Gal/Val-entines Baking

I've collected three of my favourite bakes here to inspire you to do a little Galentine's or Valentine's baking. There's something for everyone with delicious chocolate, zesty blood orange and fragrant almond flavours making themselves known. In particular, the almond biscuits are so easy to whip up with the simplest of ingredients. 

These gorgeous little guys were created for my Uncle Phil who sadly passed away last month and used a very special Belgian beer brought over to us from his best friend Bernie. Uncle Phil lived in Belgium for the best part of a decade and enjoyed some of his best years over there and for Bernie to bring us some of the best beers over was a fitting tribute to the times they shared out there.

It made perfect sense for this cherry number to be paired with chocolate and these are the most wonderful mix of a fudgey brownie and boozy rich chocolate cake. The flavour of Lambic beer, Lindemans brings a fruity element and works really well with the super dark chocolate its best to use in the cakes. Although ours were brought across the Channel, they can be found for a measly £1.35 from this website so you can stock up too...

This one is as pink as you like which gives the buttercream not only its delicious flavour but also a wonderful dusky pink hue. 

After playing around with some decorating ideas I kept it simple for the day and allowed the darkness of the cherries to shine right through, although those white chocolate drizzled ones made for a yummy afternoon snack! 

With a gorgeous bowl from my lovely friend Ana at Kana London to hold my extras for more snacking I decided to keep the cakes themselves without cherries and let the beer do the talking. Using a hybrid of a trusted Guinness cake recipe and my favourite ever brownie recipe made for the fudgiest, gooiest middles but a light crisp edge to please all those who prefer either a middle, corner or edge bit of the brownie tray.

Find the recipe here if you fancy making these guys for someone equally as awesome as Uncle Phil.

Now these truly are a sweet for your sweet. Inspired by traditional Italian pasticcini, a simple biscuit of ground almonds, I've infused mine with seasonal blood orange zest but you could easily use any citrus you like: particularly clementines are gorgeous at Christmas. 

Ground almonds are always welcome with me and using them here as the only 'flour' makes them naturally gluten free which is always helpful if your beau isn't a wheat fan. Make sure you roll them entirely in icing sugar before they go in the oven so you can really bring out the cracks that form beautifully over the surface while they bake!

A basic ball and thumb print in the middle is the traditional way to shape pasticcini but hearts are as equally easy to do - just tap the back of a knife in at one side and slightly pinch the opposite side to a point. Flatten a little with a light touch and adjust the baking times slightly to account for any extra height. A couple of these with a morning cuppa will definitely pop you in the good books... 

Grab the recipe here!

Shortbreads are one of the most simple biscuits to start with and the best technique is only using the very tips of your fingers to rub the butter and flour together. With these lemon and almond 'broken' hearts, adding ground almonds and using a proportion of golden granulated sugar also gives them a wonderful bite to help you along with that short texture. 

Don't panic if they're a little soft on taking out of the oven, just let them cool on the tray for about ten minutes before moving them to the cooling rack and sprinkling with caster sugar. Don't make my mistake of sugaring them on the baking tray and reusing it for another batch or you'll end up with a rather burnt caramel as the base for your next few biscuits! 

Switch up the citrus to whatever you've got to hand and don't be shy! Almonds and zest make great bedfellows.

Recipe's here!