For decades, the February editions of magazines contained articles aimed at single, desperate young women, usually with depressing names like "How To Win Your Man's Heart With Dessert", the assumption being that anything that did not involve boardrooms, guns or grills was up to the woman in a relationship, including planning a Valentine's evening.
Then, after men discovered they could cook without their gonads dropping off, the men's magazines started aiming articles at guys whose cooking prowess was limited to delivery order, like a sort of reverse Sadie Hawkins: "you only cook for V-Day and her birthday, guys, so here's a way to make a lovable attempt that still won't taste good."
Well, here at Stick A Fork In It, we don't make gender judgments like that. Regardless of what gender you are and what gender you're trying to seduce, the fact is that the road to the bedroom is shorter after a tempting, homemade dessert. Following are five desserts that look harder to make than they are.
1. Chocolate-dipped strawberries
This is so easy it's shameful. Melt some good, high-quality chocolate, then dip fresh strawberries into it. Make sure the strawberries are completely dry (any juice or water in the bowl of chocolate will cause it to seize up and turn gritty). If you really want to step it up, melt some white chocolate in the same way and use a spoon to drizzle it over the dipped strawberries. Hint: buy a roll of parchment paper for the strawberries to dry on, otherwise you'll crack them as you try and remove them. These make great gifts, or you can just feed them directly to the object of your lust.
2. Brownie sundaes
While it seems simple and obvious, this is a great dessert because you can customize it to your own level of commitment. If you're busy or a novice, you can go to the store and buy the ingredients (brownies, ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and nuts). If you're a through-and-through foodie hell-bent on making a declaration of eternal love through dessert à la Tita de la Garza, you can bake your own brownies, make your own ice cream and hot fudge sauce, whip your own cream and toast your own nuts. The pitfall here is that if you're dating a closet foodie, he or she may peg your commitment to the quality of ingredients and the effort you put in to the dessert and judge you silently, which is never good for the end of the evening. Also, you'll end up with a lot of whipped cream left over. Try and find something to do with it, won't you?
Zabaglione is a dessert sauce that goes on top of fresh or poached fruit. All you need to know how to do is use a double boiler (a Pyrex or metal bowl perched atop a pot of barely-simmering water). Whip 8 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar together until they form a light yellow, ribbony goop; add 1/3 cup Marsala wine and whip in the double boiler until it coats the back of a spoon. If you want it to be shiny, take the bowl off the boiler, set it in a sink of cold water, and whip until cool. Pour it over some fruit. If you want to be fancy, peel some Bosc pears (those are the brown ones at the market) and poach them in red wine before drenching in zabaglione. If not, just pour it over berries or cake. Or melons, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.
If you're looking for extra credit on this one, incidentally, our recipe for tiramisù is just zabaglione, whipped cream, cheese, coffee and ladyfinger cookies.
4. Bread Pudding
If you can make French toast, you can make bread pudding. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut a pound loaf of your favorite bread into cubes. For a single, solid block of pudding, use soft bread; for a rustic, jagged-looking pudding, use crusty bread. Feel free to use sweet breads such as cinnamon-raisin, too. Then whip eight eggs with 2 cups of half and half and half a cup of sugar, plus maybe some vanilla extract for flavoring. Butter a baking dish, put the bread in the dish, then pour the custard over the top. Let it soak in thoroughly, then press it down and bake it until done, about 30-40 minutes. Make a zabaglione (see #3 above) with bourbon instead of Marsala to pour over the top. Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker, you know.
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We have the Philippines to thank for this, also called banana lumpia. Buy a package of the large square egg roll wrappers, half a dozen bananas, some neutral oil (corn, vegetable, canola, grapeseed...) and a box of brown sugar. Peel the bananas, then cut them in half cross-wise and length-wise. Lay one of the egg roll wrappers on the counter and sprinkle the middle with brown sugar. Put one of the banana pieces on it, sprinkle the banana with brown sugar, and roll the wrapper like a burrito. When you've done all of them, fry them in hot oil until they're done, then top with brown sugar as soon as they come out of the oil. They're sticky and sugary. You may have to lick the syrup off your lover's body. That would be a terrible shame, wouldn't it?