In the news:
Plain-Jane cookie dolls it up for Valentine's Day
A Good Appetite: Chocolate shortbread gets a slick of tart cherry jam, a thick layer of luscious dark chocolate ganache, and a salty sprinkle of fleur de sel. Recipe: Dark Chocolate-Cherry Ganache Bars
The New York Times
VideoA sweet for your sweetie: Melissa Clark demonstrates how to make dark chocolate-cherry ganache bars in a New York Times video: http://video.nytimes.com/video/2012/02/03/dining/100000001322761/chocolate-cherry-ganache-bars.html
A piece of crumbly, dark chocolate shortbread is not voluptuous, like a chocolate truffle, nor seductive, like a sticky jam-filled linzer heart.
No, it is not the confection you'd usually make for your valentine, when voluptuously seductive is the order of the day.
Yet, that's just what I baked for my sweetheart many Valentines ago, cutting the demure little cookies into hearts and tying them into a box with a fetching red ribbon.
As my then-boyfriend opened the lid, his expectant smile wilted like last week's rose bouquet.
"Oh," he said, eyeing the plain-Jane cookies, "I was expecting something ... gooier."
Sadly, I had to concede that even tied up in red ribbons, homey chocolate shortbreads are just not sexy enough to be Valentine's Day fare.
But this year those chocolate shortbreads popped back into mind. Not in their original, austere incarnation, but vamped up with a slick of tart cherry jam, a thick layer of luscious dark chocolate ganache, and a salty sprinkle of fleur de sel.
A word about the ganache: If you've never made it yourself, you might think it was the stuff of hard-core pastry chefs, along the lines of praline eclairs and spun sugar.
In fact, homemade ganache is just about the easiest chocolate recipe out there, a dead-simple mixture of melted chocolate and hot cream, whisked until smooth, then chilled until fudgy.
When rolled into balls, ganache becomes chocolate truffles. When whipped with more cream and slathered onto a cake, it's an intense, velvety icing. And when poured over a chocolate shortbread crust that's been painted with cherry jam, it becomes just about the most decadent Valentine's Day dessert a person could hope for.
To serve chocolate ganache shortbread, slice it into petite squares or bars. Or you could pay homage to St. Valentine and go all out by using a heart-shaped cookie cutter.
After all, once you've gone this far with a pan of chocolate shortbread, you might as well go all the way.
DARK CHOCOLATE-CHERRY GANACHE BARS
Time: 1 hour, plus chilling time
Yield: 18 bars
150 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 ½ cups)
90 grams confectioners' sugar (about ¾ cup)
26 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (about ¼ cup)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
52 grams cherry jam (about 2 tablespoons)
340 grams bittersweet chocolate, at least 62 percent, chopped (12 ounces)
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons kirsch, rum, brandy or other spirit
½ teaspoon fleur de sel, for sprinkling
1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and fine sea salt. Pulse in the butter and vanilla until the mixture just comes together into a smooth mass. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment or wax paper. Press the dough into the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Chill for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 days.
2. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the shortbread until firm to the touch and just beginning to pull away from the sides, 35 to 40 minutes.
3. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Brush jam over shortbread's surface and let cool thoroughly.
4. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the kirsch. Spread over shortbread. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Cool to room temperature; cover and chill until firm. Slice and serve.