) brown sugar
125 ml ( 1/2 cup) chocolate chips
30 ml (2 tbsp) butter
125 ml ( 1/2 cup) brown sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) cognac
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F).
In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter; gently add bananas. When bottom of bananas are golden brown, turn and cook the other side.
Place a sheet of phyllo on your work surface. Brush it with melted butter and top with another sheet. Top that with butter and fold it in half. You should have a 4-layered piece measuring 15 by 20 cm (6 by 8 inches).
Put two halves of banana near the 15-cm (6-inch) edge. Sprinkle with 15 ml (1 tbsp) brown sugar and 30 ml (2 tbsp) of chocolate chips. Roll bananas in the phyllo, then tuck in edges and continue rolling. Place package seam side down on a greased cookie sheet. Continue with other three. Brush all four packages with more melted butter.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until they turn golden brown.
Caramel sauce: In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cognac and stir until they're combined and bubbling.
To assemble: Place a swirl of caramel sauce on each plate. Make a diagonal cut through the middle of each strudel. Place one half on the caramel sauce and balance the other half on top so that the luscious chocolate banana filling is visible.
Makes 4 servings.
Wine match: Tawny port.
Hot Chocolate for Grown-Ups
1 vanilla bean
1 l (4 cups) whole milk
125 ml ( 1/2 cup) cream (optional)
140 g (5 oz) bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
30 ml (2 tbsp) sugar
50 ml ( 1/4 cup) cognac or brandy
Sprinkling of cocoa powder
Split vanilla bean lengthwise with the tip of a sharp knife and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and the bean to the milk and cream in a saucepan. Bring mixture almost to a boil and turn off the heat to let the vanilla infuse the milk for 5 minutes or longer and then remove bean.
In a separate saucepan, melt chocolate in a little of the hot milk. Stir melted chocolate into remaining hot vanilla/milk with the sugar. Ladle hot chocolate into a beautiful cup or small brandy snifter. Pour cognac on top and add whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.
Makes 4 servings.