Friday, February 13, 2009

Sweet treats for Valentine's

My Chrismas cookies for my daughter's school had not gone unnoticed, and I had been asked again to provide for this year's Valentine's party. I was excited and more than happy to oblige but I had to come up with a plan and it better be good, at least as good as the Christmas cookies.

After some internet research of my own, I started to feel inspired and my plan of attack was taking shape. I would not go with one particular type of cookie but rather make three of my favorite sweet treats to choose from and the Valentine's theme had to clearly predominate. I decided I would go for a medley of classic chocolate chip cookies for the finicky eaters, heart-shaped bite size brownies and mini cheesecake hearts.

The cheesecakes are made with a classic graham cracker crust* pressed on the bottom of the pans. The filling is a combination of cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, sour cream and flour. Not all cheesecake recipes call for flour, but personally I like the the way it affects the texture of the cake, giving it a less silky more chewy bite. I bake them in a bath of boiling water, just as you would with any entremet, to ensure even cooking.

For the chocolate chip cookies I use a very classic but infallible recipe. I am so familiar with this recipe that I have perfect control over how they're going to turn out : 8 minutes in the oven will yield a soft cookie with a gooey center, 14 minutes will make crispy cookies. My favorite batch will come out after 11 minutes.

The brownies follow a recipe from Ina Garten from the Food Network. They are the best brownies I have ever made. Just the way a brownie should be : a perfect compromise between a cakey and fudgy brownie and a strong chocolate flavor .

The morning of the party, I delivered everything to the school and the teacher greeted me with a "You make the best cookies, no really, you should go into baking". I thanked her for the compliment and left with an invitation to come back in the afternoon for the party.

Everything went really well, other adults were attending, the kids were really happy, and the teacher grateful to have such dedicated parents.

*I recently discovered that graham crackers contain hydrogenated fats which I avoid consistently, so I will be looking for a more healthful alternative and welcome any suggestions you might have for substitution.

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