Perfect for Valentine's Day


No one who knows me would suggest that I have an addictive personality, but there is one substance I regularly abuse. Chocolate is my secret obsession. Rarely does a day go by that I don't sneak into our kitchen and treat myself to a chocolate confection. And, when entertaining, more often than not, a chocolate inspiration ends my menus.

Naturally, I look forward to Valentine's Day, the day when this ingredient is celebrated, and my passion can be made public. Although my husband and I often go out for dinner on that evening, I always have a homemade chocolate dessert waiting for us at home. Over three decades of marriage, I've prepared many chocolate creations for Cupid's day. Some years I've baked fancy cakes, others I've made simple brownies or chocolate chip cookies. Dark, creamy truffles dusted with cocoa powder, chocolate creme caramel, and chocolate bread pudding are also part of my repertoire.

Recently, in preparation for this holiday, I have been working on a recipe for some delicious mini-cupcakes flavored with chocolate and almonds and coated with a chocolate ganache glaze. The cupcakes, made with a small amount of flour and ground almonds, have a texture that resembles a rich Eastern European-style torte. The glaze, made with semisweet chocolate, cream and butter, is richer and smoother than traditional frosting.

You could serve a plate of these cupcakes as the finale of a meal for two, or you might like to plan a Valentine dessert party for kids (or for grown-ups) and include them as part of an all-chocolate buffet. They are good offered with champagne or coffee or with one of my favorite chocolate accompaniments -- glasses of ice cold milk. Whatever beverage you serve, just be aware that these chocolate treats are addictive and that you probably won't be able to stop with just one.

Betty Rosbottom writes for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Chocolate-Almond Mini-Cupcakes

Makes 24 mini-cupcakes


butter and flour, for preparing cupcake pans

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken or cut into small chunks

1/2 teaspoon powdered instant coffee

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 / 3 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup slivered or sliced almonds, finely ground

1 / 4 cup flour


4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken or cut into small chunks

1 / 4 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee

24 slivered or sliced almonds, for garnish

To prepare cupcakes, generously butter and flour 2 mini- muffin tins, each with 12 cups about 1 3 / 4 inches in diameter. Tap out excess flour.

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler (or in heatproof bowl) set over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan. Stir until melted and smooth. Stir in coffee powder until dissolved. Remove pan from heat and cool 5 minutes.

With electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter in medium mixing bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is smooth and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Stop and scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Lower speed and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Still on low speed, beat in melted chocolate, almonds and flour.

Spoon mixture evenly among prepared cupcake tins. Do not fill tins more than 3 / 4 full. (You may have a little batter left over, depending on size of your muffin tins.) Bake cupcakes at 375 degrees on center rack until tester inserted into middle of a cupcake comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and run a knife around inside edges of molds to loosen. Remove cupcakes to racks to cool for 30 minutes.

To prepare glaze, place chocolate, cream, butter and coffee powder in top of double boiler (or in heatproof bowl) set over (but not touching) simmering water in saucepan. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove and cool 5 minutes. With icing spatula or table knife, spread glaze over tops of cupcakes. Place an almond sliver or slice in center of each. Cool at room temperature until glaze is set and firm, about 30 minutes.

(Cupcakes can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate in airtight container. Cupcakes can also be frozen up to 2 weeks stored in airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

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