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Do dessert at home this Valentine’s Day

Dining out is a Valentine’s Day tradition. Couples new and old typically make Valentine’s Day into date night at nice restaurants, making this holiday that much more special.

Couples who want to add a special twist to Valentine’s Day date night can enjoy a nice meal out before returning home for some homemade dessert. Whether couples prepare it together or surprise their significant others, the following recipe for “Coffee Crisp” from Bob Blumer’s “Surreal Gourmet Bites” (Chronicle Books) can make for the perfect ending to a Valentine’s Day date night.

Coffee Crisp

Yields 12 bites

6            egg yolks

8            tablespoons sugar

2            tablespoons instant espresso or

coffee powder

11⁄2            cups heavy cream

1⁄2            teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and 6 tablespoons of the sugar for 1 minute, or until smooth and pale yellow in color. Reserve.

In a second medium bowl, add espresso granules and 1⁄4 cup of the cream. Whisk until smooth, then add remaining cream and vanilla, and whisk until well blended.

Very gently, fold espresso cream mixture into egg yolks.

Use a ladle to pour custard mixture into espresso cups, filling them three-fourths of the way to the top.

Place cups in a baking dish or roasting pan and transfer to oven. Fill a pitcher with warm tap water. Before closing oven door, pour water into pan (but not into the cups themselves!) until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cups.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the custards jiggle just slightly when you shake the pan. Remove pan from oven and leave out on counter, allowing the residual heat of the water to finish the cooking process.

When custards have fully solidified, refrigerate for 2 hours

Just before serving, sprinkle 1⁄2 teaspoon of sugar evenly overtop each custard. Use a small blowtorch to caramelize the sugar. Alternatively, place cups 1 inch below oven broiler under a watchful eye for approximately 2 minutes, or until sugar caramelizes.

Swiss Mountain Ice Cream
Makes about 2 quarts

White Chocolate Sauce (see below)

2            cups whole milk

1            cup sweetened condensed milk

3⁄4            cup granulated sugar

2            tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

14            ounces premium milk chocolate (over 32% cocoa solids), chopped

1            teaspoon pure vanilla essence

11⁄2            cups whipping or heavy cream, chilled

61⁄2            ounces white nougat, roughly chopped

1            ice cream maker (optional)

1            freezer-proof tray or container

1            mountain-shaped mold (optional)

Put the milk, condensed milk, sugar, and cocoa in a pan, bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the chocolate and let melt, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely, then add the vanilla essence and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Stir the cream into the mixture, then churn-freeze in an ice cream maker in two batches. This will take 20 to 30 minutes. It will increase in volume as it thickens and freezes. Stop churning when thick and smooth, add the nougat, and churn to mix, then transfer to a chilled freezer-proof tray, cover, and freeze. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, put the mixture in a freezer-proof tray or container and freeze until it is frozen around the edges. Mash well with a fork and return to the freezer. Continue mashing with a fork and freezing the mixture until thick and smooth, about 2 hours. Stir in the nougat. At this stage, you can pack it into a mold and return to the freezer.

If the ice cream is in a mold, remove from the freezer and dip briefly in hot water to melt the outside. Invert onto a chilled plate, lifting off the mold. If the ice cream is in a container, transfer to the refrigerator to soften for 20 minutes before serving in scoops. Drizzle with White Chocolate Sauce and serve.

White Chocolate Sauce

Makes about 21⁄2 cups

1            cup light or heavy cream

6            tablespoons milk

8            ounces white chocolate (over 25% cocoa butter), chopped

Put the cream and milk in a small pan and bring to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white chocolate and stir until completely melted. Serve warm.

If reheating, do so over gentle heat. Do not allow to boil or the sauce can thicken and seize.