Hit the sweet spot with these Valentine’s Day treats

photo Marina Oliphant 

Homemade + Chocolate = Valentine’s Day success.

Try these easy recipes and share a little love around.

When choosing chocolate for cooking, know your percentages. Basically, all chocolates contain various ratios of cocoa powder, cocoa fat and sugar.

The cocoa content is listed as a percentage. So “70%” refers to chocolate with 70% cocoa and cocoa fat and the remaining 30% sugar. The percentage indicates the balance between chocolate flavour and sweetness. The higher the percentage, the more bitter the chocolate.

For most baking, I use a chocolate with around 58% cocoa content.

Start with my fudgy chocolate brownies. Such a simple recipe, all made in one pot. The important principle for a perfect brownie is to get the baking time right; undercooked and it’s too gooey, overcooked and it’s cake. For moist and delicious brownie, you will need to take it out of the oven whilst it’s still very moist. A skewer inserted will be covered with lots of gooey crumbs. The top should be set, risen and slightly cracked.

For more baking, try the baci di dama (ladies kisses). These delicate little hazelnut and lemon flavoured biscuits are sandwiched together with dark chocolate. I prefer to use a bitter dark chocolate with a 70% cocoa content, but any good quality chocolate will do.

To spice things up, finish with my chilli chocolate truffles. The chilli adds warmth to the chocolate without being overwhelming. It’s a flavour combination that really works.

Hope these hit the sweet spot.


Fudgy chocolate brownies


Everyone should have a dependable brownie recipe. It’s important to get the baking time right, so check regularly with a skewer until the mixture looks set, yet still moist and slightly gooey.


250g unsalted butter

125g dark chocolate (58% cocoa content), chopped

2 cups caster sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup plain flour

¼ cup dutch cocoa

½ tsp salt

125g toasted walnuts, chopped

¼ cup dark chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 180C fan forced (200C conventional).

Lightly grease and line a 180 x 280mm rectangular shallow cake pan.

Heat butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and stir in sugar.

Beat in eggs, one at a time and stir in vanilla.

Sift in dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended.

Stir in walnuts. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle over the chocolate chips.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out covered with lots of gooey crumbs. At this stage, remove from oven and allow to cool completely in pan.

Cut into rectangles.


Makes about 28.


Hazelnut and chocolate baci di dama

 photo Marina Oliphant

Baci di Dama means ladies kisses. They are like little mouthfuls of heaven.


¾ cup hazelnuts

1 cup icing sugar

125g butter, softened

zest of 1 lemon

1 cup plain flour

120g dark chocolate (between 58 -70% cocoa content)


Preheat oven to 180C.

Place hazelnuts on an oven tray and heat in oven for 5 minutes. Remove and place hazelnuts in tea towel. Rub vigorously to remove the skins. Allow to cool.

Process the hazelnuts with icing sugar in a food processor until finely ground.

Add butter and lemon rind and process until creamy.

Remove from processor and gently incorporate flour until just combined (do not over mix).

Use a teaspoon to scoop up a small amount of mix and roll into a ball. Place on lined oven trays, well spaced to allow for spreading.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden, then cool on trays on a wire rack.

Melt chocolate in a glass bowl over a pot of just boiled water from the kettle or in a microwave on medium power for 1 minute or so. Stir until smooth and glossy.

Spread a small amount of chocolate on one side of the cooled biscuit, then sandwich with another biscuit. Repeat with remaining biscuits.


Makes 60 filled biscuits.


chilli choc truffles

 photo Marina Oliphant

You won’t believe how easy it is to make these delicious chocolate truffles. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford and you won’t be disappointed.


200ml thickened dream

1 long red chilli, chopped

½ tsp ground cardamon

½ tsp ground cinnamon

300g good quality dark chocolate (58% cocoa content)

dutch cocoa powder to coat


To a small pot, add the cream, chilli and spices. Heat gently to warm, then remove from heat and allow the flavours to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the flavoured cream through a sieve to remove and discard the chilli. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Remove from heat. Place a heatproof bowl over the top and add the flavoured cream and choc pieces. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t come in contact with the hot water underneath. Set aside until the chocolate melts. Stir well to combine.

Pour into a flat container (a plastic takeaway container is ideal) and refrigerate.

Scoop into small balls with a teaspoon or melon baller and roll gently in cocoa powder.


makes about 35 truffles.



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