If there’s one time of year to indulge your sweet tooth, it’s Valentine’s Day. While we love finding healthy solutions for those sugar cravings, there is also something to be said for a little bit of romantic indulgence. And if you’re going to indulge, why not involve real, whole food ingredients instead of the processed, corn-based sweets that all too often characterize the month?
This Valentine’s Day, Jenni Kayne hosted a small cooking class by Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections. Sold in a few of our favorite shops, like Pressed Juicery Brentwood neighbor Farmshop, and West Hollywood’s Heath Ceramics, Valerie makes toffee and salted caramel croissants that are well worth the indulgence. With namesake locations in Silverlake, Echo Park and Grand Central Market, Valerie is capturing hearts across LA with old-fashioned baked goods we just can’t resist.
In Jenni’s thoughtful and locally-based style, tables for this baking and preserving afternoon were festooned with amethyst crystals (the birthstone for February and the perfect shade of purple for Valentine’s Day) and flowers such as ranunculus, anemone and clematis by the inimitable Moon Canyon Design. The moss-filled terrariums are by Moon Canyon also – we can’t get enough!
The purple-tinted Amethyst glasses are from Canvas Home and sourced from Jenni Kayne Montecito. Jenni mixed and matched the glassware with a few of her grandmother’s own etched glass dessert plates. Recreate this magical afternoon at home with a few of Valerie’s own dessert recipes below. These classic sugar cookies and scotch-laced truffles may not be vegan, but by using top-quality organic ingredients we guarantee these sweets will beat anything your kids bring home from Valentine’s Day parties! Here are Valerie’s recipes and a few notes on each. Don’t miss her rose-petal raspberry jam recipe which we’re sharing today as well!
Valerie Confection’s Classic Sugar Cookies
Makes 50 cookies
When our son, August, was three years old, we started hosting an annual Christmas cookie party for him and his friends. I make an enormous batch of sugar cookie dough, set it in the middle of our kitchen worktable along with bowls of sprinkles and other cookie décor, and let the kids have at it. I suppose these parties are more arts and crafts than baking, but the cookies taste substantially better than Play-Doh!
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
12 Tbsp (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar, plus sugar for sprinkling
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla paste and mix until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Turn the dough out onto a cool surface and divide it into 3 portions. Form each one into a disk. Wrap individually in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for 1 hour.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two large heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
To form the cookies, break off a 2-tablespoon-sized piece of chilled dough, roll the dough between your palms into a ball, and place on the lined baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. With a small offset spatula, flatten each cookie to about ½ inch thick. Sprinkle the cookies with sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets on cooling racks for 10 minutes.
Using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days or transferred to Ziploc freezer bags and frozen for up to 2 months.
Tip: Keep cookie decorating with kids simple. Sprinkles, nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips are all fun and easy toppers for sugar cookies; omit the sugar for sprinkling. To frost the cookies, leave them plain and use chocolate buttercream or white chocolate buttercream frosting .
Makes about 60 truffles
After being surrounded by rose petals, passion fruit and delicate tea cakes for a few years, my tolerant partner, Stan, craved something more masculine. One day he pleaded, “Can we make something with Scotch?” The following Valentine’s Day, I presented him with his gift: this bittersweet truffle, brimming with peaty, twelve-year-old single-malt Scotch, accompanied by a bottle of Macallan.
For the ganache:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp (9 oz) heavy cream
2 Tbsp corn syrup
11 oz still-molten tempered 61% bittersweet chocolate
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup single-malt Scotch, such as Macallan, Lagavulin, or Glenfiddich
1 tsp neutral-flavored oil, such as canola or grapeseed
3 oz 61% bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 ½ lb still-molten tempered 61% to 72% bittersweet chocolate
1. To make the ganache: Pour the cream and corn syrup into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let cool to 105°F.
2. Line a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking sheet with plastic wrap, leaving a 7-inch overhang on both short ends.
3. When the cream is at 105°F, pour it into the bowl of tempered chocolate. Using a small silicone spatula, aggressively stir the cream and chocolate together in one direction, concentrating on the center of the mixture, until smooth and glistening, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and salt and quickly incorporate, then stir in the Scotch.
4. Pour the ganache into the prepared baking pan. Level the surface with an offset spatula and bang the pan a couple of times on the work surface. Fold the excess plastic wrap over the ganache and let stand in a cool, dry place overnight.
5. The following day, stir the oil into the melted chocolate.
6. Pull back the plastic wrap and, using a pastry brush, paint the top of the ganache with a very thin layer of the melted chocolate; this process, called bottoming or precoating, will prevent the dipping forks from sticking to the ganache. Let the chocolate set, about 1 minute.
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
8. When the pre-coat has hardened, invert the ganache onto the lined pan and remove the plastic wrap. With a very sharp thin knife, using a ruler as a guide, cut the ganache lengthwise into 1 ¼-inch-wide strips, then cut crosswise into 1 ¼-inch squares. Separate the squares and set aside until you are ready to dip the truffles.
9. Dip the truffles in the tempered chocolate, using the two-fork method and marking each truffle with a dipping fork before the chocolate sets.
The truffles can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Tip: The scotch can be replaced with rum, whiskey, tequila, brandy, Calvados, or Cognac if your taste leans toward a different spirit.