Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Delicious Desserts from Benchmark Resorts & Hotels

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Whether you’re celebrating with friends, a significant other, or your coworkers, Valentine’s Day is a time to indulge in delicious sweet treats, preferably featuring chocolate. Top chefs from Benchmark Resorts & Hotels and Gemstone Collections have gathered a few tasty recipes so that you, and those you care about, can create gourmet desserts from the comfort of your home – or office. Enjoy!

Champagne Mousse Cups

Champagne and sugar cane juice give this delectable mousse extra sparkle. Poured into chocolate cups and topped with strawberries, it’s a perfect Valentine.

Ingredients:
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons evaporated cane juice or sugar
- 2/3 cup champagne
- 1/2 teaspoon gelatin
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions:  
Whip the heavy cream and refrigerate. Combine the yolks and evaporated cane juice in a glass or stainless steel bowl and whisk thoroughly until the mixture whitens. Add the champagne and whisk together completely. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook, beating constantly until the mixture thickens to the consistency of a light hollandaise sauce. Remove from heat and continue whisking for about 1 minute. Set aside and allow to cool. Combine the gelatin and water in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin. Heat the softened gelatin mixture until the gelatin dissolves and the liquid clears. Whisk the dissolved gelatin into the champagne mixture. Then fold in the whipped cream with the aid of a rubber spatula. Chill for 1 hour before piping the mousse into champagne glasses or chocolate cups.  Garnish with fruit marinated in champagne and Macaroons.

Courtesy of  Heather Wallace, Bake Shop Manager, The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa, Essex, VT

Affogato

This luscious Italian dish puts the express in espresso, with vanilla gelato and biscotti drowned with espresso and topped with caramel and whipped cream.

Ingredients:
4 oz. Vanilla Gelato
- 1 oz. Biscotti
- 1 mini Sugar Waffle Cone
- ¼ oz. Espresso Beans crushed
- 2 oz. Espresso chilled
- 1.5 oz. Caramel Sauce
- 2 oz. whipped cream
- 1 sprig of fresh mint

Directions:
Scoop vanilla Gelato into a 10 oz. clear rock glass.  Crumble biscotti and sprinkle around gelato to where the pieces fall between the ice cream and the glass. Pour chilled Espresso over Gelato and then drizzle with caramel sauce. Fill mini waffle cone with whipped cream and place inside glass. Garnish with crushed espresso beans and fresh mint.

Courtesy of Chef John Andreola, The Nautical Beachfront Resort, Lake Havasu City, AZ

Decadent Avocado Brownie

Avocados, almonds, coconut, honey, and deep dark chocolate give an incredibly indulgent taste and texture to these decidedly decadent brownies. And you’ll never guess - they’re gluten-free.

Ingredients:
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
- 5.5 Hass Avocados
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 8 Room Temperature Eggs
- 1 1/3 Cups Cocoa Powder
- 1 1/3 Cups Almond Flour
 800 grams of 62% Dark Chocolate

Directions:
Grease a 9 x 13 pan with coconut oil and line with parchment. Double boil the dark chocolate and coconut oil together until the chocolate has melted. In a blender or food processor, blend avocados until smooth. In a mixer blend the avocados, honey and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Mix in eggs gradually. Add almond flour and cocoa powder and mix until smooth. Pour into prepared 9 X 13 pan and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. The top should be firm to touch. Serve with cashew milk ice cream of your choice.

Courtesy of Pastry Chef Robert Zang, Garden of the Gods Collection, Colorado Springs, CO

Heart Shaped Chocolate Cake for Two

Chocolate cake and cream are sealed with a rich ganache, topped with white chocolate and garnished with a heart-shaped strawberry.

Requirements:
Medium Heart Shape Mold.
- Chocolate Cake Recipe or Mix
- Ganache Pour Over
- White Chocolate bar or morsels.

Chocolate Cake:
Bake your favorite Chocolate Cake recipe, let cool.

Ganache Instructions:
Place 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl; set aside. Place 1 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Pour over chocolate and let stand until chocolate has softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon unsalted room temperature butter, and stir until smooth. Let cool slightly before using.

White Chocolate Drizzle:
Place 6 oz of white chocolate morsels in a heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly till the chocolate begins to melt. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir the chocolate until it is smooth.

Finishing Steps:
Dip fork into chocolate and drizzle over cake. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 10 minutes. Garnish with berries.

Courtesy of Pastry Chef Janell Pascual, Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, HI