February 14, 2011

a valentines treat

Valentines day used to kind of stress me out as a kid. It was so difficult to decide which pre-printed card to give to what classmate. Did this one sound too lovey dovey for that boy even-though-I-kinda-liked-him-but-not-really-because-I-didn't-want-anyone-to-know? Or was it just safer to give the gooey ones to the girls? And was that teacher card really special enough for the teacher that I LOOOOOVED? Probably not. I would probably need to make that one by hand. I still get a little twinge of stress, even now, about getting the right card, and probably because of that, Valentines day isn't really my favorite of holidays.
Except for the desserts. The desserts I like.

Growing up I always received a pink heart shaped box of chocolates from my dad for my Valentines treat which I looked forward to each year, pouring over the diagram of what chocolate was what flavor, eating the ones I didn't like first and saving the best for last. When I was in college I met the truffle. When the little box arrived in my student mailbox I felt a little cheated. I mean, one single candy? What the heck. And then I bit into it and all those cheap boxed candies just melted away into a pile of yummy.

These days I'm mostly in charge of the Valentines Day goodies, although Will understands my love for good truffles, especially a certain french variety that they sell at the local gourmet store, but mostly it's me making the treats. I've done chocolate cherry brownies and truffles and the evil salted caramel truffle torte otherwise known around here as the devil cake.
Briton, in true boy fashion, was basically ambivalent about his valentines. I had great plans that involved block printing and silly jokes but when I explained it to him (probably in too much detail, his eyes glazed over) he asked if we couldn't just make a Mad-Lib, and would I type it out for him. So the actual Valentines took all of five minute's to make. What he was really interested in was what treat he would get to bring to class. After some debate we decided on marshmallows. Pink marshmallows.

And then he promptly went off to his friends house to get covered in mud while digging for "crystals". Which really, was ok because there isn't a lot kids can do when it comes to making the marshmallows. Boiling hot sugar and all. But they are fun and despite the rather cool outcome, pretty darn simple. In the end I made two versions. One for the kids that involved rolling the edges in pink sugar crystals (a kind of homemade peep type treat) and the other dipped in chocolate for a grown up party I was headed to. Personally I think the chocolate ones were much better, but Briton thought the sprinkles were a better touch.

Pink Vanilla Marshmallow Hearts
(adapted from Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it)

2/3 cup water, divided
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 cup light corn syrup
pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pink food coloring gel
1 T cornstarch
Cooking spray

Put 1 cup of sugar and the cornstarch into a food processor and set it to whizz for about 3 minutes. You can use powdered sugar for this but lately I've been substituting it for the DIY version. I dislike the overpowering cornstarchy taste and, as long as you have a food processor, this is super easy and works about the same. It doesn't get as powdery but in my mind, that's just fine.

Spray a large jellyroll pan with cooking spray and dust with about 2/3 of the whizzed sugar, making sure the whole surface is well coated.

In the meantime, pour 1/3 cup of water into the bowl of your mixer and sprinkle the gelatin in, allowing it to soften. drop the food coloring in with the gelatin.

In a saucepan heat the remaining water, 1 cup of sugar (not the whizzed kind) the salt and the corn syrup on medium high until it reaches 240. Scrape the sides of the pan down with a heat proof spatula as you go. Be careful because this is HOT! (If you don't have a candy thermometer, and I don't, you can use a meat thermometer, just make sure it doesn't touch the sides or bottom of the pan.)

Turn the mixer on low and CAREFULLY pour in the sugar mixture. add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium and then to high as the marshmallow starts to turn pale. Beat for 8-13 minutes until its sticky and stiff. It will look similar to whipping cream to "stiff peaks" when it's done.
Pour the marshmallows into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the remaining whizzed sugar. Pat down with your hands until it's relatively smooth.
Allow the marshmallows to cool and harden, about an hour, before cutting. Now, you can cut any shape you want. You can just cut squares, but hearts are a pretty touch.
To finish either roll the edges in pink sugar or dip the marshmallows halfway in chocolate and the drizzle a little more over the whole thing.

How about you? Are you making anything special this year for Valentines Day?