Passion-fruit truffles and grapefruit marshmallows: Flora Shedden's Valentine's Day treats

Valentine's Day treats
This year, banish naff gifts and go with home-made sweets your nearest and dearest will adore, says Flora Shedden  Credit: Jennifer Joyce/Lisa Linder

I have never been wild about Valentine’s Day. When we were little, mum used to stuff our school bags with little heart chocolates wrapped in pink foil, or mini packets of pastel-coloured love hearts, all squirrelled away in pockets. It took us weeks to find them all and was the only highlight of the event, as far as I was concerned. I have never celebrated the day properly. The thought of going for dinner in a restaurant crammed with couples pretending to like oysters is enough to make me run for the nearest monastery. What I do wholeheartedly endorse, however, is getting into the kitchen yourself on February 14.

Very few things make me feel as loved and cared for as someone else cooking. I know that’s a bizarre thing to hear from a cook but I am thrilled with a cup of tea in the morning. And so this Valentine’s Day I propose you do the same. Out with the naff – or even worse, ironic, cards – goodbye to the sad little teddy bears and adios to the bunting and candles. Instead, why don’t you cook a meal for your loved ones at home – nothing fancy, just the food they adore. And then how about rustling up some sweet treats for pudding? Any excess can be gifted to anyone and everyone special.

These grapefruit marshmallows do require a little bit of skill (or, rather, a talent for multitasking) but the result is worth it. Pillowy in texture, the sharpness of grapefruit is a perfect pairing with all that sugar. And for traditionalists who want to stick to the chocolates, passion fruit and champagne truffles are a simple solution. Prosecco can be used instead of champagne or, alternatively, more passion fruit juice if you are making for little Valentines.

If you are giving away your confections, as opposed to serving them at home, presentation goes a long way. A lovely thing to do also is wrap your sweeties up in clear plastic gift bags and tie with a ribbon (pink, if you insist). Add a little tag, signed anonymously, of course, for full effect. Marshmallows and truffles in little bags tied up prettily with string are exactly the sorts of things I want to have on my bakery shelves. Hopefully, come next Valentine’s Day it will be packed with them. Who knows, the red heart bunting might even have won me over by then.

I hope you have a very, very happy Valentine’s Day with your nearest and dearest, and most importantly, enjoy the leftover fizz from truffle making.

Grapefruit marshmallows

Credit: Lisa Linder

Home-made marshmallows have a far superior texture to shop-bought. If you’re going all out on the Valentine’s theme you can add a little pink food colouring to the mixture at the same time as the grapefruit zest.

MAKES

around 30, depending on size

INGREDIENTS

  • 50g cornflour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • Sunflower oil, for greasing
  • 6 sheets leaf gelatine (each 11.5 x 7cm)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 375g caster sugar
  • 25g liquid glucose
  • Zest of 1 large Ruby Red grapefruit plus 200ml juice

METHOD

  1. Mix the cornflour and icing sugar together in a bowl. Grease a rectangular tin (roughly 20 x 30cm) with sunflower oil then dust thoroughly with half of the sugar and cornflour mix. Set aside.
  2. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water in a shallow dish and set aside.
  3. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a free-standing mixer with a whisk attachment. Add a tablespoon of the caster sugar to the bowl.
  4. In a saucepan, stir the remaining caster sugar, glucose and grapefruit juice over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up a little and boil until you reach 120C on a sugar thermometer, but don’t stir.
  5. At the same time turn the mixer on and whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Working quickly, squeeze the softened gelatine sheets in your hand to get rid of excess water and add them to the sugar syrup in the pan. Whisk until dissolved.
  6. Turn the mixer down to a medium-low speed. Gently pour the hot syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream, with the mixer still running. Once fully added, tip in the zest, turn the mixer up to high and whisk for five minutes or until cool, thick and glossy.
  7. Scoop into the prepared tin and level with a palette knife. Sprinkle a little more of the cornflour mix on top then set aside to set for at least four hours.
  8. Clingfilm once cold. Once set cut into squares and roll in the leftover cornflour mixture, dusting off the excess as you go. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

Passion fruit and champagne truffles

Credit: Lisa Linder

MAKES

around 50 (halve the amounts for a smaller batch)

INGREDIENTS

  • 400g dark chocolate (anything above 54% cocoa content will do)
  • 75g salted butter
  • 100ml champagne
  • 50ml passion fruit juice (roughly 2-4 passion fruits sieved)
  • 100ml double cream
  • 300g white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • Gold dust or leaf to finish

METHOD

  1.  Grease and base-line a deep baking tray.
  2.  In a large bowl, break up the dark chocolate into even-sized chunks.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter, champagne, passion fruit juice and cream together. Gently warm the mixture through until hot, stirring regularly, but don’t allow it to boil.
  4. Pour on top of the chocolate pieces and allow to sit for two minutes before stirring, then stir until smooth.
  5. Pour the ganache into the baking tray to cool, and leave to set fully in the fridge (roughly two to three hours depending how deep the tray is). Once firm to touch, remove from the fridge and line a baking sheet with greaseproof or silicon paper.
  6. Using a teaspoon, scoop equal-sized amounts of the ganache and roll them into balls with your hands. Place on the tray and return to the fridge to firm up again.
  7. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Once your truffles feel solid again, use a small cake fork or cocktail stick to dip them into the melted white chocolate, to fully cover.
  8. Lay them carefully on the baking tray and return to the fridge until set.
  9. To finish, brush with a little flick of gold dust or add a little gold leaf to the top. These will keep in an airtight box in the fridge for up to two weeks.

READ: 15 gifts for foodies this Valentine's Day