Tasty power couples for Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day we turn our thoughts to power couples - partners with a statement to make.

That’s exactly how chef Suzanne Vizethann of Buttermilk Kitchen thinks of bacon and chocolate, referring to them as “a power couple, a combination of strong flavors that grabs your attention.”

For the past three years, Vizethann and partner Conor Hubbard have operated The Hungry Peach, a cafe and catering company, in the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. This past October, Vizethann opened her newest venture, Buttermilk Kitchen on Roswell Road.

One of her signature desserts is the John and Yoko Chocolate Cake. The cake was created last year when Vizethann accompanied Rosebud and Family Dog chef/owner Ron Eyester to New York City. Eyester had been invited to prepare a Beatles-themed dinner at the James Beard House. Vizethann was along to make the dessert.

“Ron was thinking of the song ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ with its line about eating chocolate cake in a bag,” she said. A fan of the combination of chocolate and pistachio, he suggested pairing them in the dessert. Vizethann matched her buttermilk chocolate cake with pistachio puree and High Road Craft White Chocolate Toffee Crunch ice cream and they named the result after the song.

Back home for the new restaurant, the John and Yoko Chocolate Cake was born - a layered combination of pistachio mousse and buttermilk chocolate cake, covered with buttermilk buttercream frosting.

Asked to create two more power couple combinations for Valentine’s Day, Vizethann turned first to that power couple mentioned earlier - bacon and chocolate. She created a deeply flavored chocolate cupcake, rich with buttermilk and brewed coffee, paired it with her buttermilk buttercream frosting and topped it with crunchy, savory bits of crisp bacon.

“I have a huge sweet tooth but I love salty with sweet, so this is just a dream combination,” said Vizethann. She named the cupcakes after Bonnie and Clyde, another power couple.

For a power combination for the non-chocolate lover, Vizethann turned to another favorite ingredient in the Buttermilk Kitchen pantry - cornmeal. The restaurant’s Saturday and Sunday brunch menu includes mini corn muffins served with house-made butter, honey and blueberry preserves.

Vizethann developed a recipe for cornbread muffins served with sorghum-bourbon butter. She likes this combination because the bite of the bourbon balances the sweetness of the corn. She named the muffins after Johnny Cash and June Carter, in homage to Cash’s love of bourbon on the rocks.

Other pairing ideas from Vizethann:

Bacon, sugar and heat: Bacon jam, a thick spread of crisp bacon cooked with onions, garlic, sugar and jalapeno or cayenne pepper.

Bacon and spiced chocolate: Crisp slices of bacon dipped in Mexican chocolate, spiced with cayenne, cinnamon and cloves. “That Mexican chocolate would also be perfect for making chocolate-covered strawberries,” she said.

Chocolate and bourbon: Chocolate-bourbon creme brulee or bourbon souffle with chocolate sauce.

Cornmeal and basil: Basil cornbread or muffins, or plain cornbread served with basil butter.

Corn and prosciutto (as a change from bacon): Corn brulee with prosciutto corn sauce.

How will Vizethann be spending her Valentine’s evening? She’s serving a special four-course meal of fried chicken with sides and a special Valentine’s dessert. What power couple will be featured? Guests will have to wait to find out.

Topper: Surprise your Valentine with one of these power couple combinations.

John and Yoko Cake

Hands on: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Serves: 16

At Buttermilk Kitchen, Vizethann garnishes the top and sides of the cake with what she calls “Chocolate Crumb,” a mixture of cocoa, sugar and melted butter that’s baked and then crumbled and pressed into the frosting.

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups cocoa powder

4 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups buttermilk

2 cups brewed coffee

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pistachio Mousse (see recipe)

Buttermilk Buttercream Frosting (see recipe)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 3 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with circles of parchment paper. Lightly grease parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide batter between prepared cake pans and bake until center springs back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool cake pans on wire rack for 5 minutes. Then turn cakes out of pan and cool completely.

To assemble the cake, place one cake round on serving platter. Cover top of cake layer with 1/2 cup buttermilk buttercream Frosting. Top with Pistachio Mousse round. Top mousse with second cake layer and cover with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with Pistachio Mousse round. Add last cake layer and frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Serve immediately.

Per serving, entire recipe: 751 calories (percent of calories from fat, 41), 11 grams protein, 105 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 35 grams fat (14 grams saturated), 132 milligrams cholesterol, 737 milligrams sodium.

Per serving, cake only: 379 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 7 grams protein, 54 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 17 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 54 milligrams cholesterol, 695 milligrams sodium.

Pistachio Mousse

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

Makes: 2 rounds

Pistachio paste is widely used by pastry chefs but can be difficult for the home cook to find. It’s available online from King Arthur Flour. Lacking pistachio paste, substitute an equal amount of almond paste and add a drop of pistachio flavoring available from Cake Art in Tucker. Because the egg yolks are not cooked in this recipe, you may want to use pasteurized egg yolks.

4 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin

2 cups milk, divided

2 cups cream

4 tablespoons pistachio paste

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 egg yolks

Completely line interior of two 9-inch cake pans with plastic wrap.

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup milk and stir briefly. Allow to rest 5 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine cream, pistachio paste and remaining milk, and heat just to a simmer, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir a little warmed milk into the gelatin mixture, stir well to make sure gelatin is dissolved, then whisk gelatin mixture into remaining warm milk mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and egg yolks. Pour 1/2 cup milk mixture over eggs and sugar and whisk together. Add this liquid back to the warm milk mixture and whisk to combine thoroughly. Pour liquid into prepared cake pans, cover and carefully put into refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours. May be made ahead up to 2 days ahead.

Per serving: 138 calories (percent of calories from fat, 62), 3 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 10 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 55 milligrams cholesterol, 37 milligrams sodium.

Buttermilk Buttercream Frosting

Hands on: 5 minutes

Total time: 5 minutes

Makes: 3 cups

In the restaurant, Vizethann uses the butter they make on site. No access to homemade butter? She recommends Plugra.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

5 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided, more if needed

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in 3 cups powdered sugar. Add buttermilk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar until frosting reaches desired consistency. If making ahead, cover frosting and refrigerate up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before frosting cake.

Per serving, based on 16: 238 calories (percent of calories from fat, 32), trace protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, 9 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 23 milligrams cholesterol, 6 milligrams sodium.

Bonnie and Clyde Cupcakes

Hands on: 15 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Makes: 24 cupcakes

This recipe partners sweet and savory – deep mocha chocolate with the crunch of crisp savory bacon. For this recipe, Vizethann likes using Maldon sea salt, Batdorf and Bronson Dancing Goats coffee and bacon from Avondale Estate’s Pine Street Market.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup brewed coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

Buttermilk Buttercream Frosting (see recipe)

3 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 12-cup muffin tins.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cayenne. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, coffee, oil and eggs. Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide batter between prepared muffin cups and bake 8 minutes. Rotate pan and continue baking 8 more minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and cool tins on wire rack for 5 minutes. Then turn cupcakes out of tin and cool completely.

Ice cupcakes with frosting and sprinkle with finely chopped bacon.

Per cupcake: 323 calories (percent of calories from fat, 32), 3 grams protein, 54 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 12 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 34 milligrams cholesterol, 238 milligrams sodium.

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cornbread with Sorghum Butter

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Makes: 12

Vizethann suggests using Plugra butter, Anson Mills cornmeal and King Arthur flour for this recipe. Instead of muffins, this recipe can also be baked in 6-ounce ramekins or in a 9-inch baking dish. Adjust cooking times accordingly.

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 egg

Sorghum Butter (see recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, butter and egg and whisk together until smooth. Divide between cups of muffin tin and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Serve hot with Sorghum Butter.

Per muffin, without Sorghum Butter: 163 calories (percent of calories from fat, 27), 3 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 228 milligrams sodium.

Sorghum Butter

Hands on: 5 minutes

Total time: 5 minutes

Makes: 1/4 cup (serving size, 1 teaspoon)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons sorghum syrup

1/2 teaspoon bourbon

In a small bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter, sorghum and bourbon together until combined. May be used immediately or refrigerated up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Per 1-teaspoon serving: 31 calories (percent of calories from fat, 88), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, no fiber, 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, trace sodium.