Sunday, February 12, 2012

Celebrate Valentine's Day with "Chocolate Drizzled Cream Puffs"

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Take your loved one by the hand, and as this day of “Love” approaches, enjoy some interesting facts about this day called Valentine’s Day. Valentine greetings were very popular as far back in history as the Middle Ages. Written Valentine greetings did not appear until after the 1400s. The oldest known Valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and wrote a poem for his wife. It is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a Valentine note to Catherine of Valois. By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange a small token of affection or handwritten notes. In the 1900s printed cards replaced hand written notes due to the progress in printing technology.

Americans began exchanging hand-made Valentines in the early 1700s. Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced Valentines in America in the 1840s. She is known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” and made creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful photos. Today, it is estimated that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card sending holiday. (Christmas is # 1)

The religious history and meaning of Saint Valentine started back on February 14, 269 A.D. who was killed for his faith on this day. He had refused to worship pagan gods, and some stories say he was a priest who would marry young couples who loved each other, in secret, but did not have parental permission. In the year 496, his “Saint Day” was established. He is associated with “Love” because he fell in love with the daughter of his jailer, and would pass love notes to her. His final note before he was executed, read “from your Valentine.”

In Italy, Valentine’s Day is greeted by a feeling of energy, spirit, and romance throughout the country. Showering of gifts such as; the sweet scent of flowers, sparkling diamonds, mouth watering chocolates and expressed words of love are believed to be the best way to communicate your feelings. Valentine celebrations were usually conducted outside centuries ago. Spring time is the season, when birds look for mates to propagate, which is why Valentine‘s Day is celebrated with great passion. Young men and women would gather around trees and gardens as they would listen to poetry or music.

Italian stores get decorated several days ahead of February 14th and prepare filling their shops with a variety of chocolates and candies. A delicious treat is called Baci, by Perugina, which is a small chocolate enclosed with a hazelnut filling. In its wrappings, a loving lyrical quote is expressed in four languages. Another wonderful idea to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to organize a candlelight dinner, with music, and wine overlooking the Italian country side.
Chocolate is known for romance and indulgence. Baking chocolate came about in the form of cocoa powder in 1828 and chocolate bars in 1842. Cream filled chocolates were either rolled into balls or dipped in melted chocolate, to create a shell. The flavors of the cream are made from liquors and extracts mostly, maple, vanilla, fruit, and coconut. Russell Stover was the first company to create a heart shaped box to beautifully hold your chocolates for a Valentine’s Day gift.

My recipe this week is a simply light and heavenly pastry called the, “Cream Puff . What a way to celebrate your Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart, than by eating one of these luscious cream filled pastries, especially drizzled with chocolate. So enjoy with your favorite person and have a “Happy Valentine’s Day“!!!!!!

“Cream Puffs”

1 cup of water
1/2 cup of butter (no substitutes)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon of sugar
3 cups of whipped cream (cool whip or homemade)
Melted Chocolate

Place butter in a medium saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to boiling, stirring till butter melts. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir till mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Once cooled add eggs, one at a time, to flour mixture, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition for about 1 minute, or till smooth.
Scoop up some dough with a tablespoon. Use another spoon to push off the dough in a mound onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Leave 3 inches between the puffs for expansion. Bake in a pre-heated 400 F. degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove puffs from pan, and cool on a rack.
Slice off the tops (or cut in half). With a fork, gently scrape out any soft, moist dough. Work carefully so that you don’t puncture the crust. After they are filled, you can drizzle melted chocolate on top as well.
Yield: about 15 or more servings, depending how big you make them.

Till Next Time………………..

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