My Funny Valentine
Sweet Comic Valentine
You Make Me Smile With My Heart
You're Looks Are Laughable,
Yet You're My Favorite Work Of Art
Is Your Figure Less Than Greek
Is Your Mouth A Little Weak
When You Open It To Speak
Are You Smart
Don't Change A Hair For
Me Not If You Care For Me
Stay Little Valentine Stay
Each Day Is Valentine's Day
- Chet Baker
Yet that first Valentine’s Day together a single chocolate heart was placed atop my pillow with all the care of a newborn babe. One single chocolate heart filled with a thousand words, words that said “I love you” silently yet louder than if he had screamed them from the rooftops. With that one chocolate heart wrapped in shimmering silver foil he let me know that he understood that this simple gesture meant more to me than his contempt for the signs in shop windows and the ads on TV, the French adaptation of this very American faux holiday. He understood that expectation fluttered underneath my bold claim of agreement with him, my apparent disinterest for this special date, expectation fluttering like a schoolgirl heart as she places that shoebox decorated with pink crepe paper hearts and white doilies on the corner of her desk as she silently utters a prayer.
When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out 'til quarter to three, would you let me drive
Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four?
You'll be older too
Ah, and if you say the word, I could stay with you
- Paul McCartney
So many Valentine’s Days have come and gone, 27 of them to be exact. 27 years filled with roses and tulips, carnations and peonies, stunning jewels and breathtaking adventure. And chocolates. One time I asked him, after a very long, arduous several months trying to slim down, if he could tell that I had lost weight, if I looked better in my snug skirts, and he looked at me with that look before saying, “You know, you always look the same to me… I see you through eyes of love and you are always perfect.”
Lately, he has been dancing around the apartment making fun of us growing old together. “Maybe I’ll start cultivating the “fat, old pépère look – you know, baggy clothes, crazy hair, slumped over in my armchair saying crazy things, walking Marty in my slippers and pajama pants?” And now I look at this man as he grows older, as his moods and tempers blow hot and cold, from stressed to panicked to gleeful, from utter joy to tempestuous moody and dark; I look at this man who can drive me absolutely nuts or rant and rave and make me feel like a disobedient girl, who can make me laugh so long and so hard that my sides hurt and tears course down my cheeks, who can woo me, whisper in my ear and make me feel so loved and I realize that 64 isn’t that far away anymore.
And my answer would be yes.
Finely ground stale bread or dry wafer-type cookies – plain white bread, Challah, brioche, ladyfingers or digestive biscuits – are used to bind these puddings in place of flour and are a fabulous way to use up stale bread. Unlike the Anglo-saxon/American style of pudding in which chunks of bread soak up custard, the bread and cookies used for a French pudding are undetectable; these puddings are velvety smooth, creamy, incredibly rich and intensely chocolate without the bitter edge. The addition of a bit of cinnamon, ground ginger or espresso, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, rum, cognac, coffee liqueur, there are so many possibilities for these deep, lusciously chocolate puddings. This is a recipe based on one found in Maisons Côté Nos 100 Recettes Tout Chocolat December 2012
5.3 oz (150 g) stale bread and/or plain wafer cookies or digestive biscuits
7 oz (200 g) dark semisweet or bittersweet chocolat 70% cacao
2 2/3 cups (600 ml) milk – I used 2% lowfat
½ cup (100 g) sugar
3 large eggs
½ tsp ground cinnamon, optional or replaced by another flavoring
½ tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly butter 10 muffin cups in a muffin tin or silicone mold or ramekins. These puddings will be baked in a bain-marie, so the muffin tin or the ramekins need to sit comfortably inside a larger baking pan that will hold water.
Finely chop the chocolate on a cutting board; place the cookies and/or stale bread in a robot mixer and grind to a fine powder.
Place the milk and sugar in a large saucepan and bring up to the boil over low heat; add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is just melted then stir in the cookie/bread crumbs. Remove from the heat.
Allow the chocolate milk to cool to warm, stirring often. Lightly beat the eggs in a measuring cup or small bowl; once the chocolate mixture has cooled, whisk three or four tablespoons of it into the eggs in a slow stream just to warm the beaten eggs. Pour the eggs into the saucepan of warm chocolate mixture in a slow steady stream while whisking the mixture (we do not want the eggs to cook).
Divide the batter evenly among the cups of the muffin tin/silicone mold or the ramekins. Place these inside the larger baking pan and slide into the preheated oven. Carefully pour very hot tap water from a spouted measuring cup into the pan around the molds until the molds/tin/ramekins are immersed just halfway, being careful to not let any water get on/in the puddings.
Bake in the preheated oven in the water bath (bain-marie) for 25 – 30 minutes until the puddings are set.
Remove the baking pan very carefully from the oven so the water doesn’t slosh and wet the puddings or burn your hands. Very carefully (use oven mitts or a kitchen cloth) lift each pudding or the muffin tin out of the bain-marie water and place on a kitchen towel or cooling rack.
Serve the puddings warm with salted butter caramel sauce, berry coulis, whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. These puddings are incredibly sexy when eaten warm, but are also quite fabulous at room temperature. Chilling will make them very dense and chewy but the flavor is still astonishingly good.