Whether you've been making valentines for a month already, or you've forgotten Sunday is Valentine's Day, a little homemade treat for two sets the mood for romance. These special cakes, from Debby Maugans Nakos' Small-Batch Baking cookbook, are decadent and rich -- and each recipe makes just enough for you and your sweetheart, no more. There's just something about that tiny bit of exclusivity to make this dessert wonderfully intimate. These aren't difficult to make, but they take a bit of preparation time, so you might want to start them the day before you plan to serve.
Blood Orange Tarts with Raspberry Orange Sauce
Makes 2 tarts (one pictured)
Rich Sweet Pastry Shell, partially baked
Yolk of 1 egg
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
Pinch fo salt
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
Two 4 1/2 x 3/4-inch (or 4 x 1 3/8-inch) tart pans with removable bottoms or 1 jumbo muffin pan (3/4-cup capacity)
1. Place the egg yolk in a small bowl and beat it lightly with a fork. Measure out 2 teaspoons of the yolk for hte pastry and set it aside for the pastry. Reserve the remaining yolk for another use.
2. Sift the confectioners' sugar, flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and 2 teaspoons of egg yolk, and pulse until the dough just begins to clump together.
3. Turn out the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, adn wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
4. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F.
5. Lightly grease the tart pans, and place them on a baking sheet for easier handling; set it aside. If you're using a muffin tin, line 2 cups with aluminum foil and lightly grease the foil.
6. Roll out each disk to form a 5 1/2- to 6-inch round. Fit each pastry round into a prepared tart pan or muffin cup, pressing into the grooves of the pan's sides or pleating the dough in even folds to fit it into the cup. Roll the pin over the top to cut away the excess dough.
7. Prick the bottoms of the tart shells with a fork. Chill the shells in the freezer until firm, 15 minutes.
8. Line the shells with aluminum foil and fill them to the top with pie weights or dried beans. Fill the empty muffin cups with water to prevent them from scorching. Bake for 20 minutes.
9. Remove the pans and carefully remove the foil and weights. Return the shells to the oven and bake just until the crusts are dry and set, 5-8 minutes.
For the tart filling:
1 large egg
Yolk of 1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Raspberry Orange Sauce (recipe follows)
Fresh raspberries, for garnish
Sifted confectioners' sugar, for garnish
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 F. Place the tart pans on a baking sheet for easier handling.
2. Place the egg, egg yolk, cream, sugar, blood orange juice and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk until combined (do not beat). Pour three-quarters of the filling into the tart shells, dividing it evenly between them, and carefully put the baking sheet in the oven. Fill the shells the rest of the way.
3. Bake until the tarts are just set in the center, 35-38 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the tarts on a wire rack to cool. Cover and refrigerate the tarts until they are cold, at least two hours and up to 24.
4. Just before serving, swirl with Raspberry Orange Sauce. Decorate the tarts with raspberries and sifted confectioners' sugar.
Raspberry Orange Sauce
makes about 2/3 cup
3/4 cup fresh or thawed frozen, unsweetened raspberries
3 tablespoons raspberry jam, warmed
2 tablespoons fresh blood orange or tangerine juice
Place the raspberries, jam and juice in a small bowl and stir to mix. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and press the mixture through the sieve. Scrape the pulp off the bottom of the sieve and add it to the pulp in the bowl. Discard the seeds. (The sauce may be made up to two days in advance, and refrigerated in a covered jar.)
Dulce de Leche Cheesecakes with Candied Pecans
For the crusts:
2/3 cup shortbread cookie crumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup canned sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 large egg, at room temperature
For the caramelized milk sauce:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons canned sweetened condensed milk
Two 4 1/2 x 1 3/8-inch tart pans with removable bottoms
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F. Line the tart pans with aluminum foil, pressing the foil into the grooves fo the pans. Grease teh foil. Place the tart pans on a baking sheet for easier handling, and set it aside.
2. Make the crust. Place 1/3 cup of the candied pecans, all the shortbread crumbs and the melted butter in a food processor and process until the pecans are finely ground. Reserve the remaining pecans for garnish. Press the cookie mixture on the bottom and up the sides of the prepared tart pans, dividing it evenly between them, pressing it firmly into the fluted sides of the pans. Bake the crusts until they are lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from teh oven and transfer the tart pans to a wire rack to cool completely. Keep the oven on.
3. Make the filling. Place the cream cheese, condensed milk, flour, vanilla and lemon juice in a small bowl. Beat with a hand-held electric mixer on medium speed just until the batter is smooth. Add the egg, reduce the mixer speed to low, and beat just until the batter is blended, about 10 seconds.
4. Return the tart pans to the baking sheet. Pour the batter into the crusts, dividing it evenly between them. Bake until the filling is set, 20-25 minutes. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate, covered, 6 hours or overnight.
5. Make the sauce. Place the cream, brown sugar and cinnamon stick in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the condensed milk and lemon juice.
6. To serve, unmold the cheesecakes by pushing up on the bottom of the tart pans. Carefully remove the foil, and place the cheesecakes on serving plates. Sprinkle with the candied pecans, and spoon the sauce over the cheesecakes.