By Nancy Pollard
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years—La Cuisine in Alexandria, Virginia—Nancy Pollard writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources, and food-related issues.
VALENTINE’S DAY is not the time to mess up. Beware of practical gifts, cheap chocolates from 24-hour stores, or chain-restaurant celebrations. Wouldn’t it be better to put your back into a romantic dinner at home? A really lovely bouquet from an outstanding florist? You could share the cooking tasks and, with the money saved, well, diamonds are always an option.
The Ad That Scratched More Than the Itch
When this video advertisment (shown in all its glory at the bottom) was produced by JC Penney years ago, all of us at La Cuisine found it hilarious. Much has been written about it—the length, its lack of PCness, the script, the film angles, and editing. Was it too patronizing, too sexist . . . ? Sigh—even retired Cuisinettes, who find peace in ironing and folding laundry—still chortle when we pull it up (and we think the high point still may be the lunch scene). Full disclosure: The Resident Wine Maniac who doubles as my husband once gave me a Miele mangle, which I craved and still love.
Sharing Is Caring on Valentine’s Day
So here are some suggestions for a Valentine’s Dinner to keep you out of the proverbial doghouse. The cocktail from the River Cafe in London could not be simpler. Purée and strain some raspberries with sugar (I use caster sugar as it dissolves easily) before adding prosecco. Serve this pink loveliness with halved mozzarella balls (bocconcini) with a bit of prosciutto wrapped around them and secured with a toothpick, or Spanish fried and salted Marcona almonds. Our January bonus recipe for Steak au Poivre can be served with a mutually agreed-on carb. And salad can be negotiated. Our addition to this meal today is Simone (Simca) Beck’s Diabolo cake from her first independent cookbook released over thirty years ago in the US. This single layer cake is easy to make with a thin chocolate glaze. Full of flavor without being a fudge bomb. It promises a happy ending to your Valentine’s celebration with one of two buddies – whipped cream or ice cream.
Doghouse Avoidance Menu
Mozzarella & Prosciutto Bocconcini
Salted Marcona Almonds
Diabolo Cake With Whipped Cream
- Butter and flour (or cocoa) for the cake pan
- 5½ ounces caster sugar
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 6 ounces (170gr) mild bittersweet (55-62% cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped
- 5¾ ounces (163gr) unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons (37gr) cake flour
- 2 tablespoons (15gr) almond flour or powder
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 5 ounces (142gr) mild bittersweet chocolate (55-62% cocoa solids), chopped
- 4½ tablespoons (67ml) coffee or water, or combination of both
- 2¼ ounces (64gr) unsalted butter
- Butter an 8-inch-by-2-inch (20cm by 5cm) cake pan and place a round of parchment on the interior base.
- Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
- Butter the paper, then flour or use almond flour (or a combination of almond flour and cocoa) to coat the entire interior surface.
- Beat the sugar with the egg yolks until they are pale creamy yellow. Set aside.
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat (or over simmering water if your pan is thin) until the two are smooth and thoroughly mixed.
- Add the egg and sugar mixture, and stir briefly until well blended.
- Stir in the cake flour and the almond flour (or powder) and set aside.
- Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until the mixture is stiff. (I was taught to place a raw egg in the shell on top of the meringue and if it did not sink to the base, the consistency was correct.)
- Stir in one-quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, before folding in the remainder.
- Fill the cake pan (the batter should level off at about ¼ inch from the rim) and tap it on the counter to distribute the batter evenly.
- Bake 20 to 23 minutes. The outside should be solid and the center a bit creamy, but not runny, when tested with a sharp knife.
- Allow cake to cool before unmolding onto a cake rack.
- Melt the chocolate with the liquid (coffee or water or a combo) over hot water until smooth.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.
- When the glaze has cooled somewhat so that it is pourable, but not syrupy, place the cake on the rack on a sheet pan.
- Pour the glaze over the cake, starting at the center, then gently swipe it over the sides with an offset spatula. Swipe around the sides with glaze too.
- You can wipe up the drips in the sheet pan and finish the edges or top of the cake.
- You can toast some slivered almonds and decorate the cake with them.
- I refrigerate the cake and then bring it to a cool room temperature for serving.
- Rather than the slivered almonds, I use a croquant recipe (which keeps for months).
- Delicious with a garnish of whipped cream or ice cream.