`HOMEMADE desserts are like homemade valentines," says Susan Logozzo. "They're personal, and care goes into them."
Take it from someone who knows. Ms. Logozzo is a pastry chef and assistant director at the Cambridge (Mass.) School of Culinary Arts. Dessert is the most important course on Valentine's Day, she acknowledges: "It's a must because you can make it up so pretty and dress it up."
A recent visit to one of Logozzo's pastry classes proved that "care-full" desserts are alive and well in America. One look at the chocolate souffle cake - covered in chocolate ganache and delicately decorated with melted white chocolate, glazed raspberries, and chopped almonds - said it all.
"We teach the real thing here," says Logozzo, as she picks up a truffle, made of semi-sweet chocolate, butter, and heavy cream. I asked her to share some recipes with home cooks. She gladly obliged. CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE CAKE
`This style cake has become very popular, says pastry chef and instructor Susan Logozzo. `It is flourless and produces a rich, dense, moist texture. It keeps well and doesn't require much in terms of finishing. It is meant to rise and fall a bit, so don't think you've made a mistake!' 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small pieces 6 oz. unsalted butter 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 8 eggs, separated 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Place chocolate, butter, and vanilla in bowl. Put bowl over a pan of simmering water, and stir until just melted. Remove from heat.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar until very thick and light, about 5 minutes. Fold egg-yolk mixture into chocolate using a rubber spatula.
Beat whites until soft peaks form. Beat remaining sugar into whites, tablespoon by tablespoon. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture.
Pour batter into pans (that are buttered, floured, and lined with waxed or parchment paper.) Either use two 9-by-3-inch round pans or various-sized heart-shaped pans. Bake in a preheated 275-degree oven for 1 hour and 5 minutes (less if using smaller pans). A skewer inserted into cake should be dry.
Loosen sides of cake, and unmold onto cooling racks. Cakes will be crisp on outside and sink slightly. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar, or glaze with chocolate ganache (recipe below). Serve with whipped cream or raspberry puree.
Makes 2 cakes (at least 10 servings). GANACHE 1 cup heavy cream 2 oz unsalted butter 1 tablespoon corn syrup 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped in small pieces
Bring cream, butter, and corn syrup to boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Allow to sit 5 minutes. Gently stir until thick and smooth. Trim edges of cakes to make even. Place cakes on rack. Pour ganache over top and spread to coat. Allow to set for 10 minutes.
Pour additional ganache over cakes. Smooth sides. If desired, press chopped almonds against sides of cake and garnish with raspberries. RASPBERRY PUREE 1 12-oz package frozen raspberries
Defrost raspberries and place in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Press through sieve to remove seeds. CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES 1 2/3 cups heavy cream 8 oz. unsalted butter 16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small pieces 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring (pure extract - mint or orange) to taste cocoa
Bring cream and butter to a boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Add flavoring(s). Let cool in refrigerator, and stir with whisk every 15 minutes or so until very thick. Remove whisk and chill until firm.
Using melon baller or small spoon, scoop out tablespoon-size portions, and place on sheet sprinkled with cocoa. Place in refrigerator to harden. Using palms of hands, gently and quickly roll each portion of chocolate into a ball. Chill again to harden.
Roll each truffle in powdered cocoa, finely chopped nuts, or dip into melted chocolate.
Store in airtight container in refrigerator.
Makes about 3 dozen.