Quick and Easy Chocolate Desserts for Valentine’s Day (and Any Day)
No pastry degree? No problem. Take advantage of some smart short-cuts to whip up a dreamy Nutella galette, chocolate fudge, chocolate mousse, or slow-cooker chocolate cake in no time.
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Quick and Creamy Nutella Galette. Article, recipes, and photographs by Ashley Strickland Freeman
I am a chocoholic, so you better believe if there’s a chocolate dessert on the menu, I find it hard to resist. While there are many occasions to make a chocolate dessert — Valentine’s Day being at the top of the list — sometimes I get a craving on a random weekday. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen making something incredibly involved. So I’ve created some super easy chocolate desserts that don’t require a pastry degree to make with success.
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Secrets to the easiest chocolate fudge
First up is maybe the simplest of all: fudge. When I was in college, I worked at a candy store making pralines, candy apples, and fudge, among other things. We made fudge the old-fashioned way, with a candy thermometer, cooking it to a certain temperature, and it was far from simple. If you didn’t do things just right, the sugar could crystalize and the fudge would turn hard instead of creamy. If you didn't cook it enough, it would be too soft to cut.
My version uses a combination of sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips for a foolproof but deliciously chocolatey recipe. (The small amount of stabilizers in chocolate chips, and the fact that the sugar in the sweetened condensed milk is already dissolved, mean you don't have to worry about graininess.) All you do is cook the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips with a little butter and salt until melted. We’re talking 5 minutes!
You can enjoy the classic treat as-is, or use the recipe as a springboard to let your imagination go wild. Try a little peppermint extract instead of vanilla, and top with crushed peppermint candies. Top with chopped peanut butter cups or crushed cookies like Oreos. Or stir in your favorite toasted nuts like pecans, or some mini marshmallows. The possibilities are endless.
One thing to keep in mind is that when I created the fudge, it was a cold winter day, so it didn’t take long for it to set up at room temperature after cooking. Had I made it on a hot South Carolina summer afternoon, I wouldn’t be so lucky. So feel free to pop the fudge in the fridge for a little bit to speed the process along.
Chocolate pudding cake in the slow cooker
After you’ve whipped up some fudge, pull out your slow cooker for my irresistible pudding cake. This is probably my all-time favorite chocolate recipe. Boxed cake mix is gussied up and slow-cooked with dollops of chocolate pudding. As the cake cooks, the pudding sinks to the bottom and creates a silky-smooth chocolate sauce. The texture of the cake is like a steamed pudding, and it’s so delicious when topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m all about a contrast, so the warm cake topped with frozen ice cream is perfection for me.
Be sure to use a smaller slow cooker for this recipe: 3 ½- to 4 ½-quart. It really does matter for even cooking that the batter isn't too shallow or too deep in the pot. A 6-quart Crock Pot is too big, and a 1-quart slow cooker is too small.
Chocolate mousse with a simple short-cut
Next up in my chocolate extravaganza is chocolate mousse. This is a dessert that I was intimidated by in the past, mostly because traditional mousse recipes use egg whites and you’ve got to beat them to oblivion (but not too much because they can get cottony), cook them over a water bath to a certain temp….you get the idea. Who has time for all that? Not me! So my version is a cheaters’ mousse with chocolate and heavy cream but no egg whites.
I also love a deep, dark, not-too-sweet chocolate dessert, so I opt for adding a little unsweetened cocoa powder to my semi-sweet chocolate mix.
When making this baby, you’ll want to act quickly once you fold in the whipped cream to spoon the mixture into individual glasses or bowls. The mousse will start to set up, so pop it in the fridge in the serving dishes, rather than refrigerating the bowl you made it in and waiting until serving time to dish it out. You don’t want to mess with that fluffy texture you’ve created.
Nutella galette for pastry newbies
Last on my tour of quick and easy chocolate desserts is the piece de resistance, the showstopping Nutella galette with crunchy roasted hazelnuts. What I love most about this recipe, besides that it features an easy homemade Nutella pudding, is that it uses store-bought pie dough.
When I want to make a quick dessert, refrigerated dough is a lifesaver. I stack both rounds of dough onto each other for two reasons. One is to be able to roll the dough into a really large circle. The other is that the extra structure helps hold in all that luscious, velvety filling.
Pleating pie dough around Nutella pudding to make Quick and Creamy Nutella Galette
Also, the great thing about a galette is that it’s essentially a free-form pie. Rustic is what you’re after, so if you’re not a precise or experienced baker, or you just want to make the thing already so you can enjoy it, well, this dessert is for you.
Make mine chocolate
Are you a chocolate-lover like I am? In addition to these recipes, be sure to check out the many other chocolate dessert recipes and tips in these next articles to satisfy your chocolate craving. And don't miss Yummly's roundups on making fudgy, dark chocolate brownies, chocolate peanut butter desserts, and hot chocolate.
On Yummly you'll also find thousands of recipes for whichever chocolate flavor you have in mind, including dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. Chocolate cake recipes, plus recipes for chocolate chip cookies, chocolate ganache, chocolate ice cream, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate truffles, chocolate-covered pretzels, and fudge sauce are a click away!