How about one in chocolate...or double chocolate, with a glaze? If the way to your heart is through your stomach, and you love chocolate, I have Valentine's Day nailed for you. But first you may need to go shopping, and I'm here for that, too.
Lately I have noticed that there is indeed a difference between baked goods made with unsalted butter, as compared to salted butter. I think that the unsalted makes a better taste, and although I had read that more than once, I had to get into the habit of buying unsalted butter. It helps to shop at Costco in Tucson, where butter is sold in packs of three or four pounds, which I place in my freezer and don't have to worry about them for months at a time. So I can just go out to my garage after that and pull one or two sticks of unsalted butter from the freezer the night before I want to bake.
You also want to get the very best chocolate you can find, whether it is baking cocoa, drinking cocoa or actual chocolate in various concentrations. I have found that you can get both the greatest variety and the most different brands at Sprouts in Tucson. They have chocolate from Europe and South America as well as classic American brands, and quite a few varieties of chips, both chocolate and other interesting types.
There are variations between different chocolate preparations as well, and if you like your chocolate really deep and dark there are now dark-chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate of very high quality. Ghirardelli is one respectable brand, and you are likely to find it at most of Tucson's supermarkets like Fry's, Basha's and Safeway. But for baking cocoa I have discovered that you can get both price and flavor satisfaction from Sprouts' organic cocoa. so look out for it and give it a try, if you ask me.
If this recipe interests you enough to go for it on Valentine's Day, please include unsalted butter, out-of-sight chocolate and amazing organic cocoa in your shopping list. And it wouldn't hurt to get some wine and flowers and make a nice tablescape, even if it is as casual as daisies in a cream pitcher. Hey, that'll work--just wait until they get to the food!
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup baking cocoa
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons freeze-dried coffee or espresso crystals
2 sticks butter at room temperature
1-1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons hot water
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Whisk the dry ingredients together (except the sugar) in a mixing bowl and set them aside.
Beat the butter with the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat the eggs in one at a time until you cannot see streaks in the batter.
Lower the mixer speed to its slowest setting and begin folding in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, in thirds.
When the batter is thoroughly combined, transfer it into a tube or loaf pan(s) and bake for 45 minutes and then check for doneness if you are baking in loaf pans. The tube pan will need more like 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Cool the cake completely on a wire rack and turn out of the pan(s). Glaze with the glaze mixture:
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a saucepan or microwave-safe container. Place the powdered sugar in a mixing bowl and beat the chocolate and butter into it, and then add the vanilla. Finally add the hot water 1 teaspoon at a time until you have the proper glaze thickness so that you can pour it lightly over the cake(s).
If you plan to freeze one of two loaf-style pound cakes, don't glaze it; just place it in an airtight plastic bag or freezer box and freeze it. You can also put some glaze in a smaller container and store it with the pound cake to save yourself the trouble of making it again and ending up with too much.
Now this is a very rich dessert, so lead up to it with a lighter dinner, like a salad of mixed greens and sliced meat or chicken. A classic steak salad with a creamy herbal dressing, crusty bread, wine and coffee will round this meal out and lead up fabulously to the dessert (which could well become a signature dish for you). And by the way, leave the steak warm when you serve it in salad.
If you want to get extravagant, you could also sprinkle the plated cake with mini-chips and/or drizzle it with caramel sauce. Know where I found the best caramel sauce, by the way? It was in the coffee department alongside several other European syrups that are meant to flavor coffee. Who would have thought? But it is far and away the best that I have tasted. However, you can also find an organic caramel sauce at most health-oriented stores near the ice cream freezer area.