RECIPES: Impress your valentine with heartfelt treats

Homemade cookies, chocolate and tarts are appreciated gifts on sweetest day of year.



When Valentine’s Day arrives Monday, what will Atlanta chefs and recipe developers be gifting friends and loved ones (and themselves)?

A quick survey reveals plenty of hearts, chocolate and tarts.

For many restaurants, the weekend run-up to Valentine’s Day, and the day itself, will be some of the busiest days of the year. While pastry chef Jessica McKinney of Canoe is in the restaurant kitchen, her boyfriend will be enjoying his Valentine gift — a box of decorated cookies. “He’s a cookie monster. The man has never met a cookie he didn’t like.”

This year’s box will include Triple Chocolate Chip, Crunchy Peanut Butter, a Linzer Raspberry cookie and heart-shaped Orange Sugar Cookies, the recipe she shares with our readers. These are cookies that can be dressed up or down. “I like this cookie because of its simplicity. The orange flavor is understated and it bakes up as a nice crisp cookie.”

Delicious as they are without embellishments, these cookies can also be decorated with colored sugar or royal icing. At Canoe, McKinney’s guests will be enjoying a decorated version as a garnish for a Valentine dessert.

Registered dietitian-nutritionist and plant-based recipe developer Nichole Dandrea-Russert shared the recipe for a chocolate treat that is not only delicious but full of antioxidants.

“This pairing of dark chocolate with nutrient-rich pomegranates gets me particularly excited because the pomegranate arils burst in your mouth when you bite into these chocolates. It’s like an explosion in your mouth, so delicious. And the combination is so satisfying that one or two are enough.”

At Bastone on Howell Mill Road, slated to open in March, pastry chef Latonya “LT” Crawford’s Valentine desserts will tend toward something traditionally Italian, but the treat she will make for herself is a Brown Butter Frangipane-Cherry Tart. “I’ve been making this off and on for the last four or five years. It’s my gift to myself, and this year’s tart combines so many of my favorite flavors — cherries, chocolate, almonds and spice. I’ve done versions that are all vanilla, versions that include citrus like grapefruit, but for this year, it’s cherries.”

And lest you think we’ve forgotten about that traditional bouquet of red roses, we’ll mention what executive chef Drew Van Leuvan of Ecco Buckhead did when he found himself with hundreds of red roses.

Van Leuvan says he’s been making pasta “basically all my life.” When he and his sous chef at now-shuttered Seven Lamps discovered they’d both ordered flowers, he turned to his pasta-making roots. “We dried the roses in a dehydrator and then ground them into a powder. It doesn’t have the most amazing flavor profile, but the purple color is very cool.”

His Rose Petal-Scented Tagliatelle uses the petals of three dozen red roses to make 1/2 cup of rose petal powder to color 6 cups of double zero and semolina flour. His clients loved it and now rose petal-scented pasta is a Valentine tradition. Look for them on the Valentine’s Day menu at Ecco.




For Valentine’s Day this year, make them something with sugar, spice and everything nice.

Orange Sugar Cookies

This recipe from pastry chef Jessica McKinney of Canoe yields cookies that will make a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for someone who loves crisp, buttery cookies that aren’t overly sweet. This recipe is easily doubled if you need gifts for a crowd.

For the best vanilla flavor, use a vanilla bean instead of extract. To remove the seeds, split the bean open lengthwise and use the dull side of a paring knife to scrape the seeds from each half, then add to the dough. If you cannot find vanilla beans, substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

For a pretty display, do as McKinney does and color some of the dough, then cut out cookies using different size heart-shaped cutters.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Jessica McKinney.

Credit: Nichole Dandrea-Russert

Credit: Nichole Dandrea-Russert

Chocolate-Covered Pomegranate Nibbles

Nichole Dandrea-Russert’s recipe combines pomegranate arils with dark chocolate. We found that a 1-pound pomegranate yields 1 1/2 cups arils, enough for 3 batches of these nibbles. Save the extras to sprinkle on a salad, top a bowl of yogurt or just nibble out of hand.

You can also make these nibbles with frozen pomegranate arils. Fresh or frozen, be sure the arils come to room temperature before adding them to the dark chocolate, and that there’s no juice added with the arils. Adding cold temperature ingredients to melted chocolate will cause the chocolate to seize or harden before everything can be mixed, and juice can keep the chocolate from firming up.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Nichole Dandrea-Russert.

Credit: Latonya Crawford

Credit: Latonya Crawford

Brown Butter Frangipane-Cherry Tarts

This tart is one that Bastone pastry chef Latonya “LT” Crawford has been making for years as her Valentine gift to herself, varying the flavors of the dough and maybe the fruit, but always with the brown butter frangipane. Frangipane is an almond-flavored custard used as a filling for many pastries. Using brown butter adds a nutty richness to the dish that pairs nicely with the spiced tart dough.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Latonya Crawford.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Latonya Crawford.

Brown Butter Frangipane

Brown your butter by melting it in a skillet over medium heat. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. In about 5 minutes, the butter will turn golden brown. The foam will subside and the milk solids on the bottom of the pan will turn brown. Allow to cool before using.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Latonya Crawford.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Latonya Crawford.

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.