Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Oh yes, Valentine’s Day has arrived. Depending on the status of your soon-to-be valentine, this news may come with varying degrees of excitement. Regardless of who you’re dining with, though, a romantic dinner in this city can run an arm and a leg. Why not stay in? Whether you have a boo to woo, a friend or two, or this V-day it’s just you, there is truly no better way to kiss cuffing season goodbye than with homemade dessert and a pizza pie.
Dessert: Poor Man’s Pot de Creme
Makes: 2-4 servings
10 mins prep
4 hrs chillin’
We’re gonna start with dessert: a budget-friendly and dairy-adaptable take on the classic French chocolate pudding. Perfectly creamy and not too sweet, this (less than) ten-dollar dessert is sure to impress the chocolate lover in your life.
What you’ll need:
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 package of bittersweet chocolate chips
- Milk (any kind)
Start by filling a large, microwave-safe vessel with the entire package of chocolate chips (I used a plastic quart-container). Fill said container with milk until the chocolate is just barely submerged. Remember: you can always add more milk later if needed.
Pop that concoction in the microwave for a minute or so, adding more time if needed to fully melt the chocolate. Stir thoroughly while still hot. Add in the egg as you stir. The egg yolk will make the pudding richer and give it a nice, dark shine. Keep stirring until the consistency becomes thick and smooth, adding milk if necessary.
Finally, pour the pudding evenly into your small serving bowls of choice. An optional step, although highly recommended, is to cover each bowl with saran wrap. Tip: make sure to lightly press the plastic onto the surface of the chocolate to prevent a skin from forming. Then, pop them right into the fridge for four hours until set. Voila!
(If you’re feeling extra fancy you can top the dessert with berries or whipped cream for a little more flavor complexity.)
Dinner: Easy as (Pizza) Pie
Makes: 1 large pizza
30 mins for homemade dough
25 mins for ready-to-bake dough
While dessert is chilling, it’s time to get started on dinner. What better way to honor the Roman roots of Valentine’s day than to make pizza? It’s affordable, adaptable, and most importantly, delicious.
There are two options for dough in this recipe: to make it yourself (which I’ll be doing) or pick up a ball of ready-to-bake pizza dough (highly recommend Trader Joe’s). The other ingredients you’ll need are:
- Tomato sauce
- Cheese (mozzarella is standard)
For the dough you will need:
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 2 - 2 ½ cups flour (preferably bread flour)
Tip: Preheat the oven first. 450 degrees.
Pizza dough seems difficult to prepare, but come to learn the opposite is true. Just think to yourself: if they could make this in the olden days, you can too! With that thought in mind, combine warm water (about 100 degrees, too hot will kill yeast!), sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Let rest for 5-10 minutes as the yeast blooms. ('blooms': basically a fancy way of saying you want the yeast to wake up and eat the sugar.) Wait for light foam to form on the surface.
Add in salt, oil, and 2 cups of flour little by little. It’s easiest to add the flour as you go, mixing the dough with clean hands. You don’t want the dough to be sticky or too dry. Add reserved ½ cup of flour as fit, though save some for sprinkling. Begin to form into a ball.
Transfer dough onto a floured surface and knead. The trick with kneading is that you never want to rip the dough. Roll it around. Stretch it. Work the gluten as you form a smooth dough. Be sure not to overwork the dough to the point where it gets tough.
Plenty of debate around proofing dough (letting it rest and rise), but my hunger usually persuades me not to wait. Feel free to do, but I skipped this step. Lightly grease pan; if you don't have a pie pan, you can bake this in almost any oven-safe vessel. Trust me-- I’ve tried. Stretch dough to desired shape, until it is even and not too thin. Pre-bake without toppings for 2-5 minutes to avoid future sogginess.
Top as you wish! Tip: You need less tomato sauce than you think. Spread on a thin layer; some of the dough should still be peeking out, otherwise, it'll be too runny. Bake for 15-20 mins and serve.