Saint Valentine’s Day – Cupid or not Cupid is the question for this month. You know I have celebrated this day all my life, ” el día del Amor y la Amistad” or (Day of Love and Friendship) as we called it in the DR, but yet until today when I sat to write this post I realized that I have never given Valentine’s day a thought before. Have I taken it for granted? Perhaps I have just been comfortable with what has been a familiar celebration. Anyways, who is this Valentine that many talk about? Where is he from? I know the day has been redesigned by corporations to pump business up that is a fact we all know that, however, it is not this part of this day that interest me but its origin. The history behind this day is quite interesting and after a few snooping around-at Wikipedia of course the history goes like this.
Our famous Valentine was in fact a Christian saints or priest by the name of Valentinus who lived at the time of the Roman Imperium (in Rome around the year 270 A.D). The most popular martyrology* related to Saint Valentine is that he was taken prisoner for performing weddings for soldiers that were not allowed to be married. Claudius II emperor at the time of Valentinus, forbade marriage to his soldiers, simply because he believed that married men did not make good soldiers. In addition of marrying the persecuted soldiers, Saint Valentine helped Christians to escape the persecution – he gave the persecuted Christians-soldiers cut hearts taken from parchment to remind them of God’s love and to encourage them into the Christian faith. This explains the origin of the hearts which has become a symbol for Valentine’s Day.
During Valentine’s imprisonment, the legend goes on to say that he healed Julia, from blindness; she was the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. According to this legend before his execution he wrote a note to Julia that said “from your Valentine” as his farewell to her. As we see, the day of St Valentine’s is really a liturgical celebration of the legend of an early Christian saint by the name of Valentinus. As I now know, Valentine’s day started out as a religion liturgy and not at all as an association to romantic love, this came later on history; indeed Romantic love in written form appeared in the high middle age with the renaissance of Courtly love and in association Of Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English Literature, and one of England’s middle ages’ greatest poet. The 15th century saw the birth to the tradition of lovers expressing their love for each other, soon after came the exchanged of flowers, sweets, and greeting cards. Valentine quickly evolved to become more cultural, more commercialized – to become without doubt our Valentines-.
In the 19th century, Valentine’s Day handwritten note, in the form of greeting cards, went into mass production and with it, a new commerce was born. The 20th century brought further commercialization, now the diamond industrial, and other luxuries goods came into the game. The rise of the internet in the new millennium is now introducing a new tradition, the e-cards, spreading more commercialization, and farther reach.
In the good side, the celebration of Valentine’s Day still reminds us of our own vulnerability; of something we have deep inside, abstract, untouchable, yet something alive, and this, my friends, is love on Valentine’s.
And on the spirit of the day let us prepare a delicious dessert. What is it that the most popular dishes shares on Valentin’s day are desserts? I think this is to please our state of mind; we all feel mellow, sweet or in love with someone, our children, husband, family or friends that is for me the case on this day.
ah and the dessert:
These mini-cakes were created by Chef Jean Georges Vongerichten. These little teasers (because you cannot resist them) are made almost entirely of chocolate; constructed with a warm molten center and an exterior protected shell. I read somewhere in the internet that these little chocolate cakes are one of the most copied desserts in American restaurants and for good reasons; the cake brings an inevitable love of first sight-it breathes loves all over it. Have a wonderful Valentin day- in high cheerful spirits with all of those you love.
Molten Chocolate Cake
For the cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more to butter the molds
Demerara sugar for molds
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour sifted
1 pinch of salt
Mint, powdered sugar, shaved chocolate, chocolate powdered, chocolate mousse, ice cream, cream Chantilly etc. (your choice)
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Butter 4-5 ramekins and cover lightly with the demerara sugar. Tap out the excess. Set aside until needed.
Place the butter and chocolate in microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 1 minute total; 30 seconds at a time. Let the mixture rest for a minute or two after the first 30 second then microwave it again for another 30 seconds. Mix well and reserve. (this can be done in a double boiler or bain marie).
With an electric or hand mixer whisk together both the yolks, whole eggs and the sugar. Mix until the mixture become light, foamy and thick. Slowly add the butter-chocolate mixture to mixer and combine well; add the sifted flour combined with the pinch of salt and mix until combined.
If you have a pastry bag putt the batter in it and fill the ramekins or spoon in the batter. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet.
Bake for 6 to 7 minutes until the center is soft, but the outside is set. Remove from the oven and let the molds rest for a minute.
Invert each mold onto plate and let stand for 10 seconds. Gently tap the molds and carefully remove. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve as it with vanilla ice cream, cream Chantilly or with any of the suggested goodies listed above. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
The batter can be made ahead and refrigerate (that is what restaurants do and only bake when the order is about to go out because the cake has to be served warm). The batter has to be brought to room temperature before baking. In order to get good results baking this dessert pay attention to temperature and timing.
This cake is I will say for chocolate lovers just like my son Christopher-the chocolate here is intense, but delicious.
I adapted this cake from Chef Jean Georges Vongerichten recipe, I have two versions one with 4 ounces of chocolate and another with 6, I opted to make the 4 ounces one.
*The Roman Martyrology is, like the Roman Missal and the Roman Breviary, an official liturgical book of the Catholic Church. It provides an extensive but not exhaustive list of the saints recognized by the Church.
I could not resist to post this picture. My little boy loves chocolate.
This post is also available in: Spanish