Romance is sweetAh sweet romance. Love has long been...

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February 07, 1993|By RENEE COMET/TIME-LIFE | RENEE COMET/TIME-LIFE,Staff Writer

Romance is sweet

Ah sweet romance. Love has long been linked with sweets, and the connection is never clearer than on Valentine's Day, when gifts of candy, cakes and other sweet treats prevail. In honor of Cupid, god of love, here are a few items that could sweeten up your valentine.

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A great dessert is always welcome. Here's one from Hershey's Cocoa:

Chocolate lover's cheesecake

Serves 10 to 12.

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

1/2 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

2 eggs

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 graham cracker crust (recipe below)

1 cup (8 ounces) dairy sour cream

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare graham cracker crust and set aside. In large bowl, beat cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, cocoa and 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs; blend well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into graham cracker crust. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 15 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla; stir until smooth. Spread evenly over baked filling. Return to oven and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven to wire rack. With knife, loosen cake from side of pan. Refrigerate before serving. To preserve leftovers, cover and refrigerate.

Graham cracker crust

Makes 1 crust.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

Mix all ingredients well. Press mixture onto bottom and halfway up sides of 9-inch springform pan.

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Debbi Fields, of Mrs. Fields cookie fame, suggests heart-shaped cookies to win your valentine. Here's her recipe, from "Mrs. Fields Cookie Book" (Time-Life Books, 1992, $12.95 paperback).

Chocolate cream-filled hearts

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

FOR THE COOKIE DOUGH:

1 1/2 cups salted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

4 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

FOR THE FILLING:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips

FOR THE TOPPING:

confectioners' sugar

Cream butter in a medium bowl with electric mixer set at medium speed. Add 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla and mix until creamy. Scrape bowl. Add flour and mix at low speed until thoroughly mixed.

Gather dough into two balls and flatten into disks. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place in airtight plastic bag. Refrigerate one hour, or until firm.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Using floured rolling pin, roll dough on floured board to 1/4 -inch thickness. Cut out 2-inch hearts with cookie cutters. Reroll and recut all scraps until dough is used. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet, 1/2 inch apart. Bake 16-18 minutes or until firm. Transfer to cool, flat surface with spatula.

To make filling: Scald the cream in a small saucepan and remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate chips and cover for 15 minutes. Stir chocolate cream until smooth, then transfer to a small bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

To assemble, spread 1 teaspoon of chocolate filling on one side of a cookie. Top with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies and cream. If desired, sift confectioners' sugar over the finished cookies. If you'd rather spend Valentine's Day romancing than cooking, there are plenty of folks just waiting to provide the perfect gift of candy or food. Here are just a few of them:

*Epicurean Fantasys of Waterbury, Conn., offers a wide array of super sweet treats. Special for Valentine's Day: Linzer Hearts, jumbo heart-shaped sugar cookies with a center of raspberry preserves, $24.95 per dozen, plus shipping, gift-boxed; Melange Trois Belgian chocolate truffle cookies, six for $11.95 plus shipping, 12 for $22.95 to $24.95, plus shipping. Call toll-free to order: (800) 688-7400.

*The American Kidney Fund, based in Rockville, is offering special gourmet gift baskets in several sizes to fit every budget. Proceeds benefit the kidney fund; $11 of every purchase is tax-deductible. The baskets would make ideal gifts for lTC Valentine's Day, or a birthday or just about any special occasion. There are three types: a gourmet pasta basket with assorted pastas, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil; a "coffee break" basket with a variety of coffees and teas plus cookies, crackers and jams from around the world; and an international cookie basket with European cookies, biscuits and crackers and gourmet preserves and jams. The baskets come in small ($29 plus shipping), medium ($39 plus shipping) and large ($49 plus shipping). To get an order form, call (301) 881-3052.

*Sutton Place Gourmet, 1809 Reisterstown Road, suggests a delicious evening for two with their Romance to Go dinners. There are two dinner plans. Each includes an entire meal plus a diagram for setting the perfect table and suggestions on creating a romantic atmosphere. Dinners, which feature such items as pate de champagne, wild mushroom and leek confit, roast tenderloin of beef with horseradish cream sauce, lobster bisque, salmon en croute, Godiva chocolates and raspberry tartlets, begin at $75.

Sutton Place Gourmet also offers gift baskets, and over Valentine's Day weekend the baskets will be delivered by drivers in black-tie attire.

To order dinners or other gifts, call (410) 484-5501 up to three days before Feb. 14.

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