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It was 24 hours before Valentine’s Day a few years ago, and I had this vision: What if I layered my chocolate truffle sauce over a rich and buttery hazelnut crust, then smeared on an extra chocolate glaze? How would that turn out, I wondered?

Well, the answer came at the end of a very long day. And even though by the time I finished making this masterpiece it was 11 p.m. on a week night, my sweetie and I dove in.

“Wowie!” we said. Sure, there would be some tweaking involved with the construction concept. My first run-through had involved an 8-inch square pan because I thought that I was aiming for a bar-cookie sort of creation. Negotiating those servings out of the pan turned out to be too messy, but boy I could tell this baby had promise.

Ultimately, it came down to the use of a springform pan, which made cutting far more graceful — if you’re into elegance, like at a dinner party or something. Of course, if you’re strictly gunning for the incredible taste experience it provides, and don’t have access to a springform pan (that’s a two-piece arrangement involving a round base with a removable sidewall), then by all means, stick with the 8-inch square pan and just hack away at this awesome confection.

With follow-up run-throughs I began the process of fine-tuning my beverage thoughts. For such a rich, chocolately confection, Grand Marnier is always a winner, because the orange essence within this heavenly liqueur really sings in tune with the chocolate. Also, Grand Marnier’s heady alcohol content is balanced by the richness within this dessert.

But a tawny-style port is a lovely sidekick as well. I stress “tawny” as in tawny versus ruby port. Tawny ports tend to be nutty and brown-sugary in nature, so they go better with hazelnuts and rich chocolate compositions. On the other hand, the ruby ports tend to be fruitier and cherry-esque. So they will go better with fruit desserts.

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In general, when pairing dessert wines with desserts, both components bring varying levels of acidity that affect their compatibility. From the wine end, that rich and nutty tawny port is less acidic than a late harvest Gewurztraminer, for example. From the dessert side of things, think chocolate truffle versus lemon tart.

For the second recipe I’m sharing today, the Hazelnut Butter Crust Bars, a sip of scotch or your favorite whiskey really balances the sweet richness in this treat. However, that tawny port would also be a lovely side kick with its toasty, nutty, caramey personality.

Either way, an enjoyable ending to any Valentine’s Day dinner.

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Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or find additional recipes and food tips on her blog at