Remembering A Soldier’s Love Letters For Valentine’s Day

Homemade Valentine Chocolate Truffles or other chocolate desserts are perfect for Valentine’s Day. Prepare a luscious treat to accompany a Valentine card or note for your loved ones. Today’s column looks at a new book containing love letters written by an Opelika couple during World War II. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY

By Ann Cipperly

On Valentine’s Day, what better way to express love than with a homemade confection accompanied by a card or note with caring messages. While Valentine cards are filled with sweet thoughts of love, they can’t compare to love letters, and probably none are more endearing than those written by soldiers serving our country. A new book, “Letters of Love and War,” is filled with love letters written by an Opelika couple during World War II.

Gregory Hugh Brown, who grew up in Opelika, discovered love letters written between his parents, Mary Elizabeth and James Gordon Brown, when his father was serving in the Army during the last days of World War II. He assembled the memoirs in a book, “Letters of Love and War.”

While the memoirs compose a major part of the book, Gregory also writes about the hardships of the “Great Generation,” taking the reader back to war years in 1944-45. His parents’ letters are a reminder of the horrors and risks soldiers took in fighting a horrendous enemy, as well as how much their hearts were torn missing their loves ones.

“The letters also provide an amazing insight into how the war affected the lives of everyday American families during these most challenging times,” said Gregory. “I have also included photographs of my parents, their relatives and friends and memorabilia from those times. The book has been a labor of love for over a year and has finally come to fruition.”

Gregory’s and his late brother Roger Brown’s father, owned a grocery store that moved to several locations over the years in downtown Opelika. At one time, he also owned a restaurant downtown that served family style meals.

The Brown family lived on the south side of Opelika. Both Roger and Gregory attended the Miriam S. Brown School where they took art classes from Mrs. Sam Mason. Both brothers became famous artists.

While Gregory pursued a variety of art as he taught in three Alabama colleges, Roger’s passion was painting. His works are showcased in major galleries across the globe and were featured on covers of national magazines. Gregory is also an author. “Letters of Love and War” is his second book. His first book, “Fields of Clover,” is about his grandfather and the ancestors that came before him.

When Gregory’s father was serving in World War II, his older brother Roger was three years old. The book not only contains letters about his parents love for each other but also about Roger, their relatives and friends.

Here is a passage from a letter by Gregory’s father to his mother. “Sweet, you said for me not worry about you and Roger. Well I don’t worry about you all, but I think of you every day and pray that God will take care of me and you all, and someday real soon we will be back together for the rest of our lives in a peaceful world that all good Americans love.

“Hitler ran his bluff on lots of countries, but he went too far when he tried Uncle Sam. We have many good soldiers that don’t mind fighting it out, and I think Hitler found that out too. He was doing fine until he stirred up the wrong man, Uncle Sam, he stirred up a peaceful Fighting Nation. They don’t mind fighting. They have something to fight for good old America and their loved ones, sweethearts and darling wives like mine, which I love with all my heart. I hope and pray that God will see my way through this war and bring me back to you, darling.”

If the Browns’ story has inspired you, then you may consider giving or sending a card or note to loved ones. A chocolate confection would be nice to accompany a card given in person. Whether it is homemade chocolate truffles, cookies, brownies, chocolate dipped strawberries or cake, it will be a sweet token of affection.

Along with your family, don’t forget to share your cards and homemade treats with an elderly neighbor, shut-in or someone in a nursing home who would appreciate being remembered. Let children or grandchildren help with making cards and preparing a special treat for them to learn at an early age the joy of sharing with others.

For those interested in Gregory’s “Letters of Love and War,” copies are available at Amazon.

Valentine Chocolate Truffles

Truffles can be rolled in cocoa or finely chopped nuts or dipped in melted chocolate for a coating.

½ cup whipping cream

4 Tbsp. butter

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (can use dark chocolate chips or bitter sweet)

1 tsp. vanilla

Cocoa powder

Extra chocolate and cream for dipping truffles, optional

In a saucepan over medium heat, simmer cream and butter. Remove from heat; whisk in 12 oz. chocolate until smooth; add vanilla. Pour into a bowl. Either refrigerate a couple of hours or freeze about 20 to 30 minutes until firm enough to handle.

Sprinkle cocoa powder over cookie sheet lined with foil or waxed paper. With melon scoop or spoon, drop chocolate mounds onto cocoa. If chocolate becomes too soft to handle, chill or freeze until almost firm. At this point, you can roll in cocoa and serve, refrigerate or freeze.

If you desire to dip truffles into melted chocolate, place in refrigerator or freezer until ready to dip.

Coating Truffles with Melted Chocolate

You can simply melt chocolate and dip truffles for a hard coating, which will have a dull finish when dry. If you prefer a smooth, shiny coating, melt ½ cup chocolate chips with 3 Tbsp. whipping cream in a saucepan or microwave. Dip truffles into melted chocolate and place on platter lined with foil or waxed paper. Place in refrigerator to set.

To drizzle white chocolate on truffles, melt a small amount in the microwave and place in a plastic bag. Cut a tiny amount off one corner and drizzle over truffles.

Truffles will keep fresh in refrigerator two weeks or they can be frozen. Let truffles set at room temperature a few minutes before serving.

Chocolate Truffle Cake

Nancy Smith

8 oz. dark sweet or semi-sweet chocolate

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 ½ cups sugar

5 eggs, beaten until foamy


12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

1 cup heavy cream

For the truffle cake, melt chocolate and stir until smooth; remove from heat and cool 1 – 2 minutes.

Add butter, bit by bit; beat with wire whisk until smooth. Add sugar, beating 1 minute with whisk. Add eggs and beat until well mixed.

Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment. Pour in batter and set pan into a slightly larger pan about 1-inch deep with ½-inch water.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1½ hours. Cool 1 hour. Cake will fall. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Invert onto cake plate and spread ganache.

To make ganache, boil chocolate and cream together, stirring to blend. Refrigerate until spreadable. Frost tops and sides of cake. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Ann Mayberry’s Six-Layer Cake with Boiled Chocolate Frosting

Hattie Lett

Cake Layers:

2 cups sugar

1 cup Crisco

4 eggs

2 cups Swans Down cake flour

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

In mixer bowl, cream sugar and Crisco. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Combine flours and add flour alternately with milk; stir in vanilla.

Pour into 3 greased cake pans. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes or until tests done. When cool, layers may be cut in half to make 6 thin layers. Frost with Boiled Chocolate Frosting.

Boiled Chocolate Frosting:

2 cups sugar

3 Tbsp. cocoa

1/3 cup milk

1 stick margarine

1 tsp. vanilla

In a heavy saucepan, mix sugar and cocoa. Slowly add milk, stirring to prevent lumps. Add margarine and cook on low heat until melted.

Turn to higher heat. When mixture boils (bubbling in center of pan), begin timing for 1 minute. Take off heat. Add vanilla and beat.

Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking powder

½ salt

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

2 eggs

2 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil shiny side up. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Cream sugars and butter. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla until well combined. Stir in flour mixture just until blended. Add chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased foil lined baking sheet. Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on wire rack completely before peeling foil from cookies. Makes about 4 dozen.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
12 long-stemmed strawberries

Extra chocolate for drizzling, optional

Place the chocolate and cream together in a bowl over simmering water until just melted. Stir and remove from the heat. Dip each strawberry in the chocolate and place on foil or waxed paper to set. To set quicker, place in refrigerator.

To decorate, melt semi-sweet or white chocolate in microwave and place in a plastic bag. Cut the end of one corner and drizzle over dipped strawberries.

Chocolate Molten Cupcakes with Powdered Sugar and Strawberries

Lindsey Beno

1¾ cups extra-dark chocolate

1/2 cup butter

5 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 pinch salt

2 Tbsp. flour

Powdered sugar

Chopped strawberries

Melt butter and chocolate together on stove. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar and salt. Mix butter-chocolate and egg mixture together. Slowly add flour through a sifter while continuously mixing.

Pour mixture about 3/4 full into cups in a muffin tin.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes (keep an eye on it, these are extremely easy to over-cook).

When cooked, place on a tray and add powdered sugar onto the cupcakes through a sifter. Add chopped strawberries to top.

Chocolate Toffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Glaze



½ cup unsalted butter

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

½ cup flour

1/8 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray two 12- cup mini muffin pans with nonstick spray.

In a double boiler (or in the microwave on power level 30%) melt the chocolate and butter. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool until tepid.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.

Stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts into the chocolate butter mixture. Add the flour mixture.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake 14-16 minutes, until set but still soft in the center. Let brownies cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze:

5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. heavy cream

1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

1/3 cup toffee bits

In a double boiler, stir together the chocolate, cream and corn syrup until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and stir in toffee bits.

Pour the chocolate glaze over the inverted brownie bites, covering the tops and sides. Refrigerate until the glaze sets, about 10 minutes. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Dark Chocolate Cake With White Chocolate Filling

2 cups boiling water

1 cup cocoa

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, add boiling water to cocoa. Cool. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In mixer bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy, adding eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Alternately, beat in flour and cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Pour batter into 3 greased cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until cakes test done. Cool.

White Chocolate Filling:

4 bars (2 oz. each) white chocolate (I use Baker’s)

2 cups whipping cream, divided

In top of double boiler, melt white chocolate with ¼ cup heavy cream. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and pour into a mixer bowl, adding remaining heavy cream. Chill until cold. Beat mixture at high speed until stiff. Spread between cake layers. Frost with Creamy Chocolate Frosting.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting:

12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup half and half (or milk)

½ cup butter or margarine

1 box confectioners’ sugar

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate chips with half and half and butter. Remove from heat, gradually add sugar; beat until smooth. Frost cake. Store cake in refrigerator. Can be made a day ahead.

Chocolate Fudge Pecan Clusters

6 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup marshmallow crème

1 2/3 cups sugar

½ cup evaporated milk

3 Tbsp. butter

2 cups toasted pecans or other nuts

Place chocolate chips and marshmallow crème in a bowl; set aside. In a saucepan, combine sugar, milk and butter; boil for two minutes. Pour mixture over chocolate and marshmallow crème. Add pecans. Drop by tablespoons onto foil or waxed paper.

Cappuccino Brownies


2 Tbsp. instant coffee powder

1 tsp. boiling water

8 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1½ cups sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 cup flour

½ tsp. salt

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon

Mocha Glaze:

1 Tbsp. plus 1 ½ tsp. instant coffee powder

1 Tbsp. boiling water

6 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate

2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

For the brownies, dissolve coffee powder in the boiling water in a small cup. Melt chocolate and butter with dissolved coffee in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Cool to lukewarm.

Stir in sugar and vanilla. Stir in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour and salt and stir just until combined. Stir in walnuts. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13-inch baking pan; smooth the top of the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and cinnamon and beat until smooth. Spread evenly over brownies and chill for 1 hour or until firm.

For glaze, dissolve coffee powder in boiling water in a small cup. Melt chocolate and butter with dissolved coffee and cream in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Spread carefully over frosting layer.

Chill, covered, for 3 hours or longer. Cut into bars. Makes two dozen.

Gigi’s Chocolate Pound Cake

2 sticks butter, room temperature

3 cups sugar

6 eggs, room temperature

3 Tbsp. cocoa

3 cups cake flour, sifted

½ pint whipping cream

Do not preheat oven. Mix butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating one minute between each egg. Combine cocoa and flour, stirring until blended. Alternately add whipping cream and flour in portions to the butter-sugar mixture.

Pour batter into a lightly greased and floured tube or Bundt pan and place in a cold oven. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tests done. Batter can also be baked in 2 large loaf pans or 4 smaller loaf pans. Baking time will be shorter; test for doneness. Freezes well. 


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