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."
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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 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 sweet and bitter orange peels, Cointreau is a lovely spirit that brings home golden, fruity warmth.
Then there's Grand Marnier, an elegant floral and fragrant orange peel-based cognac from France. 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.