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February is the month of LOVE. I can just imagine some of you rolling your eyes and thinking that every month should be the month of love. Some of you may be of the opinion that Valentine’s day is far too commercial. And you’re right. I always show my loved ones how much they are appreciated and loved, no matter what month it is. But I have to admit, I love Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into going out and spending money on gifts. But I do love giving them that little extra something. Sweets for my sweets! Like making heart-shaped desserts, or serving chocolate pudding in heart-shaped bowls. And that’s not something I do every day. And besides, how can I not love Valentine’s when Emma reminds me every year that she is my Valentine gift. She was born on the 15th, you see.

I’ve mentioned before that my brother is a Chef and owner of an Italian restaurant, La Vieille Banque. He rang me the other day asking for a dessert idea for his Valentine’s Day dinner. Needless to say that Valentine’s is HUGE business for restaurants. I gave it some thought. What is Valentine’s Day about? Sweet, love, heat… And what came to mind was chocolate, passion fruit, cayenne pepper.

First up is Passion Crepes. Crepes filled with a vanilla pastry cream and drizzled with a passion fruit caramel sauce. I came across this recipe in the South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook. It was originally created by Claude Troisgros for a special dinner for Bill Clinton. I thought I’d give it a try. The pastry cream was pure bliss. The passion fruit sauce, divine! The crepes were light and fluffy and slightly sweet…superb! The only downfall is the amount of time it takes to make the crepes. I’ve made crepes before, but never this way. They’re great if serving a small group, say 8 to 10 people. But if you need to make over 100, which is what my brother needs, it is far too time-consuming. The recipe yields 20 crepes. It takes 20 minutes to cook up 5 crepes! You would need a Pastry Chef along with 2 Sous-Pastry Chefs to get 100 of these done!

Pastry Cream

3 large egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp flour

1 cup whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

In a mixing bow, whisk egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour.

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In a saucepan, bring milk, vanilla bean and vanilla seeds to a boil.

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Remove pan from heat and gradually stir in the egg yolk mixture. Return pan to the heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, and cook until thick, 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl, allowing to cool for at least 2 hours. Note: If you fill your crepes with a substantial amount of cream the way I did, you should double up on the pastry cream.

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Passion Fruit Caramel Sauce

8 oz./225 g passion fruit

3/4 cup sugar

8 tbsp water

2 tbsp cold butter

There’s a passion fruit dessert which is quite popular amongst the Portuguese community and because of this, Portuguese grocery stores carry passion fruit pulp. It comes frozen in 1 lb./450 g and can be found both with the seeds or without. Lucky for me, we have a Portuguese neighbourhood here in Montreal where I scooped up a few packages of each. If you’re in a part of the world where you can purchase them fresh at this time of year, you’re even luckier than I am! So, begin by combining the sugar and 1 tbsp of water in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium heat until it turns a light caramel colour. Do keep an eye on it as it takes but a few seconds to go from light in colour to dark, turning your caramel into a bitter-tasting one. Remove from heat and add passion fruit with seeds and remaining 7 tbsp of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the butter until melted and set aside.

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Crepes

10 large eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1 cup plus 1 tbsp flour

2 cups whole milk

6 tbsp butter

1 tsp baking soda

In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar until pale and smooth. Gradually add the flour.

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In a saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool 2 minutes. Pour hot milk into egg yolk mixture and mix well.

In a clean bowl, beat egg whites and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar until soft peaks form. Stir in the baking soda. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

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Heat oven at 350 degrees F.

Heat some butter in a non-stick pan and add a generous ladle of batter. You can use a 6-inch pan if you’ve got one and fill with enough batter to cover. I used a larger pan and made 6-inch crepes, making it easier to lift. Cook 2 minutes on one side only and then place crepe on a baking sheet. I was able to fit 5 crepes on my baking sheet. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.

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Fill each crepe half with a generous amount of pastry cream. Fold over and either sit atop some passion fruit sauce, or drizzle sauce over crepe. Or both! Enjoy!

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