As if I needed an excuse. February is here and that means Valentine’s Day is barreling down the road towards us; while many folks associate that with roses, for me it’s all about the chocolate.
I love tradition, and if the old fashioned heart-shaped box of chocolates is your preference, then I won’t quarrel with that.
Me? I think I straddle the fence between easygoing and annoyingly precise. My favorite chocolate (at the moment) is a simple, humble, chocolate bar. Tie two or three blocks of my beloved (and cheap) Damak chocolate together with a ribbon and I’m perfectly happy. Easy? Well, yes, except that Damak is imported from Turkey, is only available in a handful stores here in New York, and can be hard to find because it flies off the shelves. Weeks go by, and (poor me) there’s no Damak Chocolate to be found. (Hear me Nestlè?)
For those who want to shake things up a bit, there are other paths to follow. Last year my Baby Niece hand decorated chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies for her young gentleman. (Okay, yes, I helped.) For others, Valentine’s Day can be symbolized by a special meal. I know one rather zesty young woman whose husband has been well trained: for her the hearts and flowers of Valentine’s Day are perfectly embodied in the guise of sliced filet mignon at Ben Benson’s Steakhouse. Rare please.
My Baby Niece, for one, is indifferent to flowers. Yeah, she likes chocolate—kinda, sorta, I guess. But if you really want to make her happy, something twinkly in a light blue box from the store where Holly Golightly ate breakfast is your best bet. I hate to be crass, but the price of roses on Valentine’s Day makes her preference a good deal. And it won’t wilt after a week.
If there is ever an occasion when it is the thought that counts, when you need to show someone that you’ve been listening, it is Valentine’s Day. The really important ingredient is to know your audience.
Sometimes just a little bit of fuss is all you need.
And if it’s fuss you want, my little Tulipe Paste hearts in the picture above are for you. These will dress up anything—even a Tofutti Cutie— on Valentine’s Day and make it something special. (Apologies to you if think Tofutti Cuties are already something special.)
Unfamiliar with Tulipe Paste? I understand. But if you’ve ever been given a can of those little rolled “cigarette” cookies (usually filled with chocolate cream), you’ve had Tulipe Paste. Pepperidge Farm sells them under the name “Pirouette.” Some pastry chefs refer to these as Tuile cookies.
Are they easy to make at home? Let me put it this way: if you can spackle a wall, you can make Tulipe Paste cookies. (That’s a “yes.”) The good news? The batter has only six ingredients. The bad news? You’ll need couple of items of easily obtained special equipment—some of which you can easily make yourself. (I did.) Hint: it’s worth the trouble.
Tuile Cookies are one of those things like blackened redfish: about fifteen or twenty years ago they were everywhere. Then they were heaped on the junk pile of culinary trendiness; the shag haircut of the pastry kitchen. Okay, maybe not that bad. They still show up swirling around a pile of mousse every now and then. You get my point though.
I like them, and they’re fun, so I’m putting on my rubber gloves and fishing them out of the junk pile. Conniving blogger that I am, I have an ulterior motive: they’re crunchy. But before they are crunchy, they are soft and mold-able—and I think this makes them an invaluable tool in the home baker’s…uh…tool belt. (I myself do not wear a tool belt when baking.)
The most common way 1990’s chefs used the latter phenomenon was to drape the hot-from-the-oven cookies over a bowl. As the cookies cooled they hardened into the shape of the bowl and were served filled with fresh berries and whipped cream—actually, not a bad idea for Valentine’s Day. Make a couple of Tuile Bowls, fill them with a few chocolate-dipped strawberries (make ‘em or buy ‘em at the Godiva store) and you’ve got something special.
I mentioned that you’ll need a couple of pieces of special equipment to make these cookies. The first is a little offset spatula to spread the batter. The second is a stencil because the basic technique is that the Tulipe Paste is spread into a stencil secured firmly to a baking sheet. To make the bowls you’ll need a round stencil measuring approximately six to eight inches, or you can try making free hand rectangles without a stencil. This is actually a really great technique to get the feel of working with the paste. For my little heart shaped cookies, I made a heart-shaped stencil from the plastic top of a tub of almonds. Take that, Martha Stewart. (The hearts in the picture above are approximately actual size.)
The little heart cookies have approximately the same crunch as potato chips, so add these to some melting dark chocolate gelato or mousse and you get the happy play of sweet, chocolately, and crunchy.
Now, that’s something I can fall in love with.
Click here for the recipe for Tulipe Heart Cookies and some tips on working with Tulipe Paste .
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