An evening out for Valentine’s Day sounds great in theory, but when you have a little one who goes to bed early and you’re just back from a crazy 3-day house-buying trip… well, let’s just say an evening in sounds even better. With this in mind, we cancelled our reservations at The Basin* and decided to cook a simple meal at home last night.
* This is my favorite, favorite local restaurant, and I will be so sad to leave it. We’ll definitely plan a good-bye dinner there sometime soon.
I used one of my favorite lazy tricks and gussied up some frozen chanterelle ravioli I picked up at Whole Foods with a cream sauce and spinach from our garden. It made a nice, simple dinner, especially when enjoyed with a lovely bottle of 2006 Ridge Zinfandel Old School.**
** Not my first choice to pair with the meal, but Cellar Tracker said to drink it, and you can’t go too wrong with a bottle of Ridge!
The real main event, however, was dessert. Although it sounds fancy, (almost) flourless chocolate cupcakes with salted toffee hazelnut sauce is an incredibly quick and easy recipe to put together. They’re only almost flourless because they only have a couple of teaspoons of flour as a bit of a cheat, but the effect is the same.
If you’re not in the mood to make the sauce, you can always serve the cupcakes with ice cream or purchased caramel sauce, but I highly suggest that you make the sauce. It’s super-easy, and it makes the whole thing!
(Almost) Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Toffee Hazelnut Sauce
Based on this recipe; makes 4 servings
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs plus 2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
2 2/3 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate (either morsels, or chopped bar form)
3 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup***
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 425°. Grease a muffin tin. Place the egg, egg yolk, sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment until fluffy and light yellow, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
Switch to the paddle attachment and slowly add 1/3 of the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, stirring slowly. Once incorporated, add the rest of the chocolate mixture and the flour. Mix on low speed until a somewhat thin batter is formed.
Divide the batter among 4 muffin cups. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the center. Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edge of each muffin and turn out onto a rack to cool for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, make salted toffee hazelnut sauce. Place the brown sugar, corn syrup, hazelnuts, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and salt in a saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until the butter and sugar melt. Continue stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a full boil, and then let it boil without stirring for 1 minute.
Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Spoon over the cupcakes and enjoy!
*If corn syrup icks you out, or if you just don’t have any on hand, you can combine 2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and a pinch of salt to make a corn syrup substitute. Bring the ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, stirring constantly, then lower to a simmer and put the lid on to get any crystals off the sides of the pan. Uncover and simmer, stirring often, until it reaches the soft ball stage (meaning a soft ball forms when you drop a bit of the liquid into a glass of cold water, or you can use a candy thermometer). This makes about 2 cups, and it keeps for a couple of months in the fridge.